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Over $287K spent on 2018 minimum wage fight in Flagstaff

Over $287K spent on 2018 minimum wage fight in Flagstaff

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STANDING ROOM ONLY

Public participation took place before the Flagstaff City Council in February 2017 in a standing-room only council chambers during a hearing to address what to do with a petition to overturn the voter approved Proposition 414 raising Flagstaff’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

With the release of the final campaign finance documents last week, it may finally be clear exactly how much money was spent during the fight over Flagstaff’s minimum wage.

Campaign finance documents show that groups like Flagstaff Needs a Raise and America Revived spent thousands of dollars in the months leading up to the election; that spending continued in the almost two weeks between when the last pre-general election reporting period ended and Election Day.

The documents show that by the end of the year, the three main groups that had become involved in the battle over minimum wage had spent over $287,000.

From Oct. 21 to Election Day, Flagstaff Needs a Raise spent about $11,075, bringing the group to a total of $87,426 during the whole election cycle.

In that same time frame leading up to the election, America Revived spent about $37,295 via the Phoenix-based organization Lincoln Strategy Group, primarily for information sent to voters via the mail as well as radio and digital advertisements. That final stretch brought the amount of money spent by America Revived to $110,362.

One organization that has not filed documents for the final reporting period is Market Freedom Alliance. That group, which has a history of supporting conservative causes across the state, dropped $90,000 from Oct. 1 to Oct 20 alone in hopes of swaying voters to strike down the city’s minimum wage law.

But a lack of filed documents from Market Freedom Alliance should not be interpreted as the group not spending any money in the final weeks before the election, said Eva Putzova, who helped lead the group Flagstaff Needs a Raise and is now running for Congressional District 1.

As such, Flagstaff Needs a Raise has filed a complaint with the city, asking them to investigate Market Freedom Alliance for not filing campaign finance documents for the final period before the election, Putzova said.

Putzova added that in the future, she believes the city needs to start investigating campaign finance discrepancies themselves without relying on a citizen or group to file a complaint.

At the moment, the city will only investigate a group that did not file, or may have misfiled, campaign finance documents if they receive a complaint.

In the final weeks of the election, money was also spent by the Flagstaff Lodging, Restaurant and Tourism Association.

Steve Finch, president and CEO of the association, said they had been involved in the fight throughout the year in ways that did not require the spending of money, but decided to put about $2,000 toward influencing voters in the last two weeks of the election.

Focusing all of their money on Facebook ads, Finch said the group worked closely with America Revived the ads that were released.

In the end, the money spent on minimum wage dwarfed the money spent by all of those running for a council seat or for mayor -- all the candidates combined spent only $55,246.

Adrian Skabelund can be reached at the office at askabelund@azdailysun.com, by phone at (928) 556-2261 or on Twitter @AdrianSkabelund.

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