The Left Disbars Another Conservative Prosecutor

Charles Sebesta in front of the building where he worked as DA for many years.

Charles Sebesta in front of the building where he worked as DA for many years.

Reprinted from Townhall

By Rachel Alexander

Realizing they control the judiciary and state bar associations, as well as much of the complicit media, the left is going after conservatives with a vengeance using the legal system. Any conservative is at risk of being sued, but conservative attorneys and judges are getting hit the hardest because state bars can take away their license to practice law, destroying their reputations and careers. Once they’ve been disciplined by the state bar, it is easy for aggrieved “victims” to sue and get a large judgment awarded against them from a sympathetic judiciary.

Several years ago, society was concerned about renegade prosecutors. Now, the tables have turned. Prosecutors are scared to bring charges on politically charged issues, especially if they go against the left’s agenda. Any little technical, meaningless mistake made by anyone down the chain – from an assistant to a detective to a secretary – can be magnified and used against them.

Powerful public officials with income streams to protect and left-wing agendas to push regularly bully prosecutors around now. Prosecutors are terrified to file charges against corrupt public officials, knowing the system is too stacked against them and will be turned around and used to destroy them.

Charles Sebesta was the Burleson County District Attorney in Texas for many years. He would have retired with an impressive career except for one thing – the left started making traction unpopularizing the death penalty toward the end of his tenure, and he had a case that was inconveniently getting in the way. In 1994, Anthony Graves and Robert Carter were convicted of capital murder in the deaths of six black people and sentenced to death. Carter was put to death, but Graves and his attorneys continued his appeals. Finally, in 2006, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, on the grounds that Sebesta had “withheld evidence.”

The evidence Sebesta supposedly had withheld from the defense was that Carter had agreed to testify that he had solely committed the crimes, in order to protect his wife. Sebesta had plenty of evidence that Carter’s wife was involved in the crimes, including five witnesses working at the jail who overheard Carter and Graves talking in their cells about protecting her, and statements from Carter admitting his wife had used a hammer when he broke down during a lie detector test.

Sebesta told Graves’ attorney, Calvin Garvie, about Carter’s offer to testify that he’d solely committed the crimes, and Garvie decided not to use the testimony during trial. When Garvie was asked under oath during an evidentiary hearing before a Federal Magistrate in 2004 if knowledge of this statement by Carter would have changed anything at trial, he said no. Since three murder weapons had been used – a hammer, knife and gun – Garvie likely thought no one would believe only one person was involved, so decided to go with the approach that his client wasn’t one of the three involved.

Later, when Garvie was asked under oath if Sebesta had told him this, Garvie said he didn’t recall. Note he didn’t say he didn’t say no, he merely said he didn’t recall – probably because he didn’t want to get caught in a lie if a written document showed up later showing otherwise. When Sebesta took a lie detector test administered by the same individual who has handled a significant amount of testing for the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, he successfully passed when he answered affirmatively that he had provided Garvie that evidence.

In 2010, the DA who replaced Sebesta was able to use the overturned verdict for “withholding evidence” as an excuse not to retry Graves, throwing Sebesta under the bus.

The state bar ran with it, putting on a kangaroo court trial against Sebesta where he wasn’t allowed to offer any of this exonerating evidence. Controlled by the left, their agenda was simple: destroy this prosecutor and use him as an example of why the death penalty needs to be abolished. Since the statute of limitations had already run for holding proceedings against Sebesta, incredibly, the legislature was brought in to pass a law allowing the state bar to retroactively reach back and get him.

Curiously, note that most accounts don’t attempt to say that Graves was innocent. The language used is purposely directed at Sebesta instead, merely vague accusations of unethical behavior. Even the left knows someone could dig up the testimony of the witnesses who overheard Carter and Graves talking about the crimes in jail. Since the court hadn’t used the words “actual innocence,” Graves was ineligible to sue the state for damages. The legislature was coerced – again – to jump in and change the law to remove that requirement, and Graves was awarded $1.4 million in damages.

Emboldened with power, the media ran articles such as this one, entitled, “Why Won’t Charles Sebesta Just Go Away?” The left knew their machine was utterly obliterating him, and couldn’t understand why the little guy bothered to fight back.

No one will stick up for Sebesta, everyone is too afraid. Now they are going to pile on him, as there is speculation that lawsuits will be filed against him and maybe even criminal charges.

All Sebesta has is a four-year-old website explaining his side, none of which has been included in news accounts. On it, he refutes several more unfair things he was accused of doing, by attorneys and judges scared to retry Graves and face the wrath of the anti-death penalty movement.

Whether you agree with the death penalty or not, this is a sick way to go about abolishing it, destroying the life of a conservative prosecutor and disrespecting the lives of the six black people who were murdered. Sebesta writes on his website, “The six victims: a 46-year old grandmother, her 16-year old daughter and four grandchildren between the ages of four and nine – all black – will forever be denied the justice they deserve because it was more important for a very left-leaning, liberal media to sacrifice the lives of these victims in exchange for an opportunity to use this case as justification for abolishing the death penalty!”

