Priorities: Governing vs. Campaigning

By East Valley Evan

It’s that weird time of the political season when conflicts arise revealing where politicians’ priorities really are.

Yesterday, leaders of the Arizona House and Senate reached a deal on how to divvy up sections of Governor Ducey’s budget proposal. That deal will be revealed today.

Setting aside the details of the deal, it’s worth pointing out where leaders of both chambers are spending their time as this process unfolds.

Every legislator acknowledges that the most important part of their job is to pass a budget that establishes the financial priorities for the State of Arizona. It’s what voters elect candidates to do and it’s the epitome of responsibility for legislators once elected.

When it comes down to governing or campaigning, governing should always take priority.

Citizens would think and expect leadership in the House and Senate to treat this constitutional obligation with the utmost attention. Apparently that obligation can take a back seat  if you’re a candidate for another office while holding down your leadership position in the legislature.

House Speaker David Gowan got it right (although he is avoiding interaction with members of the media these days) when he skipped a CD-1 candidate forum in Casa Grande Monday night. He stuck around the legislature to make sure the House wrapped up the budget deal.

It wasn’t the same on the Senate side. Senate President Andy Biggs was nowhere to be found in the State of Arizona. Instead, he is making the rounds in Washington, DC trying to raise money for his next government gig. According to the Arizona Republic:

Senate Majority Leader Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler — who was acting as Senate president while Andy Biggs was in Washington, D.C., Monday fundraising for a congressional campaign… 

Senate President Biggs who has become the professional career politician obviously feels the need to fly back to Washington, rub elbows with lobbyists and return home with a bundle of campaign cash.

Meanwhile, his colleagues in the House and Senate will work through the details on how best to spend Arizona taxpayer dollars.

It’s all about priorities.

~ He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much (Luke 16:10)

Gov Ducey: Why Vote For Prop 123? Some Teachers Have More Kids Than Books​

Vote Prop 123

By: Governor Doug Ducey

This week, Arizonans will receive early ballots in the mail for one of the most important policy initiatives of this election cycle – the passage of Proposition 123 to increase funding for public schools in Arizona.

As many in our state know, there has been a dark cloud hanging over Arizona’s budget when it comes to funding education.

Our kids have needs today

Voting “yes” on Prop. 123 will settle a years-long lawsuit and put $3.5 billion into our K-12 public schools over the next 10 years without raising taxes. It’s time to stop paying lawyers and start paying teachers.

I’ve visited schools all across our state, and the message is clear. Our kids have needs today, and our educators need more resources to do their jobs.

Prop. 123 is a fiscally responsible, historic first step towards giving our students and teachers the resources they need. It puts money back in the classroom. And it doesn’t raise taxes. I know it sounds almost too good to be true: If this doesn’t raise taxes, how are we paying for it?

How it works

What many don’t know is that Arizona has a something called the State Land Trust – a fund with assets that have been set aside and invested for decades specifically to benefit education. This plan ensures we are managing the trust responsibly while putting the money to use for the purpose it was intended: funding our K-12 public schools.

So how does it work?

When Arizona became a state, the federal government granted our founders nearly 11 million acres of state land. Every time we sell a piece of that land, proceeds go into the Land Trust where the money is invested and earns interest. The trust has been growing rapidly in value – nearly doubling in the past five years. And now it is valued at more than $5 billion.

Currently, only 2.5 percent of the trust is distributed to schools every year. We can do better. A “yes” vote on Prop. 123 will increase the distribution rate to 6.9 percent for the next 10 years. That means we will be able to use more of this money for its intended purpose: funding our schools.

We haven’t ignored future needs

But this plan also takes into account the needs of future generations. An analysis done by the non-partisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee shows that even with the higher distributions if Prop 123 passes, there will be more than $6 billion in the Land Trust in a decade. That’s a billion dollars more in the trust after 10 years, even while we are increasing funding to education.

And let’s not forget: Arizona still has 9.2 million acres of land worth approximately $70 billion that are yet to be sold and fund the trust.

The bottom line is that passing Prop 123 ensures the long-term health of the trust, while injecting an infusion of resources into classrooms that have needs today.

