Sunday, January 31, 2016

AZ Utility Regulator demands APS' financial data access

The book may be closed on Susan Bitter Smith, who resigned after being taken to court over her conflicts of interest, but the saga regarding Arizona Public Service, the largest IOU (investor-owned utility) in the state, continues.

Of course, Trash Burner Bob Stump was caught counting his chickens before they hatched last week but that's not the latest development. In the ongoing controversy over Dark Money spending in prior elections for Corporation Commissioner positions, Commissioner Bob Burns has now demanded disclosure of APS' election spending.

The panel of five commissioners is charged with the responsibility to protect captive ratepayers of investor-owned monopoly utilities. Bob Burns, elected to a four-year term in 2012, is the only remaining commissioner willing to challenge APS to disclose its election spending. He is up for re-election this year.

In November 2015, Burns requested APS voluntarily disclose the information. On December 30, CEO Don Brandt refused, in a letter stating that disclosure would "impinge on APS's 'First Amendment rights.'"

On Thursday, Burns wrote to Brandt demanding disclosure pursuant to A.R.S. § 40-241. The Yellow Sheet reported on Friday,
Burns said his demand letter to APS yesterday is just another step in his efforts to force disclosure of the utility’s spending habits. “We tried to be polite and got no response, so we had to go this route,” he told our reporter. In his letter, Burns said he is “concerned about the lack of transparency for all of APS’s below-the-line expenditures.”
Corp Comm spokeswoman Angie Holdsworth clarified that Burns is referring to “expenses that are not classified as ‘operating expenses’ that would not be recoverable from ratepayers.” Examples would include interest payments on a loan or charitable giving. Burns said he wants to make sure APS isn’t using funds that are supposed to go toward providing electricity to pay for other things, like political contributions and charitable donations. He said he’s trying to delineate exactly how APS and Pinnacle West are different, since they appear to share many of the same personnel.
“I’ve had this concern for some time about some of the expenditures and how they’re labeled,” Burns told our reporter. For example, he said he often sees APS headlining events, like sporting events, as a major donor. But he doesn’t think labeling APS as the donor makes sense. “It’s my belief that that shouldn’t say APS. It should say Pinnacle West and [the money] should be [from] Pinnacle West. APS is supposed to be the service arm of this system. They’re supposed to be providing power,” he said.
If the utility is using money for “good corporate citizenship,” such as through donations or sponsorships, that money should be coming from the rate of return that investors get, not from ratepayer funds designated to pay for operational costs. “The people that are paying their rates, writing checks to APS and have no choice in the matter, they see these big ads on billboards and stadiums, and I’m sure many of them don’t even realize that a number of these high-dollar events are being sponsored in part by what should be Pinnacle West,” Burns said.
He added that he’ll wait and see for the response to his letter, but if APS refuses to detail its expenditures, he believes the company would be breaking the law. “This is a state statute. This is a law. I think if they just come out and say no without any explanation, they would be in violation of the law,” he said
Burns seems to expect Brandt to extend this game of chicken.

Arizona Republic coverage this week can be viewed here and here. The second link is about a 16-page response from former Commissioners Bill Mundell and Renz Jennings filed on Friday supporting Burns plan to compel disclosure. Quoting from the 2010 Citizens United decision, the response says, in part,
The First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages. (emphasis added by Mundell/Jennings)
It may also be helpful to note that former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Zlaket, on September 17, 2015, filed a letter on behalf of The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) also in support of Corp Comm authority to compel disclosure of election spending by APS as well as PinWest.

Burns' letter closes by saying his office would be in contact with Brandt's to arrange for a "mutually convenient series of dates for the conduct of this investigation."

Stay Tuned.

Hillary says, "No, We Can't!" How inspiring!

From Young Progressive Voices, published January 29,

Hillary Clinton Says “No We Can’t” In New Ad
As the Iowa and New Hampshire campaigns continue to plow ahead full speed, Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have officially dropped their diplomacy and engaged in a “no holds barred” battle for the Democratic nomination. Polls from a multitude of sources showcase both sides having a tight lead over the other, but ultimately only one will emerge victorious.
While Sanders has raised valid points about Clinton’s validity as a candidate (citing her continued ties to Wall Street cronies like Goldman Sachs), Clinton has taken to adopting a different tactic to smear Sanders; realism. Clinton (and her family for that matter) continue to raise the question of whether or not Sanders’s plans for America, such a single-payer healthcare system, would even be legible in today’s political climate.
Now Clinton has upped her game, releasing two political ads that, while not naming him directly, target the Senator’s proposals. The first claims how Clinton will be able to push reasonable legislation through Congress compared to Sanders’s ideas “that sound good on paper but will never make it in the real world.” The second highlights Clinton’s experience as the former Secretary of State, and takes small jabs at Sanders’s stance on gun control.
What’s interesting about both, particularly the first one, however, is the unintentional message they send out. Bernie Sanders has gained a lot of popularity by proposing what strategists may call “real change” ideas. It’s not just about maintaining the status quo, but fighting Wall Street for their damages on the economy, fighting for healthcare as a human right, and fighting for every kid to be given a chance at a college education. Clinton’s ad seems to suggest that all this “real change” is too idealistic, which may hold some truth.
However, by outright using that as a reason to support her, what Clinton’s ultimately saying is: “real change is impossible, so settle for me.” Not the best motivation speech.

Let's give it the ol' college try, shall we? NO WE CAN'T... NO WE CAN'T!

How absurd?

News and opinion columns these days, because Michael Moore shamed corporate media into making it a national story, are talking about the moral failure playing out in Flint, Michigan with its municipal water supply.

As far as I'm concerned, the fundamental failure, and it very much is a moral failure, is in the betrayal by American government, in this case by Republican elected state officials in Michigan, ignoring the Social Contract. That contract essentially defines what constitutes a legitimate government.

Roughly eight months ago, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont began in earnest to call for a revolution that actually can overcome the current corporate oligarchy -- when he declared his intent to run for President as a Democrat.

For months, "the powers that be" did not take him seriously. Cue Gandhi, or what is often attributed to him.
First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they attack you. Then you win.' - Mohandas Gandhi
The first votes (well, besides early voting which apparently has already started in some states) will be cast in the Iowa caucuses tomorrow (February 1). As they sometimes say, shit just got real.

"They" are not ignoring Bernie anymore. They are no longer laughing. Now, they (Hillary, corporate media, the DNC... and whoever else has a stake in the status quo) are fighting. Much of that fight is a war of words.


It doesn't take a rocket scientist (even though I know one or two of them), to trace the betrayal of the Social Contract to the rise of the John Birch Society in the 1950s/1960s, the Powell Manifesto (1971), ALEC (beginning in the 1970s), the Reagan Revolution (1981), and Grover Norquist.

That progression has undermined the fundamental purpose and legitimacy of American government.