Too many conservatives say they are libertarian and concerned about overzealous prosecutors. Well, this isn’t 1980 anymore. Conservatives are now scared to become prosecutors, and eventually there will be no one ethical left to serve in this increasingly thankless and bullied profession. When the left takes over the prosecutors’ offices, conservatives and libertarians who have pretended not to notice this happening are going to find themselves wishing they never run afoul of the law.

Jeff Dial – Still Serving, Despite the IED’s of Politics

An Important Message from Jon C. Altmann, Military Retiree

Politics has gotten ugly.  It used to be a calling for decent folks who wanted to serve their community, run for office and try to serve.  They were not looking to get rich, gain further office – they only wish to serve.  State Senator Jeff Dial is one dedicated to serve.

Members of the Arizona Legislature serve for $24,000 annually.  The position takes a lot of hours when the Legislature in session.  One has to either be independently wealthy, be self-employed or have a very, very understanding employer who will tolerate the absences from work.

Taking cheap pot-shots at those who are serving has become more commonplace.  It drives the question – why would someone want to take on the onslaught of nasty commentary, a lot of it often urban legends or simply made-up, put their spouse and children in the spotlight, and take on the task of representing us?

Along comes Jeff Dial.  He works hard as a businessman and for a period in his life, served in the Army Reserve.  He is part of the less than 1% in our nation that has volunteered to serve.  He passed boot camp.  Members of the National Guard and Reserve have two lives – their civilian life with a civilian boss/employer and their military life.  Often times, the military life interferes with the civilian life.&nnbsp; A lot of folks say they support the military, but the experience of more than two decades of service has taught me more of those employers and bosses simply say the word “support” – they don’t give it.

Jeff Dial has a lot in common with another great Arizonan who, decades before, volunteered to serve, served for a short period, and like Jeff, never went to war – the late John Driggs, former Phoenix Mayor and someone who kept working hard at making Arizona better after serving America for the short period he was in uniform.  John Driggs enlisted in the Navy near the end of World War II and just as he was graduating boot camp, the war ended.  John came home, used his G.I. Bill to get an education and buy a home.   John Driggs I know well, I presented his burial flag to his widow this past year – he was buried as a veteran.  He honorably served.  Jeff Dial has worked hard in public policy to bring folks together – like John Driggs.  Both humbly served.

Jeff, like many members of the National Guard and Reserve, had problems with the military’s height/weight standards.  I have been one of those myself.  Guard and Reserve must train on their own – yet are expected to maintain the same physical standards – including physical agility testing – as the active duty. When an active duty member fails one part of the process, they are given work time every day to “train” to overcome the failure.  Guard and Reserve have to steal more time from their civilian life.

Let me clarify – you can pass all the runs, push-ups and other exercises and make the times or better – but if your body fat measurement is too high, you fail the test.  On the other hand, you can be in great body fat measurement zone, pass all the test except you are slow on a 1.5 mile run, you fail.  The standards have become more rigid coincidental to force reductions.  It is hard work for reservists, who are generally older than most of those serving on active duty, to keep pace.  It means taking more time away from civilian employer and family.

If a military member is out of standard, they can be barred from reserve duty for medical reasons.  And the term “satisfactory participation” varies by service branch, and can be put on a military member for failure to pass the physical standards.  I challenge any other American to meet the same standards daily.  A Reserve or Guard member must effectively work at it each day – on their own time.  Active duty members get to do it on “company time.”

In politics there are winners and losers.  I’ve been on the losing side twice.  I did not go away – in fact, I continued to work my passion to help others and have many times gone to our Legislature to advocate for veterans, military families, public safety and public education.  I work with those who defeated me and work with those who supported me.  Sour grapes has not been in my diet.

Jeff Dial has a few political enemies – and those of us in the veterans community know those few – who have sour grapes  because they have lost to Jeff in past elections.  They have been saying Jeff has lied about his military service and recently got The Arizona Republic to pick apart the issue.  They found that Jeff did what he said – that he simply served in the Army Reserve and has an honorable discharge.  I’ve known Jeff politically for several years.  I have never known him to brag anything about his military service, except to say he served.

Where’s the issue?

Important for veterans, Reserve, National Guard and military families – including those families of Reserve and Guard members – Jeff Dial has been a consistent vote for meaningful, thoughtful legislation that helps veterans and military families.   He has had enough service to understand the issues and be thoughtful on bills – and he has voted for bills that some of his Tea Party Republican caucus mates have turned down.  Some of those bills that the “Tea Party” folks declined are ones that help veterans.

I am in an unique position – years ago I was a news reporter for The Phoenix Gazette and later a manager in the circulation department of the Republic and Gazette.  During my many years of service at the newspaper, I was serving in the Navy Reserve.  I came to work one day to learn that our publisher, Darrow “Duke” Tully had falsified an entire career as an Air Force officer.  He wore uniforms to military events, he bragged about his service and put out that he had even earned the rank of a senior Air Force officer before retiring form the Air Force Reserve.  But a political opponent went digging and found no service at all.

