People who work in a political environment without the requisite experience oftentimes get burned because they don't realize what full-contact politics entails. The most common newbie mistake is not understanding that in a political environment everything is connected to everything else. People are surprised when they cross someone in one arena, and that person retaliates in a different arena.
There's an email going around the capitol that provides a little insight into how big-league hardball is played by the pros. Chuck Coughlin is President of Highground, one of the state's premier lobbying firms. Ken Cheuvront is a very savvy State Senator. Chuck sent this email out last week. I've printed Chuck's original email and Sen. Cheuvront's response. (Each with permission.)
Re: Cheuvront Hypocrisy
Attached are the documents which were before the Arts, Culture and Historic Preservation Subcommittee of the Phoenix City Council. The staff report recommends denial of a grant request for Actors Theatre Phoenix in the amount of $250,000. Lobbying the Council on behalf of the Actors Phoenix was none other than the hero of anti subsidy legislation, State Senator Ken Cheuvront. Who happens to be on the Board of the Actors Theatre and owns a restaurant which caters to the Theatre crowd.
I testified against the proposed grant. The reasons that I gave were as follows:
1. It is an unbudgeted item and there are no funds.
2. If additional funds are available they should go to public safety, after all Phoenix voters are being asked for a 2/10 of a cent increase to fund public safety in September.
3. It was hypocritical for Cheuvront to be supporting and lobbying the Council for this grant, when he actively opposed legislation which would have lightened the public safety tax burden SB 1353 which provided matching funds for public safety expenditures during major events.
4. It was additionally hypocritical for Cheuvront to be supporting a grant which would in all likelihood benefit his business which has arts patrons who eat at his restaurant for dinner. The Actors Theatre is in jeopardy of going under without additional funds.
Prior to my testimony Mr. Cheuvront asked me why I was there. I responded in the same manner he spoke to Doug Cole from the Senate Floor regarding SB 1353. Mr. Cheuvront looked at Doug who was in the gallery just prior to voting on SB 1353 and said “Cole your bill is going down”. I told Mr. Cheuvront today that I was there to see that his grant was going down. To which he responded he never said such a thing, to which I responded saying “yeah, just like you didn’t call Patrice Krause a bitch”. I told him he was out of control.
He assured me that I did not want an enemy like him. To which I responded, that I have had a lot bigger enemies than him. At which point he left the hearing room and did not return.
Councilman Simplot and Councilman Linger decided after testimony to forward the proposal to the Council for their full consideration without taking a sub-committee vote (it was clear that Lingner was not inclined to support the proposal). It appears that the issue will be before Council sometime in September after the summer recess and after the voters of Phoenix vote on Proposition 1.
Staff recommendation was for denial. There was a reporter present in the room. I will not be dining at Cheuvront’s in the near future and I am looking for volunteers to start my car for the next few weeks (I’m kidding on the last one).
Here's Sen. Cheuvront's response.
I was really amazed about my confrontation with Mr. Coughilin. It was totally unexpected, and it took me by surprise.
First, I am no longer on the Board of Actors Theater. I was helping move their grant through the city of Phoenix because they have been adversely affected by the light rail construction, and construction of the new convention center. Last year the city awarded grants to the Symphony, Ballet and Opera because they were displaced because of the convention center. Actor's Theater was trying to also get help to get them through the next two years of continued construction.
Second, Chuck needs to learn the differences between tax giveaways to for profit retail developers and grants to non-profit theater companies.
Third, Chuck is mad because I supposedly said to Doug Cole that his bill was going down. I don't think that I knew that it was Doug's bill. I am sure that he said something to me from the gallery or put a thumbs up on the bill, and I said that the bill was dead. I am not sure a person in the gallery can discern a tone from the floor of the Senate. Doug must have great hearing. It was not meant to be personal.
Chuck and Doug are mad at me because I and my conservative colleagues do not believe that we need to give Glendale a million dollars to help defray their Super Bowel security cost. Tax payers in Maricopa County have already built the Bidwells a stadium, and we don't need to also pay for their security. Let Glendale foot the bill. It is not a State concern.
Fourth, Chuck is really grasping for straws if he thinks that the viability of this theater company has any impact on my restaurant. If I really wanted to help my restaurant short term, I would have tried to help
kill the light rail. If anything is impacting my business, it is the construction of the rail on Central.
We are not sure we know how Chuck found out about my support of the issue, but we suppose that Peggy Nealy is the one who told him. She is still mad at me for going against the $100mil giveaway to City North. Although my bill does not address this travesty, Clint is putting together a law suite that will hopefully stop it.
At the end, Chuck helped me out. The city staff and others were astounded by Chuck making his opposition about me and not about the theater group.
Chuck continues to be his own worst enemy. He does not know when to leave politics at the capitol. For every action there is always a reaction. I try to always be much more subtle in my reactions.