Tuesday, May 1, 2018

GOING TO TRIAL: Corporation Commission Corruption Case Set For Trial This Month, Judge Denies Most Of Defendants' Pre-Trial Motions and Says Lobbyist's Ex-Wife-Turned-Informant Can Testify

The federal bribery trial for the former Chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission, his wife, a prominent lobbyist and a utility owner remains set for trial later this month, and the Judge yesterday denied nine of the Defendants' pre-trial motions to dismiss the case or to limit the evidence that the government can use. In so doing, he found that the lobbyist's ex-wife-turned-informant can testify.

(photos compiled by azfamily.com)
The trial of former Chair Gary Pierce, his wife Sherry, lobbyist Jim Norton and utility owner George Johnson will begin on May 30. Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge John Tuchi accepted arguments from attorneys for both sides for 1 1/2 hours, and asked for further argument on whether former Corporation Commission Utilities Chief Thomas Broderick should be permitted to testify against the defendants.

Broderick abruptly quit as Director of Utilities in August 2016, after only one year on the job. The indictment was handed up in May of the following year.

The Court also partly granted a defense motion to dismiss or break up Count Two of the indictment - which alleged that Sherry Pierce was paid for a "job" in which she had no tasks to perform and that a proposed real estate transaction was set up to benefit the Pierces.

Judge Tuchi denied Norton's motion to exclude any information provided to the FBI by his former wife. He had attempted to invoke the marital privilege; however, the privilege does not apply if both spouses are involved in criminal activity. Kelly Norton reportedly told the FBI details about the proposed real estate transaction and the payments to Ms. Pierce. (Ms. Pierce was working for Rep. Andy Biggs when the indictment was announced; he eventually let her go.)

During the pre-trial phase, there were indications that the FBI is still investigating other possible crimes that could be jeopardized by revealing details of the investigation. Those questions have not yet been answered.

The Court also denied motions to dismiss the case - or parts of the case - based on 1st Amendment grounds, alleging improper grand jury proceedings, and violating the statute of limitations.

The corruption case alleges that the Pierces received benefits from Johnson Utilities - through George Johnson and Jim Norton - in return for ensuring that the Corporation Commission allowed small utility owners such as Johnson to charge their customers for the owners' personal income taxes.


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Monday, April 30, 2018

BREAKING: In New Ducey #20x2020 Proposal, Koch-funded "Freedom Schools" A Big Winner, Tucson Unified's Taxpayers A Big Loser

(UPDATE, 4pm: We have published a 13-page summary of the new budget reconciliation bill's provisions and an 8-page spreadsheet, at the bottom of this article. These come from the Legislature's website.)

Arizona's House Democratic Caucus had a chance to pick through Governor Doug Ducey's (R-AZ) new #20x2020 budget proposal designed (in part) to end the #RedForEd mass teacher walkout, and they uncovered some interesting items.

Arizona's Politics monitored a good portion of it through the Legislature's video feeds, and confirmed these news items with the lawmakers. They were receiving the briefing from Stephan Shephed, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee's Fiscal Note Manager. (If we receive a response from the Governor's Office, we will pass it along.)

1) 

The 2 schools were already set to receive $5.5M from the state. The new proposal adds $2.0M. Rep. Kirsten Engel (D-LD10) told Arizona's Politics "This is outrageous."

Further, Rachel Leingang from the Arizona Republic had earlier shared this Associated Press report about how the Koch-funded freedom school at the publicly-funded George Mason University gave the Charles Koch Foundation a say in hiring and firing of the professors at the university.

2)
Rep. Clark (D-LD24) replied to our reporting by saying "It’s been a long-time goal of he GOP to cut Deseg. This would effectively force those school districts that suffer the most from segregation to pay for desegregation. This is the Victim Blaming Budget in so many ways."
Rep. Friese (D-LD9) notes that the new provision will shift $18M from the state to the effected districts' taxpayers, and that 90% of that amount - or, approximately $16.2M - will be borne by TUSD's taxpayers.
3.




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Thursday, April 19, 2018

FOLLOWING MONEY IN ARIZONA'S POLITICS: APS, T.W. Lewis, University of Phoenix Top Arizona Contributors' To RGA (Ducey) - LIST

APS, T.W. Lewis, and University of Phoenix lead the list of Arizona contributors to the Republicannews today that the RGA plans to immediately start running $330,000 worth of ads tomorrow to support Governor Doug Ducey and his #20x2020 plan to give raises to Arizona school teachers.
Gov. Ducey in RGA tent at Phoenix Open
Governors Association. This information became more critical with the



Arizona's Politics previously reported that APS had donated $100,000 to the RGA. That amount for the 2017-18 period is now $125,000, after a $25,000 contribution on March 8 (just disclosed this week). That matches the amount given by Tom Lewis and his T.W. Lewis homebuilding company. University of Phoenix lags behind at $100,000. 

These amounts are reported to the IRS periodically, per tax rules for political organizations such as the RGA. There is no restriction on contribution limits, and corporations may donate, too. The RGA has also set up an Arizona account, which is apparently the group placing these new ads.

