Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain and two wealthy contributors to conservative causes are funding an independent expenditure campaign aimed at ousting House Speaker Andy Tobin and replacing him with a first-term Republican lawmaker who made waves in 2011 for pointing a loaded gun at a reporter during an interview.
According to a campaign finance report filed Monday, Arizonans for an Honest Government raised $40,000 through the middle of August. Cain gave the committee $5,000 on Aug. 2.
The committee also received $25,000 from Florida financier William Dunn and $10,000 from New York real estate developer Howard Rich.
Dunn sits on the boards of directors of the Reason Foundation and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, both of which espouse limited government principles. So far this election cycle, federal campaign finance records show he has contributed more than $90,000 to conservative groups like the Club for Growth and the National Rifle Association and candidates, including Cain, Ron Paul and Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake.
Rich is the founder of U.S. Term Limits and has long been a contributor to conservative and libertarian causes. He is one of the primary contributors to Americans for Limited Government, and sits on the boards of directors for the Club for Growth and the Cato Institute.
Arizonans for an Honest Government is led by Floyd Brown, who is best known for his role in producing the infamous Willie Horton ad in the 1988 presidential race between George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis.
According to its campaign finance report, the committee has spent nearly $10,000 on mailers and more than $17,000 on radio ads in the Legislative District 1 House race. The race features Tobin, Rep. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, and Sen. Lori Klein.
After redistricting earlier this year, Klein’s Anthem home was drawn into the Yavapai County-centric LD1. Rather than attempt to retain her Senate seat by facing off against Senate President Steve Pierce, Klein instead opted to run for the House, where she is focusing her energy on attacking Tobin, who has served in the House since 2006 and became speaker in 2011, when then-Speaker Kirk Adams resigned to run for Congress.
Klein gained national notoriety in 2011 when The Arizona Republic published a story about Klein’s advocacy for gun rights that noted she pointed the loaded pistol she keeps in her purse at the reporter’s chest in order to demonstrate the gun’s laser sight.
The gun does not feature a safety mechanism to keep it from firing. Klein defended her actions, and said the reporter was not in any danger because her finger was not on the trigger.
Klein is primarily attacking Tobin for refusing to allow an anti-union bill receive a vote by the full House earlier this year. Although HB2103 passed the Senate 19-10, it never received a final vote in the House. The bill would have prohibited government employees from automatically deducting union dues from their paychecks.
The independent expenditure committee has also seized on that line of attack. In a letter sent recently to Republican voters in the district, Brown accuses Tobin of killing the bill because he “is personally committed to looking out for unions’ interests over ours,” in part because his brother used to be a leader in the fire fighter union.
“These insane union contracts are what are bankrupting our state. Arizona’s taxpayers are working harder than ever so that bureaucrats can retire early and live ‘the good life.’ This has to stop,” Brown wrote. “However, this crisis will only get worse as long as union-loving liberal ‘Republican’ politicians like Andy Tobin remain in office.”
Brown asked voters to support Klien, who he described as “a true reformer” who will “rein in these out-of-control unions.”
Attached to Brown’s letter is a letter from Sen. Rick Murphy, the Peoria Republican who sponsored several anti-union bills during the legislative session. Murphy accused Tobin of being “so motivated to kill any bill that restricted public employee unions” that he killed two of Murphy’s bills related to foster children in retaliation.
Murphy’s letter includes a detailed chronology of all of his bills, how they died and what role he says Tobin played in their demise.
Tobin has defended his decision not to let the full House vote on HB2103, arguing that the bill did not have enough support in the House Republican caucus to garner the 31 votes it needed to pass. He has also brushed aside attacks that he supports public employee unions, as he has helped pass six different anti-union bills in the past four years.
“I don’t know how you get ‘squishy’ out of someone who did personnel reform, pension reform, secret ballots and everything else,” he told Arizona Capitol Times earlier this month.
In June, he was also awarded the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform State Leadership Award for his work to restrict unions in Arizona.
State law bars independent expenditure committees from coordinating with the candidates. However, at least three of the people involved in Arizonans for an Honest Government have ties to Klein.
Cain and Klein are close friends, and she arranged for him to be the keynote speaker at an Arizona Republican Party fundraiser in October 2011. The following month, after Cain was accused of sexual misconduct by several women, Klein defended him. She said she had known him for 12 years and he had “never been anything but a gentlemen – and I am not an unattractive woman.”
On Tuesday, Cain endorsed Klein in her LD1 House run.
Klein also introduced legislation this past session on Brown’s behalf after he complained to her that one of his daughter’s teachers cursed during class. She sponsored SB1205, which would have required all teachers at public schools, including colleges and universities, to comply with the Federal Communications Commission standards concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity.
In 2006, Klein was the executive director for the committee supporting Proposition 207, also called the Private Property Rights Protection Act. The majority of the money given to support the measure came from the Rich-funded Americans for Limited Government.