As a loyal employee of the paper, I was hurt.  Mr. Tully resigned and left town.

Jeff Dial earned his uniform and has not lied.  Yet, The Arizona Republic senses some story that he over-played his role in the Army Reserve, yet offers nothing concrete.  They readily state by one of their columnists that Jeff Dial has been a moderate Republican – something the editorial pages of The Republic seem to extol.  Yet they ran a story that has a questionable news value.  They fail to mention who brought them this “story.”  Now a group of Republican party precinct committeemen who say they are veterans are protesting.  I’m a Republican, too.  I left the ranks of being a “PC” some years back because I find that too many of the PCs are extreme in their views and generally don’t well represent the broader based views held by voters.  It is no secret that most GOP precinct meetings are dominated by the Tea Party emotions and don’t seem to want to get along.  President Gerald Ford said that we can disagree without being disagreeable.  I simply got tired of the many of the latter.  Now they are soap-boxing.

When I was reporter, my City Editor wanted me to be forthright in my sources and justify them before the paper ran one drop of ink.  I was brought up that the paper had to be beyond politics and reproach.  The lives and reputations of people could serious damaged by less than stellar research.

I am no novice to veterans issues.  I hold an elected national office, sit on two government commissions/advisory groups, one local and one Federal and have worked hard to get legislation passed and signed by the governor.  No easy task.  The cannon fodder being pointed at Jeff Dial are barrels of junk information attempting to besmirch the good efforts of State Senator Dial.  The slimy part of this is the fact that those firing the cannons could be termed “sore losers.” The perpetrators are in the shadows – and what do they have to say for their military records and why some of them are no longer serving?

I must question two things in this quest by some against Stat Senator Dial – why is the paper chasing this non-story and making attacks an office holder that generally meets the editorial positions the paper has taken?  More so, as someone who has been a career journalist and published writer, why didn’t the paper do a more careful due-diligence on who brought them the story and why?  The newspaper should not allow itself to be use for the sour grapes soap boxing of others, especially when the man involved had done nothing but tried to serve and did so honorably.

I spent 22 years serving active and reserve in national intelligence.  I have been a senior enlisted leader three times.  I can’t name all my commanding officers and I can’t recall all the junior enlisted leaders who worked under me.  I doubt seriously asking Jeff Dial, who was a private who tried serving diligently, asking Jeff about service 16 years ago is a worthy question.  Jeff is not alone in service members, active and reserve, we sent home for failing the rigorous physical standards.  We sent each of those folks home with honorable discharges because the military has at least the decorum to say they met the bar in being honorable.

If a hard-working veterans’ community advocate like myself knows the details easily and readily, why didn’t the paper’s news team?  Jeff Dial deserves an apology.  From me, a retired senior enlisted leader, Jeff Dial gets my thanks for showing up and trying to serve our nation.  Only 17% of all us who serve, active or reserve, stay for 20 more years as a career.  Jeff Dial was among the 83% who came, gave his country some time – and now as an elected official – continues to help veterans and all Arizonans.  We cannot defend America without the 83% that Jeff Dial is part of.

Jeff has done more than 99% of everyone else (because only 1% of Americans today have served) – and he continues to serve, despite bush league shots at this character.  This grateful veterans advocate thanks Jeff not only for his service in uniform, but the continued service to veterans he has done as a legislator.

About Jon Altmann

 Jon Altmann is a retired U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer, having served active and reserve service for 22 years.  He currently serves as an elected national officer of one veterans organization, along with serving on two public bodies, one national the other local, concerned with veterans and military retirees.  He is a former newspaper reporter who went onto working more than two decades in the public safety field, mostly as a top end manager or executive.  He is a graduate of Arizona State University and additional course work through the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Office of Naval Intelligence.  His last four assignments were as a senior enlisted leader in major intelligence community commands. Comments and opinions expressed by Jon C. Altmann are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, or any of the organizations he volunteers his time in helping others.

Sal DiCiccio: Phoenix Light Rail Will Take Money Away From Education

Recently, I appeared in an interview by the Legal Broadcast Network in which I discuss the Phoenix light rail fiasco. I’d like to share a portion of that interview so Phoenicians can understand what’s at stake in the August election and the enormity of this boondoggle.

The cost to build one mile of freeway is about $56 Million. Compare that to the cost to build one mile of light rail. As staff revealed, Phoenix taxpayers would spend $161 MILLION per mile for this monstrosity. That is almost three times the cost to move far fewer people than what a freeway moves.

And if you look at the number of users who actually use light rail, it’s about one half of one percent of our population. Putting that in perspective, its equivalent to the amount of people who drive down the street in front of your home.

For this $31.5 BILLION proposal, the City of Phoenix could buy 2.2 Million Smart Cars! That is every man, woman and child who could use one of these eco-friendly cars.

Remember, the same people who brought us the downtown Sheraton Hotel at a total loss of $130 Million, now want us to pay for another massive taxpayer $31.5 BILLION boondoggle.