So, back to the point of this post, as so eloquently stated by Robert Reich just days ago on Twitter,
By the way, what HAS Hillary actually accomplished in her political career? Has she been touting any specific achievements on the campaign trail?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Elizabeth Warren -- The lesson is clear, the difference between Presidential candidates is huge and matters greatly

It is my honor tonight to publish this, post number 1,000, on the Arizona Eagletarian.

Recently, former AZ state Rep. Phil Lopes' guest post addressed contradictions in President Obama's record of accomplishment, contrasting some of them with one of his key initiatives, the TransPacific Partnership.

Lopes made the point that the TPP betrays Obama's environmental record as well as gutting previous trade agreement provisions on such issues. In an op-ed published by the New York Times on Friday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren links a new report she has published which cites numerous other enforcement problems this administration has demonstrated. For example,
In 2015 the USTR [US Trade Representative] failed to take action against countries violating key free trade law environmental obligations, neglecting new and detailed reports of illegal logging in Peru that violated the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement. An analysis of the problem found that USTR took “[n]o action to investigate industry, in the United States or Peru, with documented evidence of repeated and persistent engagement in illegal harvest and trade or [no action to] prosecute known violations.” 
Deforestation is one of the key factors in man-made climate change/global warming.

Ultimately, Sen. Warren, in the op-ed, posted below, makes the case that it really does matter who is elected president. I believe her argument is compelling, valid and sound. I also believe it markedly bolsters the case for the ONLY presidential candidate who speaks authentically on the subject. If anyone can be trusted to implement the governing philosophy she describes and really, herself embodies, it is that one candidate. 


WASHINGTON — WHILE presidential candidates from both parties feverishly pitch their legislative agendas, voters should also consider what presidents can do without Congress. Agency rules, executive actions and decisions about how vigorously to enforce certain laws will have an impact on every American, without a single new bill introduced in Congress.

The Obama administration has a substantial track record on agency rules and executive actions. It has used these tools to protect retirement savings, expand overtime pay, prohibit discrimination against LGBT employees who work for the government and federal contractors, and rein in carbon pollution. These accomplishments matter.

Whether the next president will build on them, or reverse them, is a central issue in the 2016 election. But the administration’s record on enforcement falls short — and federal enforcement of laws that already exist has received far too little attention on the campaign trail.

I just released a report examining 20 of the worst federal enforcement failures in 2015. Its conclusion: “Corporate criminals routinely escape meaningful prosecution for their misconduct.”

In a single year, in case after case, across many sectors of the economy, federal agencies caught big companies breaking the law — defrauding taxpayers, covering up deadly safety problems, even precipitating the financial collapse in 2008 — and let them off the hook with barely a slap on the wrist. Often, companies paid meager fines, which some will try to write off as a tax deduction.

The failure to adequately punish big corporations or their executives when they break the law undermines the foundations of this great country. Justice cannot mean a prison sentence for a teenager who steals a car, but nothing more than a sideways glance at a CEO who quietly engineers the theft of billions of dollars.

These enforcement failures demean our principles. They also represent missed opportunities to address some of the nation’s most pressing challenges. Consider just two areas — college affordability and health care — where robust enforcement of current law could help millions of people.

When the Education Management Corporation, the nation’s second-largest for-profit college, signed up tens of thousands of students by lying about its programs, it saddled them with fraudulent degrees and huge debts. Those debts wrecked lives. Under the law, the government can bar such institutions from receiving more federal student loans. But EDMC just paid a fine and kept right on raking in federal loan money.

When Novartis, a major drug company that was already effectively on federal probation for misconduct, paid kickbacks to pharmacies to push certain drugs, it cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and undermined patient health. Under the law, the government can boot companies that defraud Medicare and Medicaid out of those programs, but when Novartis got caught, it just paid a penalty — one so laughably small that its C.E.O. said afterward that it “remains to be seen” whether his company would actually consider changing its behavior.

Enforcement isn’t about big government or small government. It’s about whether government works and who it works for. Last year, five of the world’s biggest banks, including JPMorgan Chase, pleaded guilty to criminal charges that they rigged the price of billions of dollars worth of foreign currencies. No corporation can break the law unless people in that corporation also broke the law, but no one from any of those banks has been charged. While thousands of Americans were rotting in prison for nonviolent drug convictions, JPMorgan Chase was so chastened by pleading guilty to a crime that it awarded Jamie Dimon, its C.E.O., a 35 percent raise.

To be fair, weak enforcement is sometimes a result of limited authority. Despite the company’s history of egregious safety failures, for example, the former C.E.O. of Massey Energy was convicted only of a single misdemeanor in the deadly Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29 miners in West Virginia in 2010, because federal mining laws are too weak. It’s on Congress to stiffen such penalties.

But in many instances, weak enforcement by federal agencies is about the people at the top. Presidents don’t control most day-to-day enforcement decisions, but they do nominate the heads of all the agencies, and these choices make all the difference. Strong leaders at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Labor Department have pushed those agencies to forge ahead with powerful initiatives to protect the environment, consumers and workers. The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a tiny office charged with oversight of the post-crash bank bailout, has aggressive leaders — and a far better record of holding banks and executives accountable than its bigger counterparts.

Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission, suffering under weak leadership, is far behind on issuing congressionally mandated rules to avoid the next financial crisis. It has repeatedly granted waivers so that lawbreaking companies can continue to enjoy special privileges, while the Justice Department has dodged one opportunity after another to impose meaningful accountability on big corporations and their executives.

Each of these government divisions is headed by someone nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The lesson is clear: Personnel is policy.

Legislative agendas matter, but voters should also ask which presidential candidates they trust with the extraordinary power to choose who will fight on the front lines to enforce the laws. The next president can rebuild faith in our institutions by honoring the simple notion that nobody is above the law, but it will happen only if voters demand it.


Because Sen. Warren wrote the op-ed, and it is now in the public domain, I'm confident that it will be reproduced widely, even if not by corporate media.

However, the New York Times website presented, with the column, a sampling of comments. Citing Fair Use Doctrine, I reproduce two sample comments for you below.
Margaret Lawrence 10 hours ago -- Ms Warren, please join the next president ... hopefully Ms Clinton .... to work toward making your thoughts as contained in your article...
Green Tea 10 hours ago -- Okay, Senator. I think we're all taking this as an endorsement. Isn't it time you went ahead and said his name?

It's no secret to Arizona Eagletarian readers who I support in this campaign (see the right hand column of the blog for related links). But really, I welcome any supporter of Hillary Clinton (or from her campaign) to make a directly related argument demonstrating, by way of her record, her campaign statements, and her financial supporters how she could possibly be expected to implement the philosophy embraced by Elizabeth Warren as so eloquently articulated in the opinion column above. I'd love to publish it.

