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HighGround Takes Home Three Awards at 2015 Pollies

March 23rd, 2015

HighGround was again well represented at the 2015 Pollies in New Orleans, winning three awards from the American Association of Political Consultants at their celebration of the best in political campaigning and advertising. Considered the “Political Oscars,” the annual event is a bipartisan gathering for politicos from across the country and well known for awarding the prestigious Pollies to the creators of the past year’s best political work.

This year was one of the Phoenix firm’s most successful Pollies, as they took home a Gold Award and two Silver Awards. In addition, our own Paul Bentz, Vice President of Accounts and Strategy, was named to the inaugural “40 Under 40” class for exceptional young consultants.

“We are honored and humbled to be recognized by the AAPC for some of our work over the last year,” said Chuck Coughlin, President. “It takes a total team effort to find new and creative ways to communicate with voters about the most important issues facing our state, so it is quite rewarding to see we’ve made an impact. We’re thankful to have worked for great clients and we look forward to continue playing a role in the public policy arena.”

HighGround was awarded for excellence in the following categories:

  • Gold Award, Best Use of Unusual Phone Techniques:  Superhero Calls – Arizonans Can Make a Difference With a Vote
  • Silver Award, Automated Calls:  Superhero Calls - Arizonans Can Make a Difference With a Vote
  • Silver Award, Automated Calls (Local/Municipal/Regional): Eleven Year Old Gets Out The Vote – Bridget Binsbacher for Peoria City Council

 About HighGround

The HighGround team provides its clients with a success-oriented, diverse team of media, public and government affairs experts. We specialize in dealing with complex issues on behalf of clients that face challenges or seek opportunities on a variety of governmental and public affairs levels. Many of these issues involve interfacing with local, county, state and federal government entities, developing diverse coalitions, and crafting thoughtful media strategies.

The firm is small and all principals are actively engaged in the company’s portfolio of clients. We have over 50 years of combined experience on Arizona issues. This translates into unparalleled connections and a unique understanding of Arizona. To learn more about HighGround, visit our website.

About the American Association of Political Consultants

Founded in 1969, the AAPC is a multi-partisan organization of political and public affairs professionals dedicated to improving democracy. The AAPC has over 1,250 members hailing from all corners of the globe.  It is the largest association of political and public affairs professionals in the world. For more information, see

Paul Bentz wins “40 Under 40” Award from AAPC

March 19th, 2015

We’re proud to announce that HighGround’s own Paul Bentz was named a “40 Under 40” Award winner from the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC).

“I am very honored to receive this recognition from such a respected organization and be counted among such an accomplished group of professionals,” said Paul Bentz, Vice President, Accounts and Strategy. “I want to thank everyone at HighGround for making this possible – everything we make happen is because of the team, the team, the team.  I want to especially thank Chuck Coughlin for being such an amazing leader and mentor.”

“This is a major honor,” noted AAPC President Art Hackney. “The AAPC is proud to recognize leaders and innovators such as Paul Bentz who have already positively impacted our industry before their 40th birthday.  It was amazing to see the large number of nominations for this new recognition; all of them worthy, and all of them the future of our industry.”

The AAPC announced the winners of the first ever “40 Under 40” awards at the 2015 Annual Pollie Awards & Conference on March 18 in New Orleans, LA. The Pollie Awards (Pollies) are bipartisan honors awarded annually by the AAPC to members of the political advertising and communications industry who have demonstrated superior work on behalf of their candidates and causes. Esquire magazine has dubbed the Pollies as “…the Oscars of political advertising.”

AAPC Vice President Mark Mellman also noted: “Competition for the inaugural “40 Under 40” list was intense. Our bipartisan team of judges reviewed the resumes of many very accomplished pollsters, advertising executives, researchers, campaign managers, and digital strategists from across the political spectrum.”

Only 15 Republicans, 15 Democrats, and 10 nonpartisan operatives in the United States were named to this exclusive “40 Under 40” winners list. Award winners were graded on a 40-point scale and selected for extraordinary achievements in politics and public affairs. Contributions to the health of the political business community through volunteer work and other forms of philanthropy were also considered.

Click here to view the full list of the 2015 “40 under 40” winners.

About Paul Bentz

Paul Bentz has more than a decade of experience in strategy, messaging, and campaign management.  During his time with the HighGround team, he has been at the point of a wide variety of major public policy and campaign issues.  He also specializes in public opinion surveys and understanding the Arizona electorate.  Read full bio.