When there are more kids than books

I’ve met with teachers and parents across the state, and they’ve made it clear — while reforms are important, right now they need resources to provide the excellent education all our children deserve.

Too often, I hear stories of teachers and parents spending part of their paychecks to ensure there are supplies in the classroom – even basic necessities like pens, pencils and paper. This is unacceptable.

Just a few weeks ago, I met a fourth-grade teacher named Maddy Sporbert who was volunteering for Prop. 123. She told me that she wants Prop. 123 to pass because right now she has 34 students in her class, but only 25 textbooks.

She was spending spring break — her vacation — getting out the vote for Prop. 123 to ensure her students have enough textbooks next year. She needs us to vote “yes.”

Good teachers are fleeing our state

Eighth-grade science teacher Paul Strauss told me that in his many years of teaching he’s seen countless dedicated teachers leave the profession because it is so hard to support a family on a teacher’s salary in Arizona.

We know teachers are fleeing our state or leaving the profession because of a continued lack of funding for education. Voting “yes” on Prop 123 will allow us to reverse that trend and start paying teachers what they deserve. In fact, school boards across Arizona have committed that boosting teacher salaries will be their number one priority if Prop. 123 passes.

Many districts even have two budgets: one if Prop. 123 passes, and one if it fails.

If it fails, that means more litigation and less certainty for our teachers and students.

Please join me, Mayor Greg Stanton, a bipartisan coalition of legislators, countless community and business leaders, teachers and parents in voting “yes” for Prop. 123 on May 17.

Christine Jones – Right for Congress

Guest Opinion

Although she has yet to announce, Republican Christine Jones would be a conservative force among a growing crowd of men in Arizona’s 5th congressional district.

The former 2014 gubernatorial candidate and Vice President/General Counsel for GoDaddy is seriously considering a bid for the congressional seat that will be left open upon the retirement of Congressman Matt Salmon.

Christine Jones

Christine Jones

Jones, who placed 3rd in the 2014 Republican Primary for governor, is no stranger to political campaigning. Not only would she bring extensive statewide campaign experience to the race against opponents lacking in the same depth, but she would also have the financial resources to wage a serious ground and media effort.

Her conservative credentials are also proven – a criteria essential to win and represent the east valley’s 5th congressional district. On national security and immigration, Christine Jones has called for deploying National Guard troops to the border, using high tech monitoring and fortifying the wall in critical strategic places. During a 2014 RealClearPolitics interview she said on immigration, “I just know that I’m an unapologetic conservative and I think if you break the law you should have a consequence.”

On jobs and the economy, Jones is no stranger to private sector job creation. As Vice President at GoDaddy, she oversaw the creation of 4,000 jobs during her service to the internet giant. During her gubernatorial campaign she called for a focus on the “5 T’s” – technology, training, transportation, tourism and taxation. Her plan would have moved Arizona’s economy forward with an emphasis on the economic drivers taking Arizona into the next century. The plan would rely heavily on an education system that creates a world-class workforce that focuses on STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

To spur economic growth, Jones has proposed cutting taxes, streamlining and downsizing government and reducing or eliminating regulatory and legal reforms in order to create an environment that encourages private investment and job growth.

One issue extremely important to Christine Jones is education. In November, 2015, she was appointed as interim CEO of charter school giant, Great Hearts Academies. There, she has overseen the classical education of more than 13,000 students and 29 schools in Arizona and Texas. Some 98% of graduates of Great Hearts graduates go on to college and university. In her appointment, Great Hearts Chairman and co-founder Jay Heiler said , “Christine Jones has the gifts, the background, the dedication and the knowledge of our organization to advance this process as our interim chief executive.” The January, 2016 Niche rankings recognized Chandler Preparatory Academy as the top performing school in Arizona.

While at GoDaddy, Jones pushed for legislation to protect children from online predators and stopping the sale of drugs by illegal online pharmacies. She has testified before congressional committees on several occasions regarding internet threats and illegal activities.

On cultural issues, Christine Jones has proven herself conservative on such issues as religious freedom, traditional marriage and protecting the sanctity of life. She identifies as an evangelical Christian and is active in her church. She is an ardent and fierce defender of the US Constitution, the Second Amendment and eliminating Common Core.

