If the fight over Proposition 418 has shown anything, it is that the parties funding the vote on the future of the city’s minimum wage aren’t living on it themselves.
The battle over minimum wage has garnered an unprecedented $232,819 as anonymous donors attempt to influence voters’ decisions on Prop 418, as of the most recent round of campaign finance filings.
Comparatively, the combined money brought in by every city council candidate comes to only about $50,000.
Flagstaff Needs a Raise, which also worked to get a higher Flagstaff minimum wage in 2016, has spent $34,648 since the beginning of October. That’s not just more than previous reporting periods, but double what the group has spent this entire election cycle. The group has now spent $69,753 on everything from yard signs to videos containing celebrity endorsements.
Actresses Amy Poehler, from the show “Parks and Rec,” and Lily Tomlin, who voiced Ms. Frizzle on “The Magic School Bus,” have both appeared in Facebook videos opposing Prop 418.
Nonetheless, Joe Bader, campaign committee member with Flagstaff Needs a Raise, said it feels as though they are fighting an uphill battle.
“It’s a David and Goliath situation. We’re David,” Bader said. “This is not like a ‘two sides of the same coin’ sort of thing; this is a huge disparity from one side to the other.”
Bader may feel this way because of how much the two groups in favor of passing Prop 418 have spent: $163,066 combined.
Pro-418 group America Revived has spent $73,066 this election cycle, all of which has gone to Lincoln Strategy Group, according to campaign finance documents.
But even that hardly compares the most recent organization that joined the fight in October, Market Freedom Alliance. That group spent $90,000 on swaying voters’ decisions on Prop 418 from October 1-20 alone.
All of Market Freedom Alliance’s money has been spent for services by the Phoenix-based Summit Consulting Group. Summit has a long history of supporting right-wing candidates, having done work for everyone from Joe Arpaio and former governor Jan Brewer to Senator Jeff Flake.
Neither Summit nor Market Freedom Alliance responded to requests for comment, but Arpaio is quoted on Summit Consulting’s website expounding on how the company has helped his statewide and national political career.
“In 2009, Summit orchestrated a national fundraising campaign where I raised more than $1.2 million in just eight months,” Arpaio is quoted as saying on the firm’s website.
The consulting firm also has some history with Flagstaff in particular, having worked to fight against Proposition 100 when it was on the ballot in 2005. That proposition would have banned superstores such as the Super Walmart on East Huntington Drive.
One thing the campaign finance documents won’t show you is just where all this money is coming from.
America Revived and Market Freedom Alliance have not disclosed their donors -- and they may not have to. America Revived is filed as a social welfare nonprofit or a 501(c)(4) and because of this, the organization neither has to, nor will it, give up the names of those who have given contributions, said Blake Gober, campaign manager of Yes on Prop 418.
And this is for good reason, Gober said: Businesses that have supported 418 have seen boycotts and blacklisting.
But in every other way, Gober said, they have filed with the city like any other political organization would.
“Every cent that has been spent on this campaign has been spent and has been reported and anything we spend after what we reported on Monday will be filed in our post-election report,” Gober said. “We have and always will abide by every single letter of the law when it comes to reporting.”