Fife’s Sweetheart Deal

Arizona Gov. Fife Symington loaned himself $30 million of other people’s money.

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In 1983, Fife Symington was a land developer hoping to build a major residential and commercial complex in Phoenix called Camelback Esplanade. Providentially, Symington was also on the board of directors of Southwest Savings and Loan, a Phoenix thrift.

Southwest lent Symington $30 million to build Camelback, making the loan despite Symington’s position as one of the thrift’s directors and even though the property had not been appraised–both serious violations of federal regulations.

Southwest’s $30 million investment provided virtually all the funding for Camelback; in return, Southwest received a 50 percent share in the project. Symington, meanwhile, received a 19 percent share for a reported investment of $432.

Southwest also arranged to pay Symington 5 percent of all development costs, which meant that the more expensive Camelback Esplanade got, the more money Symington made, even if he never built anything. Symington hired more and more consultants, paid them more and more money, and produced no practical result.

In the end, Symington walked off with $8 million; Southwest, on the other hand, lost $52 million, according to government documents. In 1989, Southwest failed, costing taxpayers $941 million.

Symington is now the governor of Arizona. In 1991, he was sued by the Resolution Trust Corp., but the suit was dropped in 1994. The Justice Department is currently investigating him for negligence. In September 1995, he declared bankruptcy. No one knows what happened to the $8 million in federally insured funds he took from Southwest.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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