Should Christine Jones enter the race for CD-5, it will certainly stir up the dynamics of the race. The east valley which is considered by political experts as a stronghold for Mormon candidates, has never elected a woman to congress. Since statehood, Arizona has only sent six women to the US House of Representatives with Martha McSally being the only Republican woman elected in Arizona. (Republican women represent only 5% of the current US House.) The election of Christine Jones in the east valley would set a precedent and hopefully reinvigorate efforts to elect more Republican women to Congress.

Jones will likely make an announcement very soon as urgency increases to collect petition signatures for the August ballot. Her opponents should not underestimate her ability to change the entire formula of winning in east valley politics given her tested campaign experience, her ability to communicate conservative values and voters’ anger to overthrow a system of politics as usual.

Christine Jones has challenged and overcome the status quo throughout her life. Winning the 5th congressional district may very well be her next victory.

Andy Biggs’ Fundraising Struggles in Arizona’s CD-5

By East Valley Evan

Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs has made a lot of noise about the ethics of his campaign. In the weeks since Matt Salmon announced his anointment of Biggs upon vacating his seat in the U.S. House, Biggs has claimed that he is being extremely careful in his fundraising so that no ethical questions can arise over possible conflicts with his current position as Senate President.

But that’s a pretty weak excuse for the low numbers that his campaign is posting. With only $200,000 raised so far (according to Yellow Sheets), $100,000 of which he loaned his campaign from his personal funds, Biggs is clearly struggling to find supporters to fund what will be an expensive and hotly contested campaign.

Some disagree that the number is low, given the short amount of time–a little over a month–since Biggs announced his campaign. But, if we look at the breakdown of those funds, he can only claim $100,000 from outside funds, since he gave the other half to himself. A source close to Biggs claims that this may not be the last of the cash Biggs loans himself, meaning that the Senate President doesn’t plan on increasing his fundraising efforts any time soon.

How long until his money runs out? Currently he’s self-funding 50% of his campaign with plans to keep bleeding his accounts over the coming weeks. Regardless of his personal wealth, achieved by winning a sweepstakes contest, that’s unsustainable. Furthermore, it might be a bad move to brag about the amount of money he is willing to spend to buy the race from money he did not earn.

If Biggs continues to lack support from grassroots donors in the state of Arizona, he may have to continue to self-fund. While it is admirable that Biggs’ message is that he wants to keep clean from donor influence, it seems less like the truth and more like a desperate attempt to save face under the light of such small fundraising success. If he’s really concerned about being connected with outside interests, why not push funding from more private citizens? If ethics is his aim, why not take a pledge to not take money from lobbyists at all?

Sheriff Touchy Can’t Handle Mockery of his Pansy Logo

Guest Opinion by Sam Stone

Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos is running for re-election after taking office a little over a year ago when his 79-year old boss – Clarence Dupnik – handed him the keys to the castle after 35 years at the helm. It was a apt promotion: Nanos had been reportedly running the office for his aging Sheriff for a number of years – proving conclusively that he could effectively maintain the bureaucratic bloat, insider favoritism, and mediocre results his predecessor had become known for.

Since taking office, Nanos has overseen at least one scandal: giving almost $20,000 to the niece of one of his detectives so she could buy the equipment to run for-profit cafes at their headquarters and the county jail.

He also defended the actions of deputies when they shot and killed decorated Marine veteran and father Jose Guerena – actions that resulted in a $3.4 million dollar settlement against Pima County.

All that, of course, while his Deputies get stiffed.

But none of that makes Sheriff Nanos mad. What really gets Chris Nanos mad? People mocking his pansy ass logo.

ChrisNanosFB1

After the first few, more people chimed in, including yours truly…

ChrisNanosFB2

That’s when Sheriff Touchy stepped in to regulate!

ChrisNanosFB3

I mean, good advice, I thought…

ChrisNanosFB4

And he did “like” it….

ChrisNanosFB5

But, no, Sheriff Touchy couldn’t let it go at that.

A couple of points:

  1. I think he’s referring (one sided-story) to the café. Maybe they had really, really good sandwiches. Or something.
  2. I wasn’t actually referring to his website, just his Pansy logo.
  3. If I was running his campaign, I’d probably be running for the hills right about…now…

Let’s hope Pima County voters do the same in November.