In the meantime, don't let anyone rest on an argument of Bernie Sanders not being able to get anything through Congress. Besides the fact that he's had numerous initiatives incorporated (as amendments) into bills which became law, how he will choose to lead the executive branch matters for you, your career, your retirement, your health, your children and your grandchildren.

So, digressing to Sen. Warren's last point -- you're a voter, damn it. So, demand it. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Guest Post -- Karen Bravo: Why Hillary Clinton does not deserve my vote.

What follows is a short report I wrote for a class I took last year. It tears at my heart, the struggle and pain and injustice women have to live with all over the world. I am first and foremost an advocate for women. And this is why Hillary Clinton does not deserve my vote. I cannot in good conscience support someone who turns her head on them.


When Women Livein a warzone, they are at their most vulnerable, and their situation is the most dangerous it can be. We are seeing this now as we watch Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives. In wartime, women and children make up approximately 80% of those leaving their homes to find safety. They are also the highest casualty of innocent lives lost and injured. Most often women and young girls are separated from their families and taken as sex slaves for the military; they are sold, tortured, raped and murdered, they are also burdened by unwanted pregnancy.

Women who already live in a country where male hierarchy exists and where extreme religious ideologies are repressive of women’s rights experience even greater oppression, violence, and abuse when it becomes an active warzone. A report issued by the United Nations (2002) describes this hardship: “The economic, social, political, legal and cultural structures that perpetuate gender inequality are still in place throughout the world, and in no nation do women have complete equality within these structures to participate as fully as men.”

The inequities that women face are overwhelmingly dangerous. The conditions they must endure during initial breakouts of fighting, occupation, flight, and displacement leave them with a lifetime of intensified trauma. Women are left to fend for themselves and their families, and face greater health risks such as disease and malnutrition. The availability of food becomes limited; crops are destroyed, schools and healthcare facilities are closed and destroyed. When placed in a refugee camp, women who become pregnant as a result of rape are forced to choose between living with a high risk pregnancy in impoverished and unhygienic conditions or consider some type of unassisted, “back alley” abortion. Even though they are illegal in most countries The World Health Organization estimates that complications arising from unsafe abortions account for an estimated 25% to 50% of maternal deaths among refugees.

The 3RP (Regional, Refugee & Resilience Plan) has estimated there will be 4.27 million Syrian refugees by the end of 2015. There are 4.1 million currently registered or awaiting registration as documented by UN agencies, NGOs and the countries of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. In a statement on 11/17/15 by UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, reminds us, “It is not the refugee outflows that cause terrorism, it is terrorism, tyranny and war that create refugees… It is clear that Daesh strategy is not only to set Europeans against refugees, but within Europe, to set citizen against citizen within communities, community against community within countries, and country against country in the Union.”

When Women Livethrough war, they become survivors. They become the builders of family and community; they become the caretakers, the educators, the spiritual guides and the threads that will again weave a web of safety. As women, we have a responsibility and an obligation to do what is morally right, to take care of each other. To honor each other.

 “Warfare is just an invention known to the majority of human societies by which they permit their young men either to accumulate prestige or avenge their honor or acquire loot or wives or slaves or grab lands or cattle or appease the blood lust, their gods, or the restless souls of the recently dead. It is just an invention, older and more widespread than the jury system, but nonetheless an invention of men. It has been women’s task throughout history to go on believing in life when there was almost no hope. If we are united, we may be able to produce a world in which our children and other people’s children can be safe.”
~ Margaret Mead, “Warfare is Only an Invention,” 1940

Karen Bravo lives in Scottsdale, AZ. She studied International Women's Health & Human Rights at Stanford University. She can be reached at 

For more information:

Global Fund for Women

Women’s Refugee Commission

Doctors Without Borders

Information, Links, Sources:


Ed. For reference regarding Hillary Clinton's foreign policy record, here are additional resources:

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Guest Post -- TransPacific Partnership's impact on President Obama's Legacy

President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union address featured an incongruent call for congressional approval of a policy that would undermine many of the landmark achievements of his presidency.

He prioritized passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a controversial “trade” deal that would undermine Obama’s legacy of economic recovery, climate, health care access, LGBT equality, financial reform, and U.S. auto industry rescue achievements.

The final TPP text was released in November after seven years of secretive negotiations during which 500 official U.S. trade advisors representing corporate interests had special access and Congress, the public and press were shut out.

While President Obama touted the American jobs he has created, the TPP includes rules that make it cheaper and less risky to offshore more American jobs to low wage countries. A recent economic modeling study concluded that netting out potential gains and losses, the pact could cost another 450,000 American jobs.

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), we have endured a net loss of more than 57,000 U.S. manufacturing facilities* and already have lost one out of every four American manufacturing jobs.* Those manufacturing plants now in Mexico would have the incentive to move their facilities to low-wage nations such as Malaysia and Vietnam where minimum wage is less than one dollar per hour. Our logistics and transportation industries along the border would crumble without the imports from Mexico and our economy would be in shambles, again.

The TPP also would directly contradict Obama’s efforts to reduce U.S. health care costs by expanding monopoly patent protections for big pharmaceutical firms. This allows them to stop competition and raise medicine prices. The TPP would also empower large drug firms to meddle in U.S. government reimbursement decisions for taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

The TPP would even undermine the president’s successful rescue of the U.S. auto industry, which saved thousands of U.S. jobs. It would allow vehicles comprised mainly of Chinese and other non-TPP country parts and labor to gain duty free access here. This would gut the rules of origin established in NAFTA that condition duty free access on 62.5 percent of value being from NAFTA countries. Ford Motor Co. has supported all past U.S. trade deals, but opposes the TPP.

The environmental groups that have celebrated Obama’s achievements with the global climate treaty and his decision to the stop the XL Pipeline call the TPP an act of “climate denial.” The pact would roll back the environmental standards that President George W. Bush was pressured into including in his trade deals.**

So why is President Obama pushing the TPP? He said it provides tax cuts on 18,000 products and thus would boost exports. But we already have free trade deals that cut these taxes with the TPP countries* accounting for 80 percent of the TPP bloc’s economic activity. And we do not even sell a majority of the 18,000 products that get the tax cuts.

The president also said we need TPP to counter China. But the final TPP text rolls back national security language included in all past U.S. trade deals for a decade. And, the TPP rules would undermine our national interests and empower foreign firms to “sue” the U.S. government and raid our Treasury over our health and environmental policies. TransCanada is currently demanding $15 billion from U.S. tax payers in a NAFTA tribunal over the denied XL Keystone Pipeline. Three private sector attorneys will decide if we taxpayers must pay the firm for its future lost profits.

The TPP would double down on NAFTA’s rules – the opposite of Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to renegotiate the unpopular pact. Obama must choose between his agenda and its legacy or the TPP: he cannot have both.

Phil Lopes is a former Arizona State Representative from Tucson.