At a time when we need more money going into our education system this takes money away from that priority. Every dollar going into this $161 Million/mile train system is a dollar not going to our children’s education.

Rep Paul Boyer: Common Core won’t make your dreams come true

No education standards, however well crafted, can teach a student how to use their minds well. Only a teacher can help accomplish this.

Yet Common Core supporters tell us the new education standards in English, language arts and math will give future generations hope, ensure access to a high-quality education and prepare students for wherever their dreams will take them.

Paul BoyerSupporters of Common Core also tell us Arizona can opt out of the standards whenever we want, we will not have to shoulder the cost of implementation and the standards will not impact curriculum since they are separate.

They are wrong on all three counts.

Administrators and teachers tell us how many millions of dollars we have invested in implementing Common Core and training teachers, so how could Arizona possibly consider opting out and adopting our own standards, thereby maintaining our state sovereignty in education policy?

In June of 2010, the Arizona State Board of Education adopted the Common Core standards in exchange for $25 million in Race to the Top money. Normally when Arizona hands over policy control in any given area, we receive a favorable dollar-for-dollar match — two dollars for every one we put in or a three to one match. Instead, Arizona received a one to six match where even supporters of the new standards have estimated a price tag of over $150 million for the initial implementation.

The Arizona School Board Association and Arizona Association of School Business Officials estimate $48 million for teacher training, $96 million for curriculum aligned to the new standards and $13 million for the assessment.

Yet supporters still insist schools will maintain their curricular freedom. If so, then why is Arizona being told we must spend nearly $100 million we don’t have on Common Core-aligned curriculum? Aren’t standards and curriculum separate?

Nor does this include a nearly $25 million estimate in future costs to the state for additional hardware and software necessary to implement the new one-size-fits-all test that every Arizona student must take.

It gets worse.

If Arizona decides to offer our own test or a menu of tests that is more in line with the curriculum we are actually teaching in our classrooms, the federal government will threaten us with the loss of $582 million based on a 50-year-old law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

I support reasonable standards of achievement, but they are not enough on their own. What matters most is the quality of learning that occurs in the classroom: teaching that inspires and fosters student learning.

With an increased emphasis on specialization of education in K-12 along with a heavy emphasis on informational texts, the new assessment will force teachers to teach to the test, since their teacher evaluations and school letters grades are based on it, thus further chipping away at curricular freedom. This means our curricular decisions will be directed by decisions made in Washington, D.C., not Arizona.

Supporters can look very hard for the word “education” in the U.S. Constitution but they’d come up empty. It’s not in there. This means education policy should be reserved to the states.

Instead of having to spend this money on implementing federal standards, Arizona ought to reverse course and instead focus our time, talent and treasure on placing excellent teachers in every classroom.

At a recent town hall, a supporter of the standards told me we sent man to the moon with public education. She is correct. And we managed to do it without Common Core. We did it with excellent teachers.

State Rep. Paul Boyer chairs the House Education Committee. He is also a high school teacher.

Arizona Republican Party Rejects Bid to Close Primary

By Christopher Herring

During a contentious debate, the Arizona Republican Party’s executive committee rejected a proposal to close future primaries to independents.

Although there are good faith arguments in favor of limiting participation to Republicans only, the perception, and most importantly, the financial cost, outweighed any potential benefits.

In 1998, voters approved a measure that allowed independents to vote in the primary of any recognized party. Now part of the Arizona Constitution, the law initially conceived by a Republican controlled legislature, would likely be defended by the Arizona’s Attorney General’s office, greatly increasing the financial cost and risk to an already budget strapped political cycle where every dollar counts.

A significant obstacle to the party is the notion that Republicans support the rule of law and the Arizona Constitution. Suing the state to not administer its constitution isn’t the best headline for the party. Another significant challenge would be that the state party would have to show a severe burden is caused by independents voting in Republican primaries. Specifically that independents voting changed the ideological outcomes of elections in a manner significant enough to overturn the will of the voters to keep the primary open. In the most recent elections, independents have not voted in high numbers in party primaries and the case can be made that Arizona Republicans are more conservative than they have ever been on fiscal and social issues. Proving a severe burden would be a large task for the party’s attorneys.

In fact, every scenario discussed to close the primaries were fraught with risk. Whether it was a lawsuit, assuming the financial obligation of administering the entire primary, or funding a lawsuit to close the primary, the cost would be shouldered by all Republicans with no guarantee of success and a likelihood of failure.

The singular criticism surrounding the partially open primary is the moderating effect it creates on Republican elections. Although independents are growing in America and in Arizona, Republicans continue to enjoy a significant voter registration advantage over the Democratic Party and continue to hold onto every major statewide elected office. Judging by the lack of moderate or liberal Republicans holding statewide offices, it is difficult to prove that the small number of independents are gaming the Republican primary.

If there is a real fear in closing the primary outside of costs, it is alienating Arizona’s right leaning independents. In fact, as independents continue to grow, the Republicans cannot simply ignore their growing influence but must be continually active in persuading them that their principles are aligned with traditional party beliefs. Many independents describe themselves as conservatives but simply don’t want the label of Republican.