(In case you were wondering, Mark Napier, who narrowly lost to Sheriff Touchy’s boss in the last election, is vying for the office again.)

Cruz’s Path to Victory After Wisconsin

Ted-Cruz-WI

By Rachel Alexander
(Reposted from Stream)

The Wisconsin Republican presidential primary takes place today, and it is looking like Ted Cruz will come in first. He is leading in all the polls there, although the lead is narrow, averaging 6.5 points ahead of Trump. John Kasich, the only other Republican candidate left in the race, is far behind both. If Cruz wins the state, it will give him more momentum and increase the likelihood of him winning upcoming primaries — although it’s too late at this point for him to acquire the 1,237 delegates to ensure a primary win. Trump’s vast lead has greatly shrunk since the other candidates started dropping out of the race.

Trump claims that if Kasich were not in the race, he would win. However, the type of Republican who supports Kasich tends to be more moderate, not the vocal anti-establishment type that supports Trump. Also, polls between just Cruz and Trump have consistently shown Cruz ahead of Trump; the only reason Trump is still ahead is because Kasich is still in the race. Many conservatives who support Cruz are furious about that, and have called for Kasich to drop out. Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, said he is “running a delusional vanity project masquerading as a presidential campaign.”

Trump’s lead nationally has shrunk to an average of 7.6 points in the polls. Last week was bad for him; his campaign manager was charged with allegedly assaulted a female reporter, he retweeted attacks on Cruz’s wife, and flip-flopped on abortion, saying he’s pro-choice while simultaneously saying women should be criminally punished for getting abortions. He is polling terribly with Republican women.

The politically astute site FiveThirtyEight has analyzed the polls and done the math in the remaining primary states. A block of Northeastern states have primaries at the end of April, and Republicans in those states tend to be more moderate, which doesn’t help Trump. At best, FiveThirtyEight predicts Trump will end up with 1,185 delegates after the final primary, short of the 1,237 necessary to win the nomination, which means it will be a contested convention. There are over 100 unbound or uncommitted delegates. He would need to  convince 52 of them to vote for him in the first round of voting at the contested convention to win.

The types of Republicans who serve as delegates are the party faithful types, not the disillusioned types who support Trump.

If he doesn’t win on the first round, he probably won’t win. At that point, if no one wins the first vote, it becomes a brokered convention and the delegates are free to vote for whoever they want on subsequent rounds of voting. The types of Republicans who serve as delegates are the party faithful types, not the disillusioned types who support Trump. The GOP establishment and conservative base are converging to stop Trump from getting the nomination, and they will do everything they can to persuade delegates to change their votes away from Trump. It is already starting, as some of the delegates Trump thought he had won are being lured over the Cruz ground operation.

Of course, there is still a chance the delegates could be persuaded to vote for another candidate, such as Kasich or even someone not in the race. Kasich has said he thinks the GOP establishment would support him at a contested convention, and fully admits even though he hasn’t won a single state except his home state of Ohio, that he’s staying in the race because he could still win at a contested convention. He did so poorly in Arizona’s primary that he came in fourth, behind Marco Rubio who had dropped out of the race a week earlier. However, he is beating Hillary Clinton in general election polls by a decent margin. Trump is losing to her in polls and Cruz comes in very close.

However, as Lowry observed in his article calling for Kasich to drop out, “The delegate game at a convention would be, in part, an organizational contest, and Kasich’s organization is all but nonexistent. He’d make an electability case based on his good head-to-head poll numbers against Hillary Clinton, although they are elevated because no one has bothered to attack him.”

The prediction market Betfair puts Trump’s chances of winning the nomination at 56 percent, down from 70 percent last week. Betfair also puts the chance of a contested convention at 63 percent. If one of Trump’s former close advisers is right, he only wanted to come in second and doesn’t really want to be president, so it may not be a big deal if he loses.

Mormon Voters Really Don’t Like Donald Trump. Here’s Why.

An interesting read by BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins on the relationship between Utah’s LDS population and the Trump campaign. Given Arizona’s active LDS population does that same sentiment translate here?

