Contributors hoping to save Hill Air Force Base haven't been deterred by a group's prediction that the base will be a "prime closure candidate" in 1995 hearings.
Hill/DDO '95 has received more than $125,000 in cash from several companies and private organizations. Along with the state's $250,000 contribution, the private group charged with saving the base is building a potent war chest.They'll need it.
Supporters of bases in San Antonio and Oklahoma City will spend at least a half-million dollars each to hire professional lobby-ists.
Hill will compete head-to-head with both during 1995 hearings - at which Department of Defense officials will probably suggest closing two of the Air Force's five air logistics centers.
In their attempt to save Kelly Air Force Base and its logistics center, San Antonio officials announced a plan last week to hire Jim Courter, the former chairman of the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. He will provide consulting to city officials while two law firms will lobby the 1995 commission.
The area Chamber of Commerce has also pledged to raise $350,000 for the closure battle.
Oklahoma City, home to Tinker Air Force Base, has contracted with a law firm for similar services.
Is Utah playing catch-up?
Absolutely not, says Mike Pavich, president of Hill/DDO '95.
The group hired Washington, D.C., lobbyist Tim Rupli of R. Duffy Wall and Associates this week. Taxpayers, through the state donation, will pay for most of his services, which are expected to total about $200,000.
"He's probably the best in this business," Pavich said.
His firm does have an impressive track record. Of the six military bases that were scheduled for closure in 1993 hearings, Rupli's company represented four that were taken off the closure lists.
Still, officials debated whether to accept Rupli's proposal because they thought he may have had a conflict of interest.
Supporters of the Defense Languages Institute in Monterey, Calif., hired Rupli in 1992 to save the base. His contract is valid through the 1995 hearings.
Problem is, Utah wants the DLI if it closes. Gov. Mike Leavitt pitched a plan to national defense leaders in June that would move the institute and its 1,200 jobs to either Camp Williams or Hill.
State leaders, particularly economic development director Rick Mayfield, questioned whether the lobbyist could serve two masters.
"We've discussed that thoroughly now, and I'm comfortable he can do it," Mayfield said Friday. He pointed out that a clause in Rupli's contract requires him to forfeit the deal if Utah leaders discover any evidence of a conflict.
"We needed something in black and white to protect us," he said.
The rush among community leaders to hire big-gun lobbyists to protect their bases seems ironic. Supposedly, everyone agrees, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission is the least politically influenced forum.
Congress mandated that commission members were to consider only material data and facts in arriving at their decisions.
But, Pavich says, the commission still needs to gather facts and depends greatly on community resources.
"Really, it helps keep them on the straight and narrow. They just have to decide who to believe and who not to believe."
State of Utah is largest donor to Hill Air Force Base effort
Major contributors to the "Save Hill Air Force Base" committee:
State of Utah $250,000*
Salt Lake County $25,000
America First Credit Union $25,000
First Security Bank $25,000
Davis County $15,200
Weber County $15,000
Mountain Fuel $10,000**
Ogden Board of Realtors $10,000
Source: Hill/DDO '95
*The state has given $145,000 and a $105,000 disbursement is pending.
**The company moved a regulator station out of the base's "clear zone" without charging the committee. Cost of the move totaled $110,000.