About the AAPC

Founded in 1969, the AAPC is a multi-partisan organization of political and public affairs professionals dedicated to improving democracy. The AAPC has over 1,250 members hailing from all corners of the globe.  It is the largest association of political and public affairs professionals in the world. For more information, see

Preserving Arcadia’s Estate Tradition

March 18th, 2015

Late last year I met my new neighbor, a quiet, well-spoken attorney who had just moved back to his hometown from Las Vegas.  My neighbor said he was born here, grew up in the neighborhood and that he always considered the Arcadia neighborhood his home.

I asked him if he was practicing law and he said no.  He offered that he was the project manager for the restoration of the David & Gladys Wright Home built on north of Exeter and south of Camelback.  I was impressed by his humility and kindness.  I invited him over for dinner that weekend with my family and friends.  He accepted.   We had a great time, talking, dancing, drinking and singing.  It was the beginning of a great friendship and I was happy I had such a great neighbor.

I later learned, after much prodding, that my neighbor was being self-effacing when he told me he was the project manager for the Wright House restoration.  You see, my neighbor and his family had actually bought the property and some adjacent lots in the hope of restoring the original Arcadia Estate – the David and Gladys Wright House.

He told me as a kid, he and his mother would ride their bikes over to the House to check it out.  His passion was Frank Lloyd Wright architecture.  He would spend years learning about the man, his vision and his passion for architecture.  It was Wright in fact who said that, “The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.”

Today, my neighbor has set up a foundation to celebrate the artistic legacy of Mr. Wright. The David and Gladys Wright House Foundation has a three fold purpose;

  • Preserve Arcadia’s estate tradition.  Frank Lloyd Wright’s last residential masterpiece was built in 1952 for his son David and daughter in law Gladys, on 10 acres of citrus groves at the base of Camelback Mountain. (David and Gladys Wright lived in the house until their deaths. David died in 1997 at 102; Gladys in 2008 at the age of 104).
  • Celebrate the artistic legacy of Mr. Wright, the Wright Family and the history and culture of mid-century America through tours, lectures, cultural events, performances and educational programs.
  • Inspire future generations of artists and architects through field trips, educational programs and internships.

Just yesterday, I received a direct mail piece from a zoning attorney purported to represent some of the residents closest to the project.  I was shocked to see my neighbor be demonized by this attorney, whose only apparent goal is to destroy our past so she can zone, build and sell new homes. Contrary to what you may read in the zoning attorney’s mailer, the David and Gladys Wright House is occupied by a relative of Mr. Wright, and the Foundation’s aim is to Preserve Wright’s last residential masterpiece.  The Foundation’s current work is preservation of the home.  Regarding the owner being the “Las Vegas owner,” he grew up at 36th Street and Indian School here in Phoenix and lives here now.  The mailer may be some folks’ way of saying, “welcome home.”

If you would like to learn first-hand about the Home and my neighbor’s plans, please log onto our website to schedule a private tour.  Parking and access to The David Wright House is available through the Camelback Church of Christ located at 5225 East Camelback Road.

Ok, so you have made it this far through this post and I have never mentioned my neighbor’s name. I have spoken to him about this and he has insisted that it not be about his family or him.  He only wants you to enjoy the home as much as he does.    You see he is a very humble, generous and gracious man.

Please come visit the Wright House and take a private tour for yourself, learn about the property, the family’s goals and intentions for yourself. Or better yet bring your kids up for the Easter Egg hunt on Saturday, April 4th from 9:00-11:00am. To RSVP, please contact Kate Fassett at 602-689-6140 or email her at That way you will enjoy yourself, learn about the project and you can make up your mind.

Thanks for taking the time to learn the truth, and by the way, when you do meet my neighbor, tell him “welcome home.”

Your Actual Arcadia Neighbor United For the Preservation of the David Wright House,


J. Charles Coughlin

Homeowner and Friend to my neighbor

4116 N. 51st Place

Phoenix, AZ 85018

Salt River Project’s Reliable Community Leadership

February 25th, 2015

For the past 100 years, the Salt River Project has provided reliable, community based affordable water and power – as today’s Arizona Republic spot on editorial points out, they are also endeavoring to provide reliable community leadership on how to properly price customer based power generation, be that solar or other forms of renewable energy.

As the Arizona Republic accurately explains, the U.S Department of Energy has found that rooftop solar customers reduce utility revenues much more than they reduce expenses. With the rapid evolution of the energy and technology industries, it may be possible for customers some day to completely disconnect from the grid – but as of today, that is much more of a dream than a reality.

SRP’s pricing policy, which their elected Board will consider tomorrow, is an innovative and thoughtful approach to how to properly price consumer generated power and the customers’ continued reliance on the grid during their peak use times.