It’s not just Mitt Romney.

By McKay Coppins

Speaking before one of his smallest crowds this campaign season, Donald Trump declared Friday night at a rally in Salt Lake City that he loves the Mormons.

The feeling does not appear to be mutual.

So far in 2016, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have proven to be one of the most stubbornly anti-Trump constituencies in the Republican Party — a dynamic that will likely manifest itself in Utah’s presidential caucuses next week.

National polling data focused on Mormons voters is hard to come by, but the election results speak for themselves. Even as Trump has steamrolled his way through the GOP primaries, he has repeatedly been trounced in places with large LDS populations.

(Continue reading at BuzzFeed)

Guest Opinion: Demand-based rate strategy makes sense

Media coverage of the electricity rate case filed by UniSource Energy Services (UES) has promoted dire predictions from California-based rooftop solar leasing companies that oppose the proposal. We encourage every utility customer to consider the facts of the UES case.

UES has proposed residential rates that reflect both total energy use and peak energy use, or “demand.” This makes sense because utility costs are driven by the need to satisfy customers’ energy demands during peak periods. Arizona business owners have been paying demand-based rates for years and have found them to be fair, simple and easy to use. They include a basic service fee, a relatively low usage-based charge and a demand charge that’s based on their highest monthly power use.

Critics claim demand rates are “too confusing.” As smart thermostats and app technology grow ever smarter, this claim falls short. Demand rates give consumers a new way to save money by managing their use of electric appliances during peak usage periods. Smart technology can help customers take advantage of demand rates to lower their bills significantly. At the same time, reducing energy usage during peak times helps ensure the stability of the power grid statewide.

Because demand charges would be offset by lower energy use charges, most residential customers would see little impact from the proposed change. In fact, the UES proposal protects customers by reducing the generous subsidies handed to rooftop leasing companies at the expense of the 98 percent of consumers who don’t have solar. That’s why we’re hearing the loud voice of protest from the solar industry’s PR machine. UES’s proposal will create a sustainable free market for clean energy and send the right price signals to encourage future energy innovation. That’s important to every Arizona business. All of us want our state to stay at the forefront of the clean energy movement and to continue to create jobs in that growing sector.

Unfortunately, jobs have become a political pawn for the rooftop leasing companies. In Nevada, these companies fired their own workers and fled the state as punishment after policy changes took the brunt of subsidy payments off the backs of non-solar customers. They’ve threatened the same punitive behavior in our state. This “take our toys and go home” approach will hurt Arizona families and our economy. As reputable case studies and testimony explain in detail, rooftop leasing companies can continue to make ample profit under a demand rate structure should they elect to compromise, rather than litigate and flee to other states where generous profits are still to be had on the backs of non-solar customers.

Using employees’ paychecks as a bargaining chip is wrong. So is intentionally disrupting the businesses of local installers – the very people the California-based national giants once claimed they wanted to help.

Arizona needs an energy policy that encourages a broad array of technologies and the highest degree of freedom and fairness for all power users. The more control consumers have – absent subsidies paid by the vast majority of power users to fund technology for the few – the better off our state will be. To hear the rooftop solar leasing companies tell it, you would think the goal of energy policy should be whatever helps them sell the most systems at the largest profit.

We take a broader view. We sincerely hope the Arizona Corporation Commission will take that broader view as well.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Lea Marquez Peterson is the president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

ATRA: AG Audit Harshly Critical of GPLET

ATRA

By Jennifer Stielow

A recent audit by the Arizona Auditor General (AG) revealed many critical flaws surrounding the calculation, collection, distribution, and reporting of the Government Property Lease Excise Tax (GPLET).

According to the AG’s review of 268 leases, nearly half are currently under eight-year abatement; and therefore, no revenue is being collected. Forty-five percent of the leases examined are paying GPLET under the rate structure that existed prior to 2010 that imposes a dramatically lower tax burden than the current GPLET rates. Of all the leases audited, only 16 (6%) are subject to the new GPLET rates. As a result, the AG found that the 2010 GPLET revisions have not resulted in increased revenue as expected because so few leases pay tax under the new rate structure.

