Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Friday, April 4, 2014

AP Redistricting story -- timing suspect; tone misleading? UPDATED 4-7-14

On Sunday, March 30, an AP story with Bob Christie's byline, about Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission started showing up on various news websites including local radio station KTAR.com, midwest newspaper Kansas City Star and the news site for the Mohave Daily News (Bullhead City, AZ).

This is all well and good, right? People need to understand and be made aware of the significance of independent redistricting, don't they?

Well generally, AP stories are written for and published about newsworthy events. Remember, news stories are supposed to answer certain questions like WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and less often but still important, HOW and WHY.

So, what newsworthy event did Bob Christie tell people this time? I can't find anything in any of the places I saw (I have a google alert for Arizona Redistricting) that reveal any new issue, event or other happening. Therefore, I am left to guess about why this story was published. The only related items I am aware of is the fact that a full year has transpired since the trial wrapped up in Harris v AIRC.

Oh, and there's that pesky Arizona Legislature and the fact that recent history demonstrates a tendency to, once they pass the budget bills, to attack the most controversial issues. Last year, it was HB2305. The voter suppression provisions lumped together into HB2305 were first introduced very early in the session, but HB2305 was the last bill passed before ending the session in June 2013.

There is no shortage of controversial issues on tap this year, most notably the wholesale undermining of public education by expanding programs to fund wholly unaccountable private schools with taxpayer funds.

The GOP leadership in the legislature may think that we have forgotten about SCR 1003, Periodic Reauthorization of citizen initiatives. This resolution was a clandestine strategy to abolish the Independent Redistricting Commission. Of course, that's not the only thing citizens have enacted that the legislature doesn't like, but they REALLY hate that they don't get to choose their own voters. This fact is fully documented in more than 400 of the 700+ posts on the Arizona Eagletarian.

So, WATCH them like hawks because no bill or resolution is truly dead until they adjourn the legislative session Sine Die.

But there's more...

Christie's story on Sunday included cheap shots made by the first chairman of the AIRC, Steven Lynn. Notably,
Steve Lynn, the commission's chairman during its first 10 years, said the latest commission appeared much more politicized that the one he chaired.
"The integrity of the process was night and day between this time and last time," Lynn said. "Clearly, we did a better job of it than the current commission. The integrity of the process was night and day between this time and last time.
He points to the commission's split decisions on consultants, lawyers and the final maps themselves.
"All of those decisions that were made this time around were made 3-2 with the chair siding with the Democrats on the commission," Lynn said. "All of those decisions when I was chair were made 5-0, all inclusive, and they were not political."
Not only is the statement made by Lynn categorically false, the fact that Christie reported Lynn's words as fact is a clear demonstration of journalistic malpractice.

It is no secret to anyone who has paid any attention to Arizona politics over the last four years that the current redistricting cycle entailed a high level of controversy. There is, however, documented record, in the official transcripts and audio/video recordings of the proceedings of the AIRC as well as detailed coverage provided on an ongoing basis, by this blog. The archives to both are neither hidden nor difficult to access. I recommend to Mr. Christie that he familiarize himself with Google search functions. Additionally, other archival resources are no doubt available to the AP of which he might avail himself.

Nevertheless, Lynn's cheap shots, according to the Arizona Capitol Times and it's Yellow Sheet Report, caused AIRC Commissioner Scott Freeman to unleash "Geyser-sized Steam of Frustration."

Here's what Freeman posted on Facebook:
Arizona’s 2001 commission had unanimity on major staffing decisions and approved the final state and congressional maps 5-0 and 4-1. Contrast the 2011, “sham” commission, where all significant votes were 3-2 party-line affairs. The state Democratic party essentially drew the 2011 maps. In fact, that’s something I said when the commission voted on them in January 2012. Instead of maps drawn [insert dramatic music] “in the smoke-filled rooms or down in the basement of the state Capitol,” Arizona got maps that were the product of work by a state Democratic party official and (maybe) a commissioner. During critical mapping periods, this official communicated extensively with one commissioner by phone and met at the home of another. That official even had a direct tie-in to the server of the Commission’s D.C.-based mapping consultant. (I didn’t even have that – and I’m on the Commission!) These commissioners didn’t cop to this behavior during the mapping process. Instead, this information finally came to light after the 2012 election and also during on-going litigation concerning the 2011 maps. It gets worse, but this is FB.
Now, my good friend Mr. Freeman is a fierce litigator (as I understand it) and as such should (and I can reasonably assume DOES) know that a comparison of the 2001 and 2011 commissions based on "unanimity on major staffing decisions" and near unanimity on the final maps is NOT a logical or rational measure of -- as Mr. Lynn said,
"The integrity of the process was night and day between this time and last time," Lynn said. "Clearly, we did a better job of it than the current commission. The integrity of the process was night and day between this time and last time. 
It is, however, an indication that Mr. Freeman was lashing out with verbal fury at a situation over which he did not have as much control as he wanted. Every last aspect of his comment is dripping with that fury and frustration. He may have every right to be frustrated. And he certainly has the right of free speech to say what he wants, right? Maybe. Remember, he is not just any Joe Blow. He's a government official, an Independent Redistricting Commissioner.