All electric utility providers have two tasks in common: they must generate enough quality power to meet peak demand times when most of their customers are returning to their homes in the early afternoon and evening hours and they must accomplish the first task in the most affordable manner possible.

Many rooftop solar arrays are not positioned (west facing), or in most cases, large enough to meet this peak demand time. Battery storage and other technologies may evolve to help bridge this gap, but for the time being, self-generating customers still rely on the grid to meet their peak energy demand.

SRP’s management has proposed an innovative pricing policy that attempts to separate the costs for energy and the cost of the network of infrastructure known as the grid.

The juvenile demagoguery being spouted by the rooftop solar industry and its supporters does a massive disservice to anyone trying to fairly and appropriately understand these very difficult public policy issues. As former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once said, “A good-catch-word can obscure analysis for fifty years.”

Holmes would surely get a good laugh if he heard the demagogic quotes from Barry Goldwater Jr. or his Twitter-happy friends at the Rose Law Group when they rant and rave about the future fate of solar.

The truth is the future of solar is very bright – once community based not for profit utilities like the Salt River Project can get the pricing right.

President Theodore Roosevelt, who signed the reclamation act creating the Salt River Project in 1903, would be proud that the managers and the elected officials of the Project are providing the same reliable leadership to its customers that he provided himself during his entire lifetime of service to our country.

There has been much change in Arizona as we’ve grown over the past century, but one of the few constants has been the Salt River Project. Their work to provide affordable water is one of the principal reasons that the Valley has grown into the economic hub it is today.

We applaud SRP’s leadership on this issue as they manage the opportunities presented by emerging technologies to reduce costs and promote long-term reliable power and water in the harsh desert environment we live in today.

Voters Understand Education is Key to Arizona’s Economic Recovery

February 12th, 2015

The Arizona Board of Regents is on the leading edge of improving the university system as an entrepreneurial enterprise – implementing key reforms and focusing on performance. The results show this improvement: student performance is increasing, research investments have created jobs and over $1 billion in economic activity, and efforts are underway to reduce costly and unnecessary regulations. The fact is our state leaders should be looking to invest in higher education, not cut it further.

Board Chairman Mark Killian is absolutely right when he says, “Arizona’s public university system is foundational to the state’s economic prosperity, yet our state leads the nation in funding cuts, significantly impeding our ability to be competitive and, more importantly, to serve our students. Arizona’s students and families simply cannot be the backstop to the fiscal challenges that our policymakers are trying to solve.”

And the voters agree. Late last year, HighGround conducted a statewide, 500 person survey of likely General Election voters. The survey sample was balanced across age, party and regional demographics to represent a 2016 General Election cycle. The survey showed that when faced with our current budget crisis, there is willingness by the Arizona electorate to protect key institutions through increased revenue:

Moreover, the survey also showed that there is strong support for Killian’s notion that university education provides the educated and trained workforce for companies to hire and that workforce drives Arizona’s long term economic success and competitiveness.

This idea is also reflected in President Eileen Klein’s latest statement, “It is time to tackle head-on the real issue, which is creating a sustainable model for our state’s public higher education system. We look forward to working with legislators to develop this model that enables the board to stay true to its mission of access and affordability for all Arizona residents and to allow our university system to be the catalyst for strong economic growth in our state. Any reductions will be made thoughtfully with input from key university constituencies.”

The survey tested the following argument on a mean scale of 1 to 5 and it received overwhelming support from the Arizona electorate with 82.4% AGREEMENT.

In testing options to balance the budget, there is opposition to most of the proposed cuts, with the strongest opposition coming to any reduction in K-12 funding and any efforts to increase university tuition. Again, these mean scores are on a scale of 1 to 5.

The previous legislature cut the budget more than any other in Arizona history. Today, approximately only 25% our public universities’ operating funds come from the state. Following the cuts starting in 2009, our universities found ways to increase efficiencies, cut some programs while combining others, and increased tuition when necessary. Tuition increases are no longer a viable option as there is across the board consensus from the Arizona electorate:

Other states who invested in higher education are recovering from the recession at a faster rate than states like Arizona. Finding ways to fund our higher education and K-12 needs are key elements of restoring our state’s economic health. The universities are creating a results-oriented system. They’re asking the state to fund them based on results that move the economy forward – degrees produced and increases in research – not just bodies in seats. The voters agree that we need to reform the model to fully transform state funding of our universities to encourage high performance entrepreneurial academic institutions that can offer top-flight education at affordable prices as our state’s constitution intended.