Additionally, the AG found many examples where the incorrect GPLET was calculated because either the wrong rates were used and/or not all of the property subject to GPLET was included. In fact, in certain instances lessees failed to remit GPLET payments altogether.

The audit also found that the distribution of GPLET revenues by county treasurers was done incorrectly by using the distribution percentages for property tax rather than GPLET, which are different. Furthermore, although county treasurers are required to assess penalties and interest on delinquent payments, none did so.

There are several reporting requirements under GPLET, one of which requires county assessors to annually report the value of all GPLET property, which includes properties under abatement, to the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). The AG found that only three of the seven counties that have GPLET deals reported the valuation of GPLET properties to ADE. This is a major cause for concern since underreporting GPLET values to ADE requires the state general fund to pay more in state aid payments to school districts than otherwise required. Overall, auditors’ interviews with city, town, and county officials indicated a general lack of understanding of GPLET requirements and recommended the Legislature modify statutes to address GPLET deficiencies.

This special audit was a requirement of the 2010 legislation that enacted several revisions to GPLET. The purpose of the audit was to determine if the revisions resulted in a viable revenue source in lieu of an ad valorem property tax on possessory interests for counties, cities and towns, community colleges, and school districts.

Originally enacted in 1996 as a successor to the possessory interest tax, GPLET allows government to enter into lease agreements with private entities to use government-owned property for private use and be subject to an excise tax in lieu of a property tax. By 2010, cities had dramatically expanded their use of the eight-year abatement. Additionally, the tax liability under the existing GPLET rate structure was not only considerably lower compared to the property tax, but the entire tax obligation disappeared at fifty years.

In an effort to address some of the inequities with GPLET, the 2010 legislation limited the size of Central Business District (CBD) boundaries for leases who qualify for the eight-year abatement. A new rate structure was implemented that nearly doubled the existing rates, and while rates under the old structure dropped 20% every ten years until reaching zero by the fiftieth year, the new rates are adjusted annually by the producer price index for new construction indefinitely. Finally, the legislation prospectively limited GPLET deals to a maximum of 25 years, including any abatement period, at which time the government lessor is required to convey the property to the prime lessee and the property is then placed on the property tax rolls.

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The Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA) is the only statewide taxpayer organization representing a cross section of Arizona individuals and businesses. Organized in 1940, ATRA is the largest and most respected independent and accurate source of public finance and tax policy information. ATRA represents taxpayers before policy makers at the state and local level. ATRA’s fundamental belief is that every governmental expenditure is directly related to a tax. ATRA’s goal is efficient statewide government and the effective use of tax dollars through sound fiscal policies.

Arizona Legislature Finally About to Dismantle Corrupt Arizona Bar

crptn

Reprinted from Townhall
By Rachel Alexander

Those of you who regularly read my columns know I have a special focus on progressives misusing the left-leaning legal system to destroy conservatives. Republican officials, prosecutors — even I was targeted because I was briefly assigned to represent Sheriff Joe Arpaio for three months as a deputy county attorney. I have now been under attack for over six years, with no end in sight. The shady State Bar of Arizona will not let me practice law until I pay $101k, the cost of disciplining me and my superiors. Because of this, people tell me I am now the “poster child for reform of the Bar.”

But this isn’t about me, I’m doing fine as a journalist. I simply cannot tolerate the unethical activity, and since I understand the legal system, the extent of the wrongdoing, and can speak out without fear of having my law license yanked, I feel a moral obligation to expose it and stop it.

As I covered in my column last week, conservatives are finally starting to make inroads into dismantling these totalitarian state bars, which essentially operate as unions in the 23 states where they are mandatory. The Nebraska State Bar association has had most of its authority removed, and the State Bar of North Dakota is currently embroiled in a lawsuit by The Goldwater Institute challenging its authority.

HB 2221 passed in the Arizona House last week, and will likely come up for a vote in the Senate this week, where it has a good chance of passing. Inside sources say conservative Republican Governor Doug Ducey will sign it. The bill does two things: 1) subjects the Bar to public records laws, and 2) protects attorneys’ free speech rights by requiring that mandatory dues be used only for regulation.