According to the ad order (below), Phoenix-area viewers will see $194,000 worth of ads over the next 10 days. No Tucson market orders have yet been filed (with the FCC).

Arizona's Politics will shortly expand the list of major Arizona contributors to the RGA.


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FACT CHECK - FIRST ON AZ'S POLITICS: Arpaio Still Claims Mexican Drug Cartels Put $1M Bounty On His Head; He Exaggerated And His Deputies Promptly Gave Up On Investigating Claim (READ, INCIDENT REPORT)

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio continues to claim that "the Mexican drug cartels put a $1 Million bounty on my head!" However, he and his spokeswoman exaggerated the story to a TV reporter and his own MCSO detectives quickly gave up on investigating the claim.

Arpaio made the unverified claim in a fundraising email yesterday, as evidence of how tough his Department had been on "violent drug dealers, callous human traffickers, and thousands of criminal gang members that were here illegally".

When then-MCSO spokeswoman Lisa Allen initially divulged the "threat" to a Fox 10 reporter in 2010, she indicated that the FBI had forwarded it to them, that it had been posted on the internet, and that we had to take it "credibly because, you know, he's such a lightning rod, and so many people don't like him because of his stance on this issue." That gave the then-Sheriff the opportunity to shrug it off on camera with a joke about how bad the Mexican economy must be because previous bounties had been $5M.

"I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing," he said. "It doesn't matter to me," the Associated Press report quoted him telling the TV reporter.

A public records request by Arizona's Politics reveals that much of the information fed to the reporter was false. The threat not only was simply a supposedly-viral, untraceable text message in August 2010, it also put a $10,000 bounty on ANY American. The report does not indicate that the FBI was involved in bringing it to the MCSO's attention - something that would certainly be included in the report. 

And, based on Arpaio's comments to the local Fox reporter, the 2nd half of the "threat" was not important for the public to know. (By the way, the FBI tip was not assigned to a Deputy until 1-2 days after Allen and Arpaio went public and said it was being investigated.)

The incident report (below) also shows that the extent of the investigation was finding out that the "several" recipients did not know where the messages came from, that the numbers appeared as either "restricted" or from outside the U.S. The message itself listed a Mexican phone number - however, it did not match any numbers in the Drug Enforcement Agency's database.

The simple report leaves "this case (is) open pending further investigation." However, the MCSO confirmed to Arizona's Politics that "a search of MCSO records...was not able to find any additional supplemental reports to this case." A followup conversation with an MCSO detective in the current threats unit also yielded no update.

Arpaio's Senate campaign has declined repeated requests to provide any supporting documentation for the claim. And, in fact, yesterday's fundraising email (below) repeated it after learning that Arizona's Politics was researching it.

This - and, many other - fundraising email helped Arpaio raise slightly more than $500,000 for his campaign to replace Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).



***
(Arpaio email, 4/18/18)
As Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, my officers and I locked up violent drug dealers, callous human traffickers, and thousands of criminal gang members that were here illegally. In fact, I was so effective that at one point the Mexican drug cartels put a $1 Million bounty on my head! 

It is clear to me, as I know it is to you, that our nation has an illegal immigration problem. 

But, MItch, this will not be solved over night, nor is it going to be solved by just one action. It's going to take many different actions, but one I feel strongly about is and I know President Trump agrees with me on is building a wall. 

I want to know what you think. Do you support building a wall? 


Please let me know by clicking on the link above and filling out my one question survey. 

MItch, we are at a crossroads for our nation's history and I want to know what side you are on. 


Please fill out my survey right away, and if you agree with me that building a wall is a critical step we need to take in solving our nation's illegal immigration problem, then please stand with my campaign by making a much needed financial contribution. 

I need your support and President Trump needs my vote. 

You have supported me in previous endeavors, and I hope and pray that I will have your continued support today. 

I need your support and President Trump needs my vote. 

Sincerely,
Sheriff Joe Arpaio 

P.S. Let me know if you support building a wall by clicking on the graphic immediately. Thanks. 

****

Thanks to Brian Reilly and Paul Weich, who contributed reporting for this article. Part of a continuing series.

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ARIZONA'S POLITICS TIDBITS: Arpaio - "Getting High"

4/20, 8:10am: KUDOS to the Joe Arpaio campaign fundraising email writer. Never one to avoid attention-grabbing subject lines on his emails, the 4/20 missive blares: "Getting high". Of course, it does not mention recreational, medicinal or illegal. However, it does use the words "high" and "paranoid" in the grabber opening sentence: "I hate to sound paranoid, but I am very worried about the state of this race. Frankly, we are in real jeopardy of losing our Senate majority and the stakes are too high for us to lose." 