Remember the brouhaha over the highly partisan Espresso Pundit blogger Greg Patterson's nomination to serve on the Arizona Board of Regents? Last year, Phoenix New Times reporter Ray Stern noted about Patterson,
Patterson let his popular news-and-opinion blog go dark for a year after he was appointed to the eight-year term as Regent by Governor Jan Brewer, implying in his last blog post of 2012 that writing about university and Board of Regents issues could be perceived as a conflict of interest.
Scott Freeman would do well to reflect on his political compadre Patterson's admission. Then again, Patterson was the focus of a potential firestorm of his own making. Freeman is well past his screening, appointment or confirmation.

Freeman's entire rant, while lacking solid legal and factual foundation (he DID have his chance to have his say during the Harris trial more than a year ago), is entirely partisan political raving. He's entitled to such ranting and raving... technically, as a citizen. So, why did Patterson acknowledge the conflict of interest while Freeman -- with a lazy and complicit corporate media -- lets the current redistricting official get away with it unchallenged?

He's only expressing opinions about the impropriety of the actions of his colleagues, right? Isn't he a whistleblower? That might wash except for the FACT that litigation on the issue of allegations of impropriety demonstrated NO violations of law; NO violations of the public trust; NO violations that would allow the slanderous claims made by Steven Lynn and Scott Freeman to find one iota of legitimacy.

Now, what does Freeman conveniently fail to address in his partisan rants?

First and foremost, the role of Koch brothers' funded UNfair Trust and the persistent and insidious role of GOP hacks David Cantelme and Mike Liburdi. While Freeman rants about speculated connections between Democratic redistricting commissioners and others who may have had influence on mapping decisions, did Freeman disclose the number, length, frequency or subject of phone calls he had with Cantelme, Liburdi or convicted felon John Mills?

Oh, sure, Mills wasn't convicted yet when he was communicating with Freeman, his Republican colleague Rick Stertz or with Cantelme or Liburdi. But Mills WAS on the taxpayer-funded payroll of the Arizona House of Representatives ALL the while.

If AP reporter Christie was exercising due diligence on the matter, he likely would have been able to find incumbent (from 2001) moderate GOP state lawmakers who are just as sure about Mills' influence in lumping them in new districts with more extreme right-wing incumbents during that first redistricting cycle. Those moderate GOP incumbents lost their primary elections in 2002 just like Ben Quayle lost his Congressional primary with David Schweikert in 2012. But you don't hear Freeman complaining about Mills.

Anyway, Freeman responded to a comment on his Facebook post:
The public has limited remedies. You can’t vote out those that you did not vote in. The Governor tried to toss the Commission’s chair, but the Arizona Supreme Court essentially countermanded her. (If three words had been added to her removal letter, the court would have had a tougher time restoring the Chair.) Citizens (Republicans) filed two lawsuits, which are in process. In one, a trial was conducted a year ago before a 3-judge panel in federal court. No ruling yet. The other suit has seen no activity since the summer, which could mean many things, including that the suit has been abandoned. Both lawsuits are long shots given the legal standards the plaintiffs must surmount. I’m not sure, however, why the federal court has taken more so long to rule on the case that was tried last year.
and
Former Commissioner Herrera has fled the scene. In litigation, he shamelessly denied exchanging anything other than idle pleasantries with the Dem official. He was then confronted with the phone records showing numerous calls, some very lengthy and late at night during critical mapping periods. These calls were on more than one of his phones, including his mobile. He stammered through the testimony. I'm sure he was viewed as quite a liability and jettisoned. And actually, I don't think they cared about anything too much beyond implementing their designer districts and seeing how far they could go with eliminating incumbents, including one of their own (Rep Patterson). One line move was based upon the location of a commissioner's residence, which was a moment more shocking and unseemly than the Chair's serial phone calls and quid pro quo offer on the mapping consultant.
Now, about those conflicts of interest. Who, in the corporate media dares to call Freeman on what are obviously unseemly and unprofessional remarks?

In fact, the Capitol Times just fanned the flames.