There are now at least three websites opposing the Bar, Working for a Better Bar, AZ Bar Watch and Arizona Attorneys Against Corrupt Professional Regulation. The Goldwater Institute, The Institute for Justice, and other respected organizations are actively pushing the legislation.

The Bar is going all out with its lobbyists — a misuse of money, since the Supreme Court ruled in Keller v. State Bar of California  that state bars cannot spend mandatory dues on politics — to persuade state legislators to vote against the legislation. Incredibly, they even got the Phoenix New Times, a sleazy alternative newspaper that used to make money from running ads for prostitution, to run a hit piece on me last week in an attempt to discredit the bill. Reporter Ray Stern, who writes relentlessly about me because he despises a fellow prosecutor who was targeted along with me who once got him arrested, actually admitted in his hit piece that the Bar’s hatchet man -er spokesman, Rick DeBruhl, pushed the story on him.

Strangely, Stern and the left-leaning media refer to this legislation as the “Andrew Thomas Revenge Bill,” an attempt to tie it to my former boss who was wrongly disbarred. Yet Thomas has had no involvement with the legislation.

This label in fact diminishes what the bill would accomplish. It is pioneering legislation that would, at long last, address in the same stroke liberal bias and corruption in the judiciary and bar associations that no one has been willing to confront. It is a reform that should sweep the nation. As a former congressmen said to me about it, “This reporter is forced to use you and Lisa as well as Thomas to discredit what really is needed reform. They shift and evade the truth. Classic drive-by yellow journalism.”

Mark Dixon, a former close friend of the Bar’s disciplinary judge, William O’Neil, has been tirelessly exposing O’Neil’s corruption over the last few years. With the exception of a couple of articles in The Arizona Republic, however, nothing has been done. As multiple attorneys have told me, this is because O’Neil “knows where the bones are buried” and the corruption likely goes all the way up to the Arizona Supreme Court.

O’Neil arranged a short sale of his mother-in-law’s house to eliminate $130,000 owed on it, then let her continue living in the house. An attorney who played a key role in the transaction was later arrested for killing a woman while drunk driving, and was sentenced to a year and a half in prison. Yet O’Neil permitted him to practice law almost the entire time he was in prison! The disciplinary panels O’Neil sits on consist of him and a couple others; a member of the public and an attorney. One of the panelists was a “close friend, neighbor and business associate” of O’Neil’s, which he never disclosed. That should have never been allowed. Dixon filed a long complaint with the judicial commission listing nine unethical actions by O’Neil, and they were all dismissed.

Multiple sources report that O’Neil was put in that position to destroy attorneys the Bar didn’t like, while going soft on attorneys it does like. There is a consistent pattern under his reign; attorneys who are suspended for just a few months are never to be allowed back into the practice of law. One attorney who was targeted because of her family ties to Republican politicians told me she suffered a heart attack from being put through the years of abuse.

Carmen Chenal, the alleged mistress of married former Attorney General Tom Horne, a liberal Republican, amassed a whole litany of misconduct as an attorney, but because she was connected through Horne, easily got her license reinstated by O’Neil. Horne, who is currently under investigation for allegedly turning the AG’s office into his campaign headquarters, was once caught by the FBI in a hit and run after leaving Chenal’s residence over lunch.

The Bar wastes lavish amounts of money. It has the second highest dues in the country of any mandatory bar, which increase every year. There are multiple diversity committees and extravagant annual conferences. The Bar spent $500,000 on a show trial against myself and my former two superiors, bringing in expensive out-of-state prosecutors and broadcasting the trial for two months. Members of the public who file complaints against attorneys favored by the Bar cannot get justice, their complaints are dismissed.   

A mysterious hit piece appeared in the newspaper smearing the lead sponsor of the bill, Rep. Anthony Kern, when he was attempting to get the bill passed last year. The Bar has shown it will stop at nothing to protect its power, prestige and money.

Fortunately, the conservative libertarian litigator Clint Bolick, co-founder of the Institute for Justice and until recently, head of the Goldwater Institute’s legal wing, was just appointed to the Arizona Supreme Court, which oversees the Bar. Between this important legislation and Bolick’s efforts on the inside, reform is finally coming and should pick up steam in other states next.