A group chaired by New Yorker Howard Rich continues to pour money into Arizona and has now put more than $1 million behind Proposition 207, an eminent-domain and regulatory-takings ballot initiative.
Records filed with the Arizona Secretary of State show that Chicago-based Americans for Limited Government gave $100,000 to the Arizona HomeOwners Protection Effort (HOPE) on September 21 and $125,000 on October 2.
As of October 2, Americans for Limited Government and another Rich-led organization, the Fund for Democracy, had given Arizona HOPE a total of more than $1.15 million, accounting for more than 99 percent of all contributions to the Arizona group.
“What it says is, this is not something that was generated by Arizonans,” says Sandy Bahr, the conservation outreach director in Arizona for the Sierra Club, which opposes Proposition 207. “It’s being pushed by Howard Rich and Americans for Limited Government and other entities. It’s not like Arizonans said, ‘Oh, we need this law.’”
Lori Klein, the executive director of Arizona HOPE, says that there is nothing nefarious or surprising about the hefty out-of-state donations.
“Many businesspeople [in Arizona] were afraid to contribute to us, even though they believe in property rights, because of the draconian retaliation they would experience from the cities,” Klein says. “Government is just so entrenched in the private affairs of the business on one level or another — through regulation or licensing or zoning — that the guys with money don’t want to go up against the powers that be.”
Rich, who has not responded to interview requests from the Center for Public Integrity, isn’t the mysterious figure that some make him out to be, Klein says.
“I worked with him on term limits [in the 1990s] and I’ve known him for years,” she says. “Howie is doing what [billionaire] George Soros does on the left. All we’re doing is trying to take back our government. Howie doesn’t want to be out front. He wants to help groups around the country. He’s not an egomaniac. He’s not Donald Trump. He’s not a flashy guy. He just wants to do the right thing.”
Contributions by Rich-backed organizations to takings initiatives in several Western states are “not all [Rich’s] money,” Klein says. “There are other people around the country who are like-minded, and they’ll contribute because they want to make a difference.”