The state executive committee made the right call to not divert resources away from the continued march of winning elections and enacting conservative policies by embarking on long and expensive lawsuits with no guarantee of success. Arizona’s Republican Party consists of a diverse group of voters, fighting for conservative principles that make our lives better every day. The Party, under the leadership of Robert Graham, should continue to focus on what it is doing well, winning short term victories and building long term relationships to enhance the Republican brand in Arizona.

Christopher Herring is the President of the Maricopa County Young Republican Professionals and member of the Arizona Republican Party Executive Committee.

AZGOP Chairman Robert Graham’s Sacrifice Means Victory

By Daniel Stefanski

A hearty thanks to AZGOP Chairman Robert Graham for working through another executive board meeting! Today, it sounds like the board voted against funding a lawsuit for closing Republican primaries. As it should have been, Robert allowed the motion to be voted on, and the representatives of the precinct and state committeemen did what they felt was in the best interest of the Arizona Republican Party and election victories in 2015 and 2016.

And for all the heartache by a select few over the closed meeting today, it was not closed to those who were duly elected in previous elections. Want to sit in and participate in future state party executive meetings that may be closed to observers? Run for election for one of those positions next time around. The process isn’t being obstructed. It’s being followed to the letter of the law.

Robert Graham voluntarily signed up for a non-paid job with round-the-clock hours, but he did not sign up for a job that featured lies, distortion and people from his own party working against future Republican victories to serve their own self interests. Before this meeting, Robert did not fight against the resolution to close our primary. Rather, he expressed his opinions and waited for the process to carry itself out. While false allegations that Robert was carrying out other interested party’s wishes swirled around prior to today’s meeting, it is now a fact that the AZGOP executive committee voted within their rights and responsibilities to table the closed primary funding proposal.

Though one will never come, I think Robert Graham is owed an apology for the way he has been treated and maligned by people who claim to be in the same party as him.

And to make up for an apology that will never come, I think Robert deserves thanks and encouragement by all those who appreciate the 2014 victories he was very instrumental in helping to achieve. We who were involved in the 2014 campaigns know how hard the State Party worked throughout the entire cycle.

Robert and the Arizona Republican Party have pledged to stay neutral in primaries, and they have remained faithful to that promise. The AZGOP has also always upheld the party platform during Robert’s tenure as chair. Those who claim that Robert is attempting to pave a path for any individual primary contender are doing so without any factual basis. Robert is not going to pull any favors for any candidate in a contested primary election, and he’s not going to lead the AZGOP towards an ideological potion that does not adhere to the entirety of our platform. Activists may “want” him to do their work for them in a contested primary election, but he’s just not going to do play favorites. So to save everyone’s time, let’s support our primary candidates and await the time when the AZGOP will be waiting for the Democrats with guns a-blazin’ after the winning Republicans make it past their primaries.

Thanks as well to everyone who sacrifices their time to serve at the AZGOP and on the executive committee!

Let’s work for some more GOP victories in 2015 and 2016! Who’s with me?!

The Time To Rescue Sexually Abused Children Is Now!

By Paul Boyer

Thousands of children in Arizona are waiting to be rescued and it will not happen for most of them unless we act.

In Arizona, we know of 15,000 IP addresses (the Internet Protocol labels assigned to each computer device) belonging to people who are trading and downloading child pornography. A significant number of these videos and images consist of infants and young children being raped, tortured, and sexually abused. Some of them even include “how to” instructions on how a grown man can rape a three-year-old and groom him or her for years of abuse.

Statistically, 50 to 70 percent of those who download and trade child pornography are considered “hands on” offenders who are actively molesting and abusing children.  Meanwhile, 60-65 percent of the images intercepted in Arizona are of prepubescent children, while infants make up nine percent of victims.  Because of these very young ages, most victims cannot or do not report the abuse.

As the House Education Chairman, I care deeply about good education policy. But for the children who cannot sleep at night for fear of sexual abuse by child predators, no education policy, however well designed will help them. They desperately need law enforcement to rescue them from their abuser.

I have just introduced legislation that would enable the state to equip, train and hire 10 to 15 full-time investigators and forensic examiners for the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force. House Bill 2517 has 79 co-sponsors and uses $5 million of state lottery money – $4.5 million to equip, train and hire full time investigators and forensic examiners, and $500,000 to help victims.

Every state that has passed similar legislation was experiencing budget struggles, and Arizona is no different.

Last year, we appropriated an additional $60 Million to create the new Department of Child Safety making it an $834 million funded agency after realizing there were 6,600 uninvestigated cases of children in harm’s way. With nearly three times the amount of uninvestigated cases of children being raped, tortured and sexually abused, how can we not act now?

National studies show the average offender has between 14 – 23 victims before law enforcement catches them, which is why ICAC investigations are so critical. While Arizona has tough sentencing laws for those who prey on children, there are currently only four full time investigators in the state to proactively look into this depravity, and just a handful of part-time investigators from various agencies.