Guest post submitted by Global, a project of Public Citizen. This op-ed column was first published in the print edition of the East Valley Tribune on January, 23, 2015

*   For more specific insight on how the data at these linked pages were used to support these items, contact Nick Florco, Press Officer for Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

** From the linked document:
Article 20.4 on MEAs – agreements between governments to protect the environment – marks a clear step backwards from the May 10, 2007 bipartisan agreement on trade. It also fails to meet the standard set in the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (i.e. “fast track”).
On May 10, 2007, congressional Democrats and the George W. Bush Administration agreed to “incorporate a specific list of multilateral environmental agreements” in U.S. free trade agreements (FTAs) and to subject the implementation of those seven MEAs to the FTA dispute settlement process. Since the “May 10” agreement, all U.S. FTAs have required each FTA partner to “adopt, maintain, and implement laws, regulations, and all other measures to fulfill its obligations under” the seven MEAs identified in the “May 10” deal. Each pact has subjected those commitments to the FTA dispute settlement process.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Will Trash Burner Bob Stump get the last laugh?

This week, retired Superior Court Judge David Cole issued a two-paragraph report summarizing his findings after reading text messages from the phone(s) Corporation Commissioner (Trash Burner) Bob Stump illegally destroyed. It reads,
By order dated December 1, 2015 Judge Randall H. Warner appointed the undersigned as master in this cause. The order dated November 19, 2015 sets forth both the master's authority and criteria the master is to apply in determining whether the text messages in question should be produced.
The undersigned has reviewed the text messages that fall within the scope of Paragraph 2 of the order dated November 19, 2015. The undersigned also reviewed a list of text messages (provided by counsel for plaintiff) between Commissioner Stump and 18 individuals and entities. Based upon this review, and having applied the criteria set forth in Paragraph 3 of the November 19, 2015 order, the undersigned has determined that none of the text messages are subject to production. 
Subsequent to release of Cole's report, Stump has been...

... and taunting detractors on Twitter, claiming he's been vindicated. 

That, of course, is complete and utter bullshit.

Notably, he's taken Goebbels' insight to heart in an effort to redefine Dark Money.
Next, he's sowing more propaganda to poison his fans' minds regarding investigative journalism and citizens' rights to examine public records.
From today's Yellow Sheet,
Meanwhile, Stump is tweeting triumphantly. This afternoon, he engaged attorney Tom Ryan, who filed the complaint that eventually led to Bitter Smith’s resignation, in a taut and acerbic exchange. Ryan tweeted that Cole didn’t do Stump any favors by “continuing the concealment.” Stump replied: “So you’re saying Judge Cole is corrupt. I see.”
Could ol' Trash Burner be more desperate to justify himself?

What's his plan? Besides his efforts to redefine Dark Money, he's spouting malarkey to get his believers to accept that asking for more specific information from the Special Master equates to saying the judge is corrupt.

And he's got people already buying into it.

From the Arizona Republic, an excerpt of an interview with Judge Cole,
"One of the definitions (of a public record) is that they should have a nexus to (Stump's) work," Cole said. "It's not, 'Gee, this is something people ought to hear.'"
He said the Attorney General's Office estimated there were 13,000 or more text messages sent by the phone, and five different tools were used to retrieve them.
Cole was provided with hard copies of text messages retrieved with each tool. He said the documents ranged from about 150 pages to about 500 pages, and he spent 43 hours examining them to find matches to the messages that Barr was seeking.
One of the problems was that the software used to retrieve the deleted texts did not provide complete reports, Cole said.
"There were some that indicated a time and date, but there was no content to it," he said. "With some, there was no way to tell who said what to whom."
It seems reasonable to infer from Cole's comments that there is substantially more to the story than simply, "nothing to see here, so move along."

To explore that likelihood, Dan Barr (counsel for Checks and Balances Project) sent the following letter to him,
Dear Judge Cole,
Thank you for your work as Special Master in reviewing the text messages provided to you by the Attorney General’s Office and for doing much of your work over the holiday season. If possible, the parties and the Court would greatly benefit if you could amend your report to provide the following information:
1) The total number of text messages that you reviewed and their date range;
2) Out of the total number of text messages you reviewed, how many of those were the text messages sought by plaintiff’s public records request (the 3,598 text messages between Commissioner Stump and 18 individuals and entities between May 1, 2014 through March 11, 2015). If the answer to this question is “zero” or some small number that would greatly streamline the litigation going forward;
3) If you did review any of the text messages sought by plaintiff, can you identify which ones by the date, time and the sending and receiving phone numbers?
4) For any such text messages identified in response to number 3 above, can you please indicate which ones that you believe are not public records in accordance with the standard put forth by the Supreme Court in Griffis v.Pinal County?
5) If you found that any text messages identified in response to number 3 above were a public record under the Griffis test, could you provide which reason under the Carlson v. Pima County (i.e., where an interest in privacy, confidentiality or best interest of the state overcomes the presumption of disclosure) for deciding that the text message should not be produced.
If you believe that our request exceeds the scope of your work as requested by Judge Warner, I would be glad to seek the Court’s approval for our request. Again, since you have just spent many hours reviewing these text messages, you are in the best position to provide the answers to the above questions that will greatly assist the parties and the Court going forward.
Again, thank you for all you work in this matter.
Dan Barr

Hardly a challenge to Cole's integrity. Stump's right about one thing, however. This is neither the end of the story nor the end of Trash Burner Bob's public records disclosure problems.

According to the Attorney General's estimate, Stump sent 13,000 (thirteen THOUSAND) text messages on his taxpayer funded cellphones. Since the question at hand is whether he was doing BUSINESS ex-parte with Arizona Public Service, (real) Dark Money operators, and APS-owned corp comm candidates, he wants you to believe ALL of those text messages were personal and private.

Would he be singing a different tune if the investigation was questioning his personal use of taxpayer resources? My cellphone provider charges $.20/text if itemized. Has anyone ever explained why corporation commissioners need taxpayers to pick up the tab for their personal use cellphones anyway?

Election law expert Richard Hasan, who teaches at UC Irvine, just released his new book, Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections. Trash Burner Bob might like the book.

Hasan makes the case that what Stump has been doing (what we actually KNOW that he's been doing, rather than just surmising) might not really be corruption. Rather -- and especially given the Commissioner's enthusiastic embrace of his social relationships with the people who appear before the Corp Comm to argue their case for higher electric rates, or for net metering, or for whatever else -- it's the much more subtle, and most certainly very insidious when it comes to psychological manipulation of officials elected to protect the interests of the citizens and ratepayers, ingratiation.

But whatever you want to call it, the bottom line still IS that Trash Burner Bob takes care of his friends at Arizona Public Service.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Arizona Dems meet Saturday; on the agenda -- electing members of the National Committee Updated 1-21-16 8:10 pm MST

I realize it's just a rumor, but I heard that the reason the Arizona Democratic Party's state committee meeting this week will be in Kingman is because Alexis Tameron very much did not want it to happen in Maricopa County.

