Originally Published: August 25, 2012 9:58 p.m.
Congressman Paul Gosar is outspending his closest 4th Congressional District rival Ron Gould by more than three to one, but Gould is getting a huge boost from the ultra-conservative Club for Growth.
While Gould defends the Club for Growth ads, saying they only point out Gosar's record, Gosar says they're unfair. For example, one ad says he voted to give tax dollars to ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), but the group didn't even exist any longer by the time he became a lawmaker in January 2011. The liberal group filed for bankruptcy in 2010 after secretly taped videos appeared to show its employees engaging in illegal activities.
"It's Wall Street people trying to buy a rural Arizona seat," Gosar's spokesman Barrett Marson charged against the Club for Growth, which is known for using independent expenditures to push members of Congress to vote more conservatively. "They'll say anything and even lie to get it."
Gould said Gosar voted against an amendment by Rep. Steve King that would have stripped money from ACORN successors.
The Club for Growth TV and Internet ads also attack Gosar for voting to raise the federal debt ceiling, but Gosar defends that action by saying he did it in exchange for reduced spending of $2.3 trillion and a vote on a balanced budget amendment. Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl voted the same way, as did U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, he added.
Gosar shot back at Gould with a mailer saying Gould, Democratic U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are "peas in a pod" because they all oppose the budget plan put forth by Ryan and Gould "opposes every conservative budget plan." Gould has voted against more than one state Republican budget, and he votes "no" more than most Democrats, Marson charged.
"You don't go to Congress just to vote no," Marson said. "You've got to get things done, and Congressman Gosar gets things done."
Gould, an air conditioning company owner from Lake Havasu, said the "peas in a pod" ad is just plain "over the top." He said he has not endorsed any federal budget plan, and he opposed state budget plans when he thought they spent too much. He walked out of the House chamber when Gov. Jan Brewer proposed a 1-cent sales tax increase in 2009. Several groups have rated him as the most conservative state senator in Arizona. He can't run for state Senate again because of the term limits law.
Another Gosar mailer says Gould "took tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to pay for his run for state Senate" and "never offered to pay taxpayers back," then "broke the law" when "he failed to report his taxpayer-funded spending binge." Gould said he ran as a Clean Elections candidate in 2004 but hasn't done it since. When his phone bank calls ran into a second Clean Elections reporting period, he reported the entire expenditure on the second period instead of splitting it up, he explained. He paid a $500 Clean Elections fine and amended his report.
"They'll take an acorn of truth and spin it into a lie," Gould said of Gosar's ads.
Gosar's taxpayer-funded congressional mailers look more like campaign mailers, Gould countered.
"It's kind of funny he talks about the money I got from Clean Elections, yet he spends that much on frank mail," Gould said.
Gould has garnered media attention with a TV ad showing him using a shotgun to blast a copy of the Affordable Health Care Act into pieces. He has been a major supporter of gun rights, introducing a bill two times that sought to allow guns on college campuses and public buildings. But the National Rifle Association chose to support Gosar as an incumbent. Gosar moved to Prescott this year when redistricting put his hometown of Flagstaff in another district. The newly drawn 4th Congressional District leans heavily Republican, while the 1st District that includes Flagstaff has more Democrats. So Tuesday's primary is likely to decide the 4th District winner.
Gosar has raised about $957,000, with about one-third coming from political action committees, especially dental groups (Gosar is a dentist). Gould has raised $289,000 in the latest spending report that was due Monday, and $97,500 of that was a personal loan to his campaign.
The Club for Growth has spent more than a half-million dollars on TV and Internet ads against Gosar. Its total spending in support of Gould has reached nearly $700,000. The club's super PAC is among the 10 largest in the nation.
Lake Havasu City business owner Rick Murphy is far behind his Republican rivals with $42,500 in fundraising, including $39,600 from a personal loan. Democratic candidates Johnnie Robinson of Florence and Mikel Weisser, a teacher from Golden Valley, along with Libertarian Joe Pamelia of Prescott, apparently haven't raised at least $5,000 because they haven't filed any spending reports. Neither has Richard Grayson, a long-time political activist and writer from Apache Junction who is running as a write-in candidate in the Americans Elect party.
Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu dropped out of the race in May amid allegations that he threatened his former gay lover with deportation to his native Mexico.