Right now, those investigators are focusing on triaging leads to locate “hands on” predators. With hundreds of new leads of child pornography coming in every month, they cannot keep up with current leads. This means less than two percent of known child exploitation cases are being investigated. We need to act and we need to act now.

Let the 52nd Legislature be known as the one that acted swiftly to rescue kids when it was in our power to do so.

Republican state Rep. Paul Boyer represents Legislative District 20 in Phoenix and Glendale.

Guest Opinion: The New Reefer Madness: A Very Bad Idea

Marijuana

By Seth Leibsohn

Since just the beginning of this year, local media—both television news and print—have publicized and promoted at least 10 stories on the effort to legalize recreational marijuana use in Arizona. Two bills are being sponsored in the state Legislature and an initiative aimed at our  electorate for 2016 is being drafted. Little has been said or written as to why all of this is a very bad idea for our state and our country. But it is just that, a very bad idea.

Almost every argument in favor of legalization is, quite simply, wrong. At the economic level, we are told the revenues from legalization would boost our state budget and help solve our deficit. That was a promise made by the pro-legalization movement in Colorado, which predicted $40 million a year for school construction and $30 million for general state funds from marijuana taxes in the state. But, as the non-partisan Tax Foundation found, the numbers thus far have come nowhere close, making it “unlikely to even meet that $40 million need each year, leaving nothing for enforcement costs.”

Ask any governor of any state if they would rather keep all the revenue from alcohol and tobacco taxes or all the monies alcohol and tobacco abuse costs the state, and you’d get the same answer: The costs of substance abuse to each and every state are never even close to covered by the revenues generated by the taxes on those substances. As President Barack Obama’s former senior advisor on drug policy, Dr. Kevin Sabet, has put it, “[S]ocietal costs that accompany increased marijuana use will significantly outweigh any gains in tax revenue. Our experience with alcohol and tobacco shows that for every one dollar gained in taxes, 10 dollars are lost in social costs.”

Criminalizing alcohol and tobacco would be nearly impossible and equally ill-advised at this point. I am not advocating that at all. But adding one more dangerous substance to the list of already too many legal and dangerous substances is pure madness. The debate as to whether marijuana is more or less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco is irrelevant. We need, rather, to understand that marijuana is just, plain dangerous; and adding one more dangerous product (regardless of degree of danger) is more than a bad idea; it is public policy malfeasance.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported just last year that marijuana use by adolescents is associated with everything from increased risk of depression and anxiety to psychosis. And, it “exacerbates the course of illness in patients with schizophrenia.” Marijuana use is also associated with impaired school performance and increases the risk of dropping out of high school. In lay terms, marijuana damages the brain, especially the teen brain. Society has made tremendous strides in marginalizing and thus decreasing the use of cigarette smoking—which negatively affects the lungs and hearts of smokers. It is curious, then, that more and more are now turning toward legalizing a product that not only damages the lungs (like cigarettes), but also the brain.

Many adults think marijuana is relatively harmless based on their experiences in high school and college a generation or more ago. But that marijuana is not today’s marijuana. Today’s marijuana is a different drug, with THC levels reaching into the 20 and 30 percent range of potency, as opposed to the one-and-a-half to five percent potency of the 1970s and 1980s. And it is getting stronger by the day as vendors compete to provide ever stronger affects with an ever more potent product.

The quest to legalize marijuana at the state level is also an unconstitutional nullification of federal law—as a range of Supreme Court Justices from Anthony Kennedy to Stephen Breyer to Antonin Scalia agree. It also negatively impacts other states as pot sold “legally” in one state flows across borders and causes problems in neighboring states, thus nullifying those states’ decisions to remain within the law. Indeed, some 44 percent of the marijuana sold in Colorado is sold to citizens of other states.
Despite what many say—either from unfamiliarity with the science or because of a political point of view or because some people simply want to get high legally—marijuana is dangerous. Making it legal will cost society more in financial and human damage than can ever be made up for by the false promise of tax revenue. And it will further destigmatize what every study on marijuana use and stigmatization has shown: the more society explains the dangers of marijuana, the less it is used; the more society countenances it, the more it is used.  Marijuana is illegal not because of bad policy but because it causes a lot of problems—a lot more than we will ever be able to apologize for if we unload this dangerous product on, and in to, more and more of our state’s and nation’s youth, which is—like alcohol and tobacco—where it will end up and do the most damage.

Seth Leibsohn is the host of The Seth Leibsohn Show, airing nightly on KKNT/960 am, and a Senior Fellow with the Claremont Institute.

Don’t Embrace Big Federal Government, Support the Compact for a Balanced Budget

By Nick Dranias

Yes, it’s true. The handful of folks who still oppose states organizing behind the Compact for a Balanced Budget to advance and ratify a powerful federal Balanced Budget Amendment embrace big federal government. Of course, they may not mean to do so. But the truth is that by hugging and holding the political status quo, the Balanced Budget Amendment fear-mongers are in a death embrace with the things they claim they oppose.