Not only do a large percentage of state committee members live in Maricopa County, but the central location in our state would make it easier for more people to attend.

Why does that matter this time?

Because this time, there will be an election for SUPERDELEGATES to the Democratic National Convention. But that's not what they are telling state committee members.

Remember when DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was first subject to criticism over the funky debate schedule?

From The Hill in October 2015
A vice chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) says the chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), did not consult others about the party's primary debate schedule, as she claims, and is questioning her leadership.
R.T. Rybak, a former mayor of Minneapolis, told The New York Times on Thursday that Wasserman Schultz had made statements that were "flat out not true."
“This is not a back-and-forth between a chair and a vice chair,” he said, according to the Times.
“This is a chair of the Democratic Party wrongly stating that she consulted with all of the party officers. I was not consulted. I know that [Rep.] Tulsi Gabbard [D-Hawaii] was not consulted. And this is becoming about much more than debates.”
Rybak's comments are the latest salvo in an internal party fight over the number of presidential primary debates.
The DNC is planning to hold six debates, but many, including presidential contenders Martin O'Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have called for more. Ryback and his fellow DNC vice chair Gabbard also publicly called for more debates.
In reply to that story, ADP chair Tameron tweeted,
Tameron justified Wasserman Schultz' failure to consult with others in the Party about how many debates to hold. So much for a democratic Democratic Party, nationally... or perhaps even in our state? Apparently now, Tameron doesn't think it's so important that ADP state committee members make informed decisions on their upcoming votes for SUPERDELEGATES.

Calls for the DNC chair to resign or be removed from the position have only gotten louder in the months since they first appeared. From the New York Observer,
Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has faced intense scrutiny over the past year, as Democrats have grown weary of her inability to recoup party losses in the House and Senate, and are tired of her blatant favoritism of Hillary Clinton. [...]
Another group, Roots Action, has accumulated over 30,000 signatures in a separate petition. “In addition to her recent attempt to deny the Bernie Sanders campaign access to its own voter files, Wasserman Schultz has tried in other ways to minimize competition for her candidate, Hillary Clinton,” states the Roots Action petition. “In Congress, she has served as a pro-militarist and corporatist tool of the high bidders.”
MoveOn.Org has collected over 60,000 signatures, and has over 47,000 signatures calling for Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s weak leadership brings nothing but negative attention to the Democratic Party. Democrats must stop delaying the inevitable, and either fire Ms. Wasserman Schultz or push her to resign.

And from the Chicago Sun Times,
In addressing Wasserman Schultz, the petition states that “as DNC chair, you have repeatedly failed to act in the best interests of progressives and the Democratic Party.”
“You have lost the trust of grassroots progressives and Democrats,” the [CREDO] petition reads.
It also lists off a number of other reasons she should resign, such as the scheduling of Democratic debates.
Thus far, Wasserman Schultz has turned a deaf ear to calls for her resignation. If there is to be relief, the only way at this point is to have the Democratic National Committee vote her out.

Pursuant to Article Five, Section 2 (b), of the Charter and Bylaws of the DNC (as amended August 28, 2015) Wasserman Schultz may be removed by a majority vote of the Democratic National Committee.

On Tuesday, state committee members in my legislative district were advised (by email) that it looks like only three of our 20+ members (of the state committee) would be attending the meeting in Kingman.

This is winter (though we might not realize it in Central or Southern Arizona). Kingman's elevation is 3,333 feet above sea level and the climate and "is located in a "cold semi-arid climate" (Köppen BSk) instead of the desert. The BSk climate type receives slightly more precipitation than the BWh hot desert climate found to the south and west, and the wintertime low temperatures are significantly colder."

On New Year's Eve 2014/New Year's Day 2015, a winter storm shut down I-40 between Kingman and Williams, AZ.
A wreck forced the initial closure in the westbound lanes of I-40 about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, but by 9:30 a.m. the highway was closed in both directions near Kingman because semi trucks were unable to make it up an icy hill, according to ADOT.
DPS spent much of Wednesday morning and afternoon responding to dozens of weather-related "slide off's" and collisions in northern Arizona within 50 miles of Kingman along I-40, U.S. 93 and State Route 68, said Raul Garcia, a DPS spokesman.
What better way could there be to minimize the number of state committee members who would be inclined to attend than to schedule it in Kingman? Well, they could have made it Bullhead City.

Why does this matter? From wikipedia,
The DNC establishes rules for the caucuses and primaries which choose delegates to the Democratic National Convention, but the caucuses and primaries themselves are most often run not by the DNC but instead by each state. All DNC members are superdelegates (i.e. unpledged delegates) to the Democratic National Convention and can influence a close Presidential race. Outside of the process of nominating a Presidential candidate, the DNC's role in actually selecting candidates to run on the Democratic Party ticket is minimal.
Pursuant to that Charter and Bylaws (Article Two, Section 4 (h) (i)), ALL MEMBERS of the Democratic National Committee serve as UNPLEDGED delegates [superdelegates] to the Convention.

Now, my Democratic friends, especially precinct committeepersons and state committee members, has Alexis Tameron or ANY staff or leader in any capacity explained that provision to you? Perhaps that's why, in 2007, national affairs reporter Tom Curry wrote,
It’s called the Democratic Party, but one aspect of the party’s nominating process is at odds with grass-roots democracy.
Voters don’t choose the 842 unpledged “super-delegates” who comprise nearly 40 percent of the number of delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.
I've been a state committee member for the Arizona Democratic Party for the last three years. NOBODY, EVER explained any of that to me. And people wonder why ADP is toothless? That no Democrat holds ANY statewide elected office in Arizona?

Alexis Tameron was elected a year ago ostensibly to provide a voice for Latino Democratic voters. It does NOT appear she is fulfilling that charge.

Nevertheless, the issue at hand is not Ms. Tameron, but the DNC chair and superdelegates. 

Several people this week have been soliciting, by email and phone calls, my support for their candidacy for the positions of SUPERDELEGATE, even though one with whom I spoke and asked the question of whether DNC members elected this weekend would be superdelegates denied it outright.

That might be a matter of her being just as uninformed as I had been until researching the issue this evening. But even if that is that case, it's still problematic.

Here's the bottom line for Arizona Democrats. The election for DNC member should NOT go without full discussion and explanation of the issues and questions contained in this post. ALL candidates for DNC member must be challenged and made to answer as to whether they will insist on a vote to remove Wasserman Schultz when the national committee next meets AND they must be made to put themselves on record as to for whom they will vote for the nomination for President at the convention in July.

