Monday, June 1, 2020

LOVE Exclusive: How Special Interests Can Corrupt Oro Valley Politicians

This is the first of a three part series on the influence of developer and contractor donations on Oro Valley politics
Satish Hiremath introduced big money fundraising in 2010
Satish Hiremath introduced Oro Valley to the power of money in small town elections in 2010, He funded his campaign at a level five times greater than his opponent. Hiremath raised more than $45,000:

  • $20,000 from personal loans, which his PAC later repaid
  • $13,000 from special interests contributors
  • $12,000 from family and individual contributors

  • Hiremath won the election by less that fifty votes.

    2013: First time HSL donates to Hiremath campaign
    Many more donation were to follow.
    2012: End of Innocence
    In 2012, Hiremath got a taste of developer money as Diamond Ventures entered the scene.

    In 2013, HSL Properties jumped on board (panel right).

    This was the beginning of the end of innocence in Oro Valley fund raising. What was once a very pleasant, peaceful community was about to become a Developer paradise. Every general plan amendment and just about every zoning change was approved by council from 2010 through 2018.

    $59,300 in developer money bought the 2014 election
    In 2014. Mayor Hiremath and incumbent council members Hornat, Snider and Waters practiced the big money campaign finance model. This time special interest contributors kicked in $59,300. This was a four fold increase from 2010.

    2014 Donations to Hiremath Majority
    The top five donors (panel left) pumped $59,300 into the campaign of the incumbents. This is 76% of all contributions from individuals.

    They did this at a time when these donors had continuing business dealings with the town, dealings that required council approval.

    Here's the big one....

    August 2014: Hiremath extols concept of community center... HSL becomes a "community partner"
    On August 7, 2014, during a 2014 candidate forum, Hiremath extolled the virtue of Oro Valley having a community center.

    At that time, LOVE asked if Hiremath had an epiphany. Up to then, the only council member who had even mentioned the need for a community center was current council candidate, then council member Bill Garner.

    We reported in 2013: "Council Member Bill Garner has been advocating for a community center for years. His calls have been ignored by the Majority-4. 'I've been investigating a public/private partnership that could put a community center at Steam Pump Ranch,'" 

    Now, suddenly, a community center was Hiremath's idea.  According to Hiremath speaking at the forum: "I'm in dialogue with other community partners about maybe doing something of a community center." (Source: Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum) "

    The HSL Community Center
    The "other community partner" to whom Hiremath had referred was HSL Properties. HSL was negotiating the purchase of the El Conquistador Resort. They needed to shed the golf courses in order to make the deal financially advantageous for them. At the same time, they wanted to retain five-star resort status. This meant that they needed to be able to offer golf.  The deal they cut with the Town of Oro Valley gave them both.

    What Hiremath did not say at that forum was that the "community center" was a clubhouse that served the El Conquistador Country Club, that  the country club was part of the deal and that the seller was his biggest campaign contributor. He also failed to share this salient information during LOVE's September interview with him.

    The result of all of this was a 2015 Recall Election and even more special interest money. That's our story next time.