Why is that? Simply put, we no longer enjoy the form of federal government the Founders originally created. This is because the Constitution as it currently exists has three fatal flaws, which will inexorably lead to tyranny unless they are fixed with a constitutional amendment.

The first is the federal government’s unlimited borrowing capacity. This enables politicians to promise at no immediate cost anything it takes to get elected. That’s like handing liquor and car keys to a teenager. It guarantees a system crash propelled by mindless spending.

The second is unlimited direct taxation authority courtesy of the 16th Amendment. This empowers politicians to make 49% of the nation pay for anything the 51% want; and also to impose complete economic destruction on political enemies and disfavored policy ideas. If this flaw persists, what the IRS did to conservative groups two years ago is just a small taste of what the future holds.

The third is the unlimited concentration of power over national policy making in Washington, DC courtesy of the 17th Amendment. This amendment removed the states from a position of control over the U.S. Senate. It has enabled the federal government to ratify treaties and laws, as well as populate the federal judiciary and federal agencies, without any respect for state sovereignty. And it allows a growing distant political class in Washington, DC to easily leverage overwhelming national power to crush dissent and policy diversity in the heartland.

These three flaws will cause the federal government to gradually accumulate and centralize all political power over time. Over time, these three flaws will make it impossible for limited government and freedom-oriented elected officials to outcompete elected officials who favor big federal government for votes. Consequently, hugging and holding this fatally flawed system is doomed to produce the opposite of freedom. To mix metaphors, voting people in or out of the federal government under these conditions is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Only a constitutional amendment can fix the three fatal flaws of the Constitution as it currently exists. Nothing else will.

But it is irrational to expect two-thirds of each house of Congress to propose the necessary reform. The numbers did not add up in the 1980s, 1990s, or 2000s, and they just do not add up today. Instead, especially after the last election, there is a much more plausible pathway; that pathway involves organizing three-fourths of the states and simple majorities of Congress behind the necessary reform amendment in a targeted fashion. It means supporting the Compact for a Balanced Budget.

Simply put, the Balanced Budget Amendment advanced by the Compact for a Balanced Budget gives us the best shot of addressing each of the Constitution’s three fatal flaws with fundamental reforms.

To fix the flaw of unlimited federal borrowing capacity, the Amendment imposes an initially-fixed constitutional limit on available borrowing capacity. This limit gives the federal government an additional 5% in borrowing capacity above the outstanding federal debt upon ratification. This 5% cushion allows for a 1 to 2 year transitional period to responsible budgeting and fiscal planning. And there is no doubt the amendment will focus the mind during that transitional period. This is because the debt limit is coupled to a mandatory spending impoundment requirement that kicks-in when 98% of the debt limit is reached. Spending will be limited to available tax and fee cash flow if the debt limit is hit. There is no exception except for the referendum process described below. This one reform guarantees that Washington politicians will immediately lose the ability to promise anything at no immediate cost to get elected.

To fix the flaw of the unlimited centralization of national policy making in Washington, the Amendment empowers a majority of state legislatures to veto any increase in the federal government’s constitutionally-fixed borrowing capacity. To get any additional borrowing capacity above the initial constitutional baseline, simple majorities of Congress will have to refer-out a measure proposing the increase. The proposal will be deemed denied unless it is approved by at least twenty-six state legislatures within 60 days of the referral. With the federal government borrowing nearly half of discretionary spending, this referendum process divides power over national policy making between the states and the federal government in a big way.

Finally, to fix the flaw of unlimited federal taxation authority, the Amendment imposes a tax limit requiring two-thirds of each house of Congress to approve any new or increased income or sales tax. The current constitutional rule allowing for tax increases with simple majorities will be restricted to measures that would completely replace the income tax with a consumption sales tax, eliminate tax loopholes, or impose new or increased tariffs and fees. The reform will divert the pressure for new revenue to the places where special interest pushback will be the strongest, further ensuring that deficits are closed by spending reductions first.

National polling shows that each one of these policy fixes are supported by supermajorities of the American people. With Alaska and Georgia already on board, and at least ten states looking to join the Compact this session, the Compact for a Balanced Budget is an eminently plausible route to the reforms we need to save and restore the Republic.

Indeed, with demographic change threatening the supermajorities needed to get the job done, the Compact for a Balanced Budget may be our last best shot at preventing the federal tyranny that will otherwise inevitably result from the Constitution’s three fatal flaws of unlimited debt, unlimited taxation, and unlimited centralization of power in Washington.

Nick Dranias is President and Executive Director of the Compact for America Educational Foundation. Please visit their website at www.CompactforAmerica.org.

Boehner Re-elected Speaker . . . And You Got Played

David SchweikertBy Rachel Alexander
Townhall

Last week, John Boehner (R-Ohio) easily won re-election as Speaker of the House. Only 25 Republicans defected, with 216 Republicans voting for him. In the days before the election, there was a flurry of emails and activity on social media about the vote, calling on members of Congress to oust Boehner. After the vote, conservative talk show hosts were outraged, denouncing Republicans who voted for him as RINOs and traitors. Even well-loved, conservative members of Congress like Utah’s Mia Love did not escape the anger. Tea Party favorite Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) missed the vote, but said he would have voted for Boehner.