UPDATE     UPDATE     UPDATE     UPDATE     UPDATE 1-12-16 1:45 am

Thus far, I've received one private comment in response to this post. That person told me that one of Arizona's current national committee persons told (this person),
"I'm pretty sure that DNC elected in January would be super delegates to the 2020 convention, at least that's what --- told me. S/he is a DNC and I think s/he is a super delegate for 2016.
That comment agrees with what the one candidate for national committee member said to me on the phone yesterday. However, Article Three, Section 3 of the Charter and Bylaws states, in pertinent part,
Members of the Democratic National Committee apportioned to the states and those provided for in Article Nine who are not otherwise members by virtue of Party office, shall be selected by each state Democratic Party in accordance with standards as to participation established in the Bylaws of the Democratic Party for terms commencing on the day the National Convention adjourns and terminating on the day the next Convention adjourns. Such members shall be selected during the calendar year in which a National Convention is held, through processes which assure full, timely and equal opportunity to participate. Vacancies shall be filled by the state party as provided in the Bylaws. The members of the National Committee from each state shall be divided as equally as practicable between committeemen and committeewomen. (emphasis mine)


My intention by posting before I had feedback from Alexis Tameron or anyone else in leadership at ADP was to stir things up. I'm thankful that Alexis has responded to clarify her positions and scheduling issues for state committee meetings.

Additionally, former ADP executive director DJ Quinlan provided chapter and verse showing me where in the quirky DNC charter and bylaws provide that the national committee members elected this week will not begin serving until AFTER the DNC convention in July.

From the Charter and Bylaws, terms start the day the convention adjourns...meaning current membership serves for the 2016 National Convention. Those elected on Saturday will serve through the 2020 convention:
SECTION 3. Members of the Democratic National Committee apportioned to the states and those provided for in Article Nine who are not otherwise members by virtue of Party office, shall be selected by each state Democratic Party in accordance with standards as to participation established in the Bylaws of the Democratic Party for terms commencing on the day the National Convention adjourns and terminating on the day the next Convention adjourns. Such members shall be selected during the calendar year in which a National Convention is held, through processes which assure full, timely and equal opportunity to participate. Vacancies shall be filled by the state party as provided in the Bylaws. The members of the National Committee from each state shall be divided as equally as practicable between committeemen and committeewomen. Members of the Democratic National Committee who serve by virtue of holding public or Party office shall serve on the Committee only during their terms in such office. Members of the Democratic National Committee added by the other members shall serve a term that runs coterminously with the Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, through the election of the new Chairperson, and until their successors are chosen; members in this category shall have the right to vote for the new Chairperson. Members of the Democratic National Committee who serve by virtue of holding state Party office shall be selected by such parties in accordance with standards as to participation established in Bylaws.
This, of course, brings into focus that current members of the DNC from Arizona will serve as superdelegates. Which is why it's significant when somebody like Ruben Gallego prematurely endorses the establishment candidate for the Democratic nomination. Ruben will be a superdelegate by virtue of being a Member of Congress from Arizona.


Alexis explained:
I have no idea why anyone would say I hate Maricopa County. It really is an absurd remark. I've chosen to live in Tempe, in Maricopa County, when I could have stayed in Pinal County and/or moved to Pima County. My close to 20 years of relationships and activism have centered in and around Maricopa County.
It is winter, but we've checked and double checked conditions for heading to Mohave County before and after it was announced. We would never put our members in harms way. I-40 west, outside of Wickiup to Kingman are vastly different than I-40 heading east towards Williams and Flagstaff. Plus, I don't think it's fair to our rural counties to have to compete for only one meeting a year -- the one in the summer. Trust me when I say that no one wants to spend August in Kingman or Bullhead when it's 120 degrees - a lot hotter than Phoenix - hence my remarks regarding the conditions in NW Arizona are very different than NE Arizona in January.
Furthermore, regardless of your assumptions of my presidential preference -- I'll tell you and I've told others before -- I do not have a preference nor do I plan to endorse publicly or privately a candidate before the March 22 PPE.
If I chose to do so afterwards, it will be my decision to do so, but Arizona's PPE results will play a factor. In fact, the only two gatherings I've attended as State Chair were for Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley. I have not gone or been present at a Hillary for Arizona event. Additionally, I personally do not care whether or not a candidate or DNC-member elect chooses to engage in calling for the DNC chair's resignation.
That's on them. I just care if candidates and/or DNC-members elect, regardless of their presidential preference, will focus and work to ensure we elect a Democrat as President of the United States, in addition to our up and down ballot Arizona Democrats.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

How did Arizona Republican pols honor MLK day this year?

Perhaps not as facetious as "Victor Laszlo" suggested. But suppressing voting rights and related election issues (notably making it more difficult for participating Clean Elections candidates to qualify for public funding, and making it easier for Dark Money independent expenditure groups to hide the sources of their funding, etc.) appears to be a key focus this year.

First, state elections director Eric Spencer (a political appointee under Secretary of State Michele Reagan) has been circulating drafts of a rewrite of Arizona Revised Statutes Title 16, Chapter 6, Article 1 he wants to have the legislature run this session with changes to Campaign Finance law.

At this stage, there's no way to know if the draft linked in the paragraph above is the most recent. Capitol scuttlebutt has it that one of the main aims of the rewrite is to provide loopholes for so-called social welfare organizations (501 (c) 4 entities which often do more lobbying and political campaign spending than social welfare). Reportedly, those loopholes would be big enough to drive the proverbial Mack truck through, so the organizations would be exempt from disclosing who actually provides the Dark Money funding.

Of course, it would be helpful -- especially if Spencer's intent was to further the interest of transparency in government, elections and campaign finance -- for him to provide, with his circulating drafts, a side-by-side comparison of the current statutes with what he wants put in place in its stead. But we haven't gotten that from Spencer (or Reagan) thus far.

Another problematic action taken by Spencer last week can be viewed as furthering the turf wars his office has engaged in with the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. In this case, Spencer has arbitrarily and apparently with some capricious intent, changed procedures such that CCEC participating candidates for legislative and statewide (Corp Comm) offices this year must now submit their $5 qualifying contribution forms both electronically and in paper form. From Spencer's notice to CCEC executive director Tom Collins,
...we have examined our past procedures with a view toward increasing our technological efficiency going forward. Accordingly, we have adjusted our processing procedures with respect to CCEC participating candidates in the following ways: [view the linked document for that detail]
It's noteworthy that participating candidates have been allowed to collect qualifying contributions since August, but only now (as of January 11, 2016) has Spencer decided to streamline HIS employees' work and substantially add to the bureaucratic burden for the candidates.

Note the reasons I see these changes as arbitrary and capricious include that, as CCEC director Collins responded to Spencer, they come well into [about six months into] the qualifying period; they are not responsive to any legislative or statutory changes; and they are not a result of any administrative rulemaking process (which would require a public feedback period before implementation).

Spencer may (or may not) have the authority to make those changes, but it's clear that he wants to shift his administrative/bureaucratic burden onto candidates. So much for customer service, eh?

