Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, August 8, 2011

Redistricting -- the UNfair Trust

Last Wednesday, at the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission's hearing in Glendale, Jeffrey Rich, Chairman of LD 12 (Avondale) Democrats testified about his concern with UNfair Trust, which is represented by lobbyists Michael Liburdi and David Cantelme.

Here is what Rich said:

In several recent meetings, this commission heard public comments from lobbyists hired to represent a group called FAIR Trust. These are two Phoenix attorneys, Michael Thomas Liburdi Jr and David Cantalme, and they have publicly stated their affiliation with FAIR Trust.

But what they have NOT publicly stated is who is behind FAIR Trust. The Arizona Capitol Times recently reported that FAIR Trust is actually funded and organized by Republican Senator Jon Kyl and Arizona’s Republican congressional delegation. Once you know who is behind FAIR Trust, it’s clear they are on a cynical mission. This group appears to be distorting the public record with comments under the guise of promoting the Voting Rights Act. Their comments are implicitly against competition, and as such would preserve the status quo of the current Republican power structure in Arizona.

FAIR Trust has already testified in Nogales, Casa Grande and South Tucson. If these lobbyists intend to keep addressing the commission on the public record, they should disclose who their group represents and disclose its donors – also on the public record.

Given that Arizona’s voter registration is sliced roughly into thirds, more competition should lead to more representative government. And that’s exactly what FAIR Trust does not want. This group exists solely to protect the interests of our state’s most powerful Republicans.

I would like to add to the public record that this so-called FAIR Trust is not interested in fairness at all, but is attempting to hijack what is supposed to be a citizen-led process. 
As I previously reported, Liburdi got bent out of shape and tried to lecture me on lobbying statutes when I confronted him about this clandestine group.  Later, Cantelme vowed to me that I would never discover who is paying for his services in this matter.  Granted, they are likely correct on the current legal status of the  group.  The public record trail is, indeed, well covered up.

My understanding of the Capitol Times coverage is that Steve Twist is a key organizer and that Arizona's GOP Congressmen (Flake, Franks, Gosar, Quayle and Schweikert) are linked to the group.  Taxpayer funded GOP operative John Mills appears to be working with UNfair Trust also. Perhaps this week, public records on Mills' activity will be provided by his employer, the Arizona House of Representatives.

NONE of that, however, justifies the group's position.  Rich is right on the mark as to his call for Cantelme and Liburdi to provide (FULL) disclosure before ANY legitimacy is given to the claims and assertions they have made or may make publicly or in any format for the official record as pertains to the work of the AIRC.

Public interest group Common Cause addresses, in an essay on Redistricting Gone Wild, the underlying issues regarding compliance with the Voting Rights Act:
So if splitting up groups causes disenfranchisement, why not pack them all into one district and they can elect someone who represents their collective interests, right? Not quite. Instead of being empowered by having someone advocating on their behalf, line drawers can overcompensate and “packed” districts can give groups even less power to influence meaningful change.
The last ten years in the Arizona Legislature dramatically demonstrates this dilemma. Could SB 1070 have passed if Latino voters had representation commensurate with their (lawful) population?

At the heart of this issue is the fact that minority politicians may have a different agenda than their minority constituents. The intent of the law is to ensure minority groups are not shut out of the process.  The intent of SOME minority politicians is to make it easier to get elected.  Each minority politician can only run for election in one district.  So, his or her interest naturally coincides with, in the case of Arizona's 2011 state and Congressional redistricting, the implicit message of UNfair Trust -- to pack as many Latino voters into as few districts as possible.

Some Latino leaders have told me they are interested in increasing the number of seats in the legislature that can be won by members of their community.  Others, however, have already given clues that they may be in cahoots with UNfair Trust.  At this point, I do not have enough information to name any names. 


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