To many, it did not make sense why conservative Republicans would settle for another term of the compromising Boehner, considering Republicans now control both chambers. In Arizona, the most conservative members of the delegation all voted to retain Boehner: Rep. David Schweikert, Rep. Matt Salmon and Rep. Trent Franks. Only Rep. Paul Gosar, who has the lowest American Conservative Union rating of the four, voted against Boehner. Newly elected Republican Rep. Martha McSally of Tucson also voted for Boehner. After the vote, some conservative activists in Arizona started calling Gosar the only true conservative in the delegation. Something wasn’t right. I called Rep. Schweikert to get to the bottom of it.

He told me the vote was largely ceremonial. The real decision was made six weeks ago, at the House Republican Conference. After that, it was too late to persuade most members to change their minds, deals had been made. Anyone who agreed to switch their vote after that could not be trusted based on prior experience. South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney confirmed this in a post on his Facebook page. Two years ago, the Boehner opposition collected signed pledges from enough members of Congress to defeat him. But when it came time to vote, almost half of them changed their minds.

The last minute flurry of emails came from conservative organizations trying to make money by getting conservatives outraged. While it is important these groups raise money, it was a rather sneaky way to do it. By then, it was too late, it was the wrong battle, and provoked fights with conservative members of Congress that could have been avoided.

Conservatives like Schweikert have been trying to remove Boehner for a lot longer than a handful of days last week. He told me he has been working on the ouster for two years. Where was the outcry six weeks ago when the real decision was made? Where were those feigning outrage over the past two years when it came to actually doing the work necessary to get rid of Boehner?

One unfortunate byproduct of the rise of social media, blogs and email is the ability for people to send out emotional blasts about a particular topic as their activism of choice. Instead of GOTV (Get Out The Vote), it is now GOYO (Get Out Your Opinion). Activists have replaced the hard, dull but necessary work behind the scenes with speeches. Unfortunately, there is only so much room at the top for a few national talk show hosts to bloviate.

Replacing Boehner is much more difficult and complex than a last-minute outburst. Getting better leadership is not going to be accomplished with a short and catchy soundbite. It is a deeper, two-fold systemic problem.

The first part of the problem is that no one wants to be Speaker. What most people don’t realize is the primary job of the Speaker is fundraising. The Speaker spends nearly all of their time flying around the country working pricey fundraisers. Most of the names floated around at the last minute as replacements for Boehner could not – or would not – follow through here. Last year, Boehner raised an impressive $100 million. Rep. Mulvaney noted that Gohmert was not a realistic candidate; despite all the media attention he only received three votes. Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) got 12 votes, but has a terrible voting record, evenworse than Boehner’s. Boehner is actually the most conservative Republican speaker in 50 years.

Many in the grassroots complain when the NRCC doesn’t spend money on long-shot races. What they don’t understand is there is only limited money to go around, and it is dependent upon the ability of the Speaker to raise it. Unless the grassroots is willing to start writing hefty checks, it is imperative that the Speaker is someone with charisma who doesn’t mind spending a significant period of their life on an airplane.

The second systemic problem is Congress has become so corrupt it is currently impossible to reform it. Senior members of Congress are so entrenched in leadership positions, as chairs of committees and subcommittees, that these “cardinals” retaliate against anyone who dares to challenge the status quo and power structure. A conservative reformer like Schweikert, who actually would make an excellent Speaker, has no chance at the position because he stood up to the old guard. He lost his position on the powerful Financial Services Committee because he bucked party leadership and voted against a debt ceiling increase.

Sadly, new reformers like Schweikert tend to become disillusioned over time, and eventually leave office. If they can hold out, however, eventually the old guard will age out of office.

It was futile to cast a protest vote for someone other than Boehner. It simply enlarged the target on the backs of reform members of Congress. Several who opposed him, including Daniel Webster and Richard Nugent, both of Florida, were immediately stripped of their committee positions, and there are more on the chopping block.

Contrary to talk-show hype, the vote for Speaker did not juxtapose conservatives vs. leadership. It should be more accurately described as emblematic of the reformers vs. the establishment cardinals.

Schweikert may be the smartest member of Congress. He’s also consistently labeled one of the five most conservative members by various organizations, with a 98.67 lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union. To label him a RINO over one vote, while letting other Republicans off the hook with much lower scores simply because they did not vote for Boehner, is illogical.

Reforming Congress is like a game of chess. You can’t take out the king instantly, you must set the stage first to take out the king or you will be out of the game. Those who run for office know you rarely win by running for president first, you must first win at a lower level office. Naturally, the same is true for taking out the Speaker, what is so difficult to understand about this? You must chip away the power structure supporting him before you can topple him.

Instead of blasting conservative members of Congress over Boehner, activists should set up meetings with these reformers and ask how they can help with the day-to-day work of cleaning up Congress. It may not be flashy and glamorous, but the flashy and glamorous GOYO approach is not working. Stop being played.