Lastly (for this post anyway), we should take a lesson from Arizona legislative history (Alt-Fuels) and be wary of the great (but not so good) likelihood that Spencer's rewrite of Campaign Finance statutes will not come until AFTER the deadline for members of the House or Senate to file new bills. Instead, to minimize the risk of the PUBLIC subverting their efforts to bastardize state statutes on the subject, expect it to be a STRIKER, or strike everything amendment at or near the end of the session.
A "strike everything after the enacting clause" amendment (also referred to as a "strike everything" amendment or simply a "striker") proposes to delete the entire text of the existing bill and substitute new language, essentially making it a completely different bill, possibly on an entirely different subject. These amendments are sometimes used to allow legislators to circumvent the deadlines on introduction of new legislation, deal with an issue that arises after the deadline or revive a bill that has previously been defeated.
My call to action for every one of YOU is to contact your members of the legislature to warn them to be expecting dirty tricks on Campaign Finance, so they will be prepared to stop it before it becomes too late.

Democratic members will possibly be subject to coercion by GOP leadership to get them to go along with these adverse changes.

Expect more about the subject of campaign finance, Dark Money (and loopholes thereof), and other attacks on the rights of voters to elections and election systems before the legislative session ends.

Friday, January 15, 2016

AZ Gov Scrooge McDucey's Slush Fund

This week, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich posted another of his tremendously succinct and poignant videos, this time explaining Paul Ryan's agenda and why it's BAD for America.

Terrible idea number 4 is Turn Medicaid and other federal programs (for the poor) into block grants. It's about letting the states decide how to allocate those block grants. Reich calls it giving "Republican state legislatures and governors slush funds to do with as they wish."

That, by the way, is how Arizona has gotten away with limiting TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, which before Bill Clinton's Welfare Reform Act of 1996 was known as AFDC, or Aid to Families with Dependent Children; TANF also replaced the JOBS program) assistance to poor families to a lifetime maximum of only TWELVE months of benefits. The 1996 federal legislation only set a benefit limit of 60 months, which -- theoretically -- could be enough to prepare a single parent for the job market, IF there were jobs available at the end of the benefits.

This while our state has SEVERELY limited child care subsidies (because the federal funding is a BLOCK GRANT, and NO state general fund monies are provided) along with education and training benefits. How can this be considered anything but draconian? Young single mothers don't have the resources to hire powerful lobbyists in DC or in Phoenix. But the same Republicans who want to force those women to give birth to babies they aren't prepared to support have ZERO compassion for the women or their post-birth babies. And they refuse to adequately fund the programs or require businesses to provide living wages that would empower them to rise up out of poverty.

Today, McDucey revealed his latest state government budget request.

The Yellow Sheet had this to say today about some of that slush,
The governor wants to transfer surplus money from unspent federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds to Dept of Child Safety. Last year, lawmakers enacted a law that decreases the lifetime limit on TANF recipients from 24 months to 12 months. That law will go into effect this July. (Previously, the limit was decreased from 36 months to 24 months, and that move cut cash assistance caseload by 40 percent). Ducey is recommending moving $13.6 million in surplus TANF funds to DCS in FY16, and $11 million in FY17.
That, my friends, is a stark description of one aspect of the slush fund Congress gives our state.

Make no mistake, McDucey's budget and ongoing strategy to cut state taxes IS Class Warfare and a HUGE redistribution of wealth to the richest Arizonans, of whom, he is one. Ramifications of that redistribution include lack of resources to adequately protect abused and neglected children.

Scrooge McDucey is a con man and spouts full on Bullshit/propaganda. From The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova, which the author of a BrainPickings article describes as,
... a thrilling psychological detective story investigating how con artists, the supreme masterminds of malevolent reality-manipulation, prey on our propensity for believing what we wish were true and how this illuminates the inner workings of trust and deception in our everyday lives.
In other words, the Arizona governor is a master of verbal legerdemain.

Challenge yourself to challenge the governor and the Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature to prove what they claim. A good place to start might be to get them to explain how and why all the tax cuts of the last two and a half decades have not caused a groundswell in new jobs.

Then demand accountability when they fail. And they will fail.

Bitter Smith case closed -- AG won't file criminal charges

From the Yellow Sheet on Thursday:
Bitter Smith won’t face any criminal charges over her alleged conflicts of interest. The Attorney General’s office sent a letter to Bitter Smith’s attorneys, Ed Novak and Rick Romley, on Jan. 11, informing them that the case is now closed. (The civil case against Bitter Smith was concluded when Brnovich officially withdrew his petition, which sought her removal from office.) Donald Conrad, chief counsel of the AG’s criminal division, and Paul Ahler, the section chief counsel of the fraud and special prosecutions unit, wrote that their office has spent the “last several months engaged in an investigation of possible criminal conduct” by Bitter Smith.
The AG said it was investigating whether Bitter Smith had violated ARS 38-503, which contains the state’s conflict-of-interest prohibitions. But Conrad and Ahler said that, “after reviewing related documentation and conducting various interviews,” there was “insufficient evidence” to bring a criminal case against Bitter Smith.
Missing from Brnovich’s Nov. 30 petition to the court was a key accusation from attorney Tom Ryan’s complaint. The attorney had alleged that Bitter Smith’s ownership of Technical Solutions, a firm that offers lobbying services at many levels, including at the Corp Comm, and which specializes in land acquisition services for telecom sites, is another point of conflict. Additionally, Ryan had raised questions about the commissioner’s role in a golf course project in Scottsdale that involved the moving of an APS substation.
From the Arizona Republic:
Attorney General Mark Brnovich said after her resignation that his staff continued to investigate potential criminal charges against Bitter Smith. But a letter to her attorney's this week said that investigation has concluded.
"After reviewing related documentation and conducting various interviews, we have reached the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to warrant a criminal prosecution," wrote Donald Conrad, chief counsel for the criminal division, and Paul Ahler, section chief counsel for the fraud and special prosecution section.
One of Bitter Smith's attorneys, Edward Novak, said the decision was anticipated.
"We've been expecting this for a couple of months," he said.
In addition to the citizen complaint to the Attorney General's Office that spurred those investigations, a separate complaint was made to the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, this one filed by a conservative group called the Public Integrity Alliance. There has been no action by the U.S. Attorney's office to pursue charges against Bitter Smith.

Insufficient evidence to file charges is a purposely vague expression that could mean many things, including the possibility that the AG's office decided not to dedicate any of its resources to gathering any information. That the Yellow Sheet put the expression in quotes seems to imply they also believe it was nothing more than a judgment call by the AG.

Left unsaid perhaps, is that Brnovich thinks the public has been vindicated already by her removal from office. Or, that they would expect a much more vigorous fight from Bitter Smith and criminal prosecution would be more costly to the people than it's worth.

Monday, January 11, 2016

2016 #AZLEG Regular Session Begins -- The Beat Goes On?