Now, about Steven Lynn's compunction to lie outright (or did he just have a memory lapse, forgetting that his chairmanship wasn't as perfect as he wanted it to be?), a key case in point is found in the 160-page transcript of the AIRC meeting on June 25, 2002. Pertinent to this situation are remarks by then Democratic Commissioner Andi Minkoff, on pages 127-140. Excerpts that illuminate the truth about this situation include (emphases are mine):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, my fellow Commissioners. I ask you to bear with me, because I have a lot to say. It may take a few minutes. 
For the first time, I've written out some remarks. I want to make sure I didn't forget anything. There has been a lot that has happened that has caused me concern. I want to take the opportunity to express some of it to you. [...]
As I said earlier, I intend to vote against the proposed Legislative District map. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain my negative vote.
When Proposition 106 was passed by the voters in the 2000 General Election, I really believed it would result in a significant change in the makeup in Arizona's Legislative and Congressional Districts. I believed the people of Arizona were sending a message that not only were they unhappy with districts drawn by and for incumbent legislators, but they wanted districts in which their votes mattered and in which they had a say in who would represent them in the Legislature. In short, they wanted a choice. I believe that it was our mandate to draw districts that gave them that choice. I do not believe the plan before us is responsive to that mandate. [...]
I believe that the decision by the Commission to preclude further testing and the possibility of creating Competitive District Number 6 in Maricopa County was not only a serious error but violated our mandate under the Arizona Constitution. 
Initially, there was a three-two vote in favor of testing Competitive 6. Then, suddenly, after a break, there was an unexplained reversal of the vote and a four-one vote against any further testing or consideration of the proposed competitive district, an action that may very well have caused those observing our process to look at the trend of events with doubt and confusion.
Perhaps Commissioner Freeman can be forgiven for not having read all of the transcripts from meetings of the 2001 IRC. 

But Steven Lynn's claim that under his chairmanship, everything was conducted out in the open, and that there were no lapses in integrity, are patently false. Record of the proceedings of the 2001 AIRC appears to contain evidence -- or at least probable cause to believe -- that open meeting law was violated in decision processes under Lynn's leadership

Freeman's chosen method of expressing his concern is poignantly contrasted with how Commissioner Minkoff expressed hers. She did so thoughtfully, carefully and on-the-record.

I wish Freeman would have demonstrated the same professionalism in carrying out his duties as a commissioner as Minkoff did. Alas, as another person commented on Freeman's Facebook post, "Politics gets nasty, doesn't it? Doesn't matter where we live."

Democratic Party officials and activists did not throw hissy fits in the form of faux controversies during the first redistricting cycle. They did plan ahead, however, for the next cycle. Evidence abounds showing that the Arizona Republican Party dropped the ball, thinking they had everything already "fixed." With Koch (and other Dark) money, they've been playing catch-up ever since.

The fact of the matter is that because of Cantelme and Mills, the current redistricting commission did not fulfill the voter mandate to provide nearly as many competitive districts as they could or should have. 

One need look no farther than record of the conduct of current GOP state lawmakers (like Senate Pres Andy Biggs) who arrogantly disregard the need to work for the common good and to consider anything other than right-wing excess to see that there is too little electoral competitiveness.

-----


Bob Christie owes ALL of the people who read his publication of Steven Lynn's lies an apology and a correction.

Scott Freeman owes the people of Arizona the service he swore an oath to provide and to do so without undermining it with partisan innuendo in conflict with said oath.

Perhaps somebody morally owes Arizona taxpayers reimbursement for the brazenly partisan activities carried out by convicted felon John Mills as he served the Arizona Republican Party since the start of the 2001 redistricting cycle.

David Cantelme and Mike Liburdi owe Arizona voters an accounting for where 100 percent of the funding originated for their effort to undermine independent redistricting from the planning stages in 2010 (or earlier) until now.

Last but by no means least, corporate media, including but not necessarily limited to the Arizona Capitol Times (whose parent company is now in bankruptcy because of its involvement in potentially fraudulent mortgage foreclosure processing schemes), KTAR, the Kansas City Star, Mohave Daily News, the Arizona Republic and any other enterprise that may cover the current situation with the AIRC owe their readers, listeners and viewers due diligence when publishing stories purporting to be news.

UPDATE     UPDATE    UPDATE     UPDATE     UPDATE

Apparently, Christie's story was part of a national package on redistricting, the central focus of which was the GOP has built-in advantage in fight for US House. I don't know how many outlets published the main story along with Christie's. That seems to explain the timing but still doesn't account for lazy reporting former AIRC chairman Lynn's claims as fact.

1 comment:

  1. The last thing Republicans in Arizona want is competitiveness. Competitiveness requires that they run on their ideas and when given a clear choice, voters tend to vote for the Democratic candidate. It isn't always the case (as we saw in 2010 when the voters stupidly voted for David Schweikert over Harry Mitchell), but 9 times out of 10, I do believe it is the case. (Which frustrates me when Democratic incumbents in competitive districts turn Republican-lite while in office.)

    As you have noted in your many posts, there was a clear & concerted effort on the part of elected Republican officials in Arizona and their national allies to undermine the voter approved AIRC and its mandate to create competitiveness in the state. They have done and will do whatever is necessary to ensure that the voters of Arizona never have a choice. That the choice will be made for the voters before they even go to the polls.

    This is the disdain, if not outright hatred, state elected Republicans and their national allies have toward the voters of Arizona. Too bad not everyone sees this.

    ReplyDelete