Three Republican state lawmakers today launched the latest salvo against the rights of Arizona voters.

By introducing HCR2009, Reps. Warren Petersen and Kelly Townsend, with Sen. David Farnsworth, hope to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot for November 2016 to undermine Independent Redistricting.

In 2012, with Prop 115, the GOP-dominated legislature tried to do the same thing -- jack up the politicization -- to the state court system. The voters beat it down.

Under the guise of enhancing voter say in redistricting, seeking direct election of redistricting commissioners, the GOP hopes to overcome resistance of minority voters that played a significant role in the 2011 redistricting cycle.

Notably, one of the sponsors, Kelly Townsend, at one of the first public hearings of the AIRC in 2011, demonstrated her goofy rhetorical skills earning the nickname "Crazy Lady."

The underlying issue with HCR2009, as well as the concept of Independent Redistricting itself, is Majority Rule, Minority Rights. From,
The American founders—Anti-Federalists and Federalists alike—considered rule by majority a troubling conundrum. In theory, majority rule was necessary for expressing the popular will and the basis for establishing the republic. The alternative—consensus or rule by everyone's agreement—cannot be imposed upon a free people. And minority rule is antithetical to democracy. But the founders worried that the majority could abuse its powers to oppress a minority just as easily as a king. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both warn in their letters about the dangers of the tyranny of the legislature and of the executive. Madison, alluding to slavery, went further, writing, "It is of great importance in a republic, not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part."
The United States has a long and storied past replete with many records of voter suppression. In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, with a view toward protecting the rights of minorities from abuse by majorities. Arizona, for many years and for just cause, was subject to the Section Five preclearance requirement of the VRA.

In 2013, the GOP-dominated legislature passed HB2305, a Voter Suppression bill which then Gov. Brewer signed into law. In a fierce demonstration of Machiavellian Democracy, a multi-partisan coalition of voters succeeded in a referendum to put HB2305 to a vote of the people, with full confidence of achieving a People's Veto. The following year, 2014, the first thing the legislature, still controlled by Republicans, did was to repeal HB2305. Of course, their expectation of that veto by voters was fear, not confidence. Fear that the Republicans would get their asses handed to them (by dramatically increased voter turnout in 2014).

To borrow from the Declaration of Independence,
... when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security
We will throw off Crazy Lady Townsend and her co-conspirators in their efforts to undermine Independent Redistricting.


Changing the subject from Arizona Republicans trying to undermine the will of the voter, we now turn to presidential politics.

Last August, Sen. Bernie Sanders said,
Voting Rights Act On Thursday’s 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Sen. Bernie Sanders said legislation in introduced in the Senate would provide for universal voter registration. “We are way behind many other countries in terms of making it easy for people to register,” Sanders said. “I want to see America have the highest voter turnout of any major country – not one of the lowest,” he told the Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC’s “Politics Nation."

My friends on Facebook will already have become aware that LD26 state Sen. Andrew Sherwood pre-filed SB1007 to mandate automatic voter registration in Arizona. Of course, it's not a concept that's popular with elected Republicans. Senate Pres. Andy Biggshot assigned the bill to three committees, assuring that it will be extremely difficult to get it passed, even if one of those committees hears the bill.

I'm confident that Sen. Sherwood will keep SB1007 on the front burner this session. It's up to the rest of us to pressure the legislature to expand, rather than suppress, voting rights.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Justice Clint Bolick?

Yesterday, Arizona's Governor, on the heels of appointing a hack to the Arizona Corporation Commission made his first appointment to the state Supreme Court. Enter Clint Bolick who has been chief of litigation at the Goldwater Institute for several years and is the author of David's Hammer: The Case for an Activist Judiciary.

Here's one blurb from Amazon:
Judicial activism is condemned by both right and left, for good reason―lawless courts are a threat to republican government. But challenging conventional wisdom, constitutional litigator Clint Bolick argues in David's Hammer: The Case for an Activist Judiciary that far worse is a judiciary that allows the other branches of government to run roughshod over precious liberties. For better or worse, only a vigorous judiciary can enforce the limits on executive and legislative action, protect constitutional rights, and tame unelected bureaucrats. David's Hammer reclaims for the judiciary its intended role as the ultimate safeguard of a free society. 
The appointment has already raised substantial consternation among liberals/Democrats and is getting nationwide attention. Jonathan H. Adler, in the Washington Post believes,
The most notable thing about this appointment is Bolick’s extensive background in libertarian public interest litigation and advocacy of greater judicial protection of property rights and economic liberty. 
Economic liberty really is a nebulous term from my perspective. Some have already raised warning about additional infringement on worker rights. But in Arizona? Do workers have rights other than in federal law anyway?

Here's a couple of things I do know about Bolick. He is not a fan of Arpaio.

In this clip, Bolick says, of Arpaio's mishandling of more than 400 reported sex crimes, that "this is one of the greatest failures of law enforcement I've ever seen." When I asked Bolick (in 2013) if he had commented publicly on Judge Murray Snow's ruling in 2013 that Arpaio had violated the constitutional rights of Latino citizens (and about the recall effort then underway), Bolick told me,
No I haven't. Our focus has been on different issues. I had not supported the recall previously because he had just been elected and there was nothing new on which to base a recall. But this ruling certainly provides a basis.
GI [Goldwater Institute] rules prohibit staff from being formally involved in election campaigns. But I will sign a petition and let folks know I have done so. (emphasis mine)
The Arizona Republic's Michael Kiefer writes,
Larry Hammond, another prominent Phoenix defense attorney and former Watergate prosecutor, does not know Bolick personally, but suggests that independent thought might be what the court needs.
“A thoughtful conservative is going to be less comfortable with accepting that the criminal justice system always gets it right,” Hammond said. “It would be nice for a change to have a judge who’s not so sure about that.”
Paul Bender, a constitutional scholar from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, also thinks Bolick could be a wild card.
“When a governor makes an appointment, it’s got to be a political decision,” Bender said. “I think Clint Bolick is smart enough and has the capability of being a completely independent thinker.”
Bolick says he came out of his interview with Ducey feeling that the governor was making a decision based more on judicial philosophy than politics.
“This is going to be a time when I leave my policy positions behind and take on the much more difficult task of determining constitutionality and legality and justice in particular cases,” he told The Republic.
Maybe I will have to read David's Hammer soon. In the meantime, I'm not as leery of Bolick's appointment as many of my Liberal friends. Yes, Bolick is widely seen as an ideologue, but he can take unpopular stands in highly political situations and will stick to his guns (so to speak). That can be a good thing.

Again from Kiefer's story,
Arizona Chief Justice Scott Bales also expressed his optimism about the appointment.
“Clint Bolick has appeared before our court a number of times and has always been a fierce advocate,” Bales told The Arizona Republic. “I am confident that he will be a collegial member of the court and he’ll be committed to fairly upholding the law.”