Because it is a fundraising email, that *worry* should be taken seriously, not literally. FACTS do still matter in these emails, which is why you need to check out yesterday's article: 

FACT CHECK - FIRST ON @AZs_Politics: @RealSheriffJoe Arpaio Still Claims Mexican Drug Cartels Put $1M Bounty On His Head; How He Exaggerated, And His Deputies Promptly Gave Up On Investigating Claim
4/19, 1:15pm: After initially voting to not close debate on the nomination of Jim Bridenstine for NASA Administrator yesterday, Sen. Jeff Flake today voted with his GOP colleagues to approve his nomination. The final vote was 50-49. Reporting yesterday indicated that he switched his vote in return for an agreement that he would have a chance to speak with Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo about policy towards Cuba.

If you have a short news item that you think should appear in "Arizona's Politics Tidbits", please forward them to "Mitch @ ArizonasPolitics . com" (no spaces, though). Campaign mailers, robocalls, etc. are especially welcome. There is no guarantee that your item will be published.

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BREAKING: Alan Futerfas Intervenes For Trump ORGANIZATION In Michael Cohen Search Warrants Matter (READ ORDER)

The Trump Organization has stepped into the legal wrangling over the documents seized by the FBI in the Michael Cohen search warrants. Well-known criminal defense attorney Alan Futerfas will represent the company.

When Michael Cohen divulged his three legal clients on Monday, he mentioned President Donald Trump individually, and the President has already been involved in the legal matter in front of U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood. This new intervention likely indicates spreading concern over what the seized documents contain, and that their may be some legal/business dealings involved. Cohen used to work as part of the Trump Organization, but told the court he left in January 2017 (when Trump was sworn in).

Futerfas also has been representing Donald Trump, Jr. in matters related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of the Trump campaign and presidency. He has long been a "sought-after defense lawyer for accused mobsters," according to a Washington Post profile.

Somewhat interestingly, Futerfas only filed notice that he might want to intervene at some future time. Judge Wood simply considered it to be a motion and brought him into the case. No future motion necessary.




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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

BREAKING: FBI Has "Voluntarily Refrained" From Looking At Cohen's Seized Records, Plans To Start Reviewing April 27 (READ LETTER)

The U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York told the Court that agents have "voluntarily refrained" from starting to go through the documents they seized from Trump attorney Michael Cohen. They propose to begin reviewing them with their "Filter Team" (aka "Taint Team") on April 27 and suggest it will take until May 11.

The letter to Judge Kimba Wood also reasserts their opposition to a Special Master to review any disputes over what documents might be privileged or not privileged, but offer the names of three retired judges as possible Special Masters.


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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

#AZ08 TIDBITS: April 24 Special Election, Lesko vs Tipirneni

4/25, 9:45am: If you believe that spending money on GOTV/phoning/ads/etc helps to win elections - and, I do - then we now understand what the national Republican leadership saw when they decided to devote more than $1M ($1,029,655 as of now) to the #AZ08 special election. The RNC spent $527,210, the NRCC $383,193, the Congressional Leadership Fund added at least $102,350, and the House Freedom Fund used $16,902 (mostly for fundraising fees - they were a conduit for Freedom Caucus supporters around the country to give to the Lesko campaign.

The last independent expenditure filing in the race (for the moment) belongs to the National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund. They spent $557 on Monday phone banking - presumably to their #AZ08 members.

4/24, 9:30am: In Tipirneni's final fundraising filings, she reported collecting $34,650 in contributions of greater than $1,000. $5,000 of that comes from a Teamsters Union-led group ("D.R.I.V.E."), and the rest came from individuals. 1/3 from Arizona, 2/3 from around the country.

4/23, 9:00pm: Here are the two most recent fundraising filings from the Lesko campaign*, indicating that she raised $48,100 in contributions of between $1,000 and $2,700 for the 19th through the 21st. That includes the fundraising efforts by outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (in D.C.) and possible future Speaker and current Maj. Leader Kevin McCarthy (in P.V.)

Here are some of the noteworthy contributors: McCarthy's committee ($4,000), Pfizer PAC ($2,500), and the Susan B. Anthony List ($2,500).

*On Saturday, I had tweeted that the filings appeared to be late - they are required to be filed within 48 hours when we get this close to the election. Lesko partisans found the filings on the FEC website and chided our tweet. The FEC has multiple portals to their filings - the one we typically use claims that it "contains the most up-to-date-information." Apparently, that portal only features "processed" filings, whereas the newer portal displays both "processed" and "raw" filings. Thanks to Brian Murray and Eileen Mueller for helping improve our coverage moving forward.

4/20, 7:00am: Here are a couple of the last minute pieces hitting #AZ08 mailboxes. We have the RNC piece attacking Tipirneni as a Nancy Pelosi liberal - and noting that her employer had $6B in government contracts (she promoted cancer research for them). And, we have the Arizona Democratic Party piece attacking Lesko as a lobbyist puppet who increased taxes. Both hit the mailbox of Mike Grose., a registered Republican in the district.  (Thanks for forwarding them to us, Mike!)





4/19, 2:45pm:





4/19, 8:00am: The Planned Parenthood Federal PAC ($2,500) and former Arizona Secretary of State Terry Goddard ($1,000) stand out among Tipirneni's $20,000 in last minute contributions reported yesterday. $18,000 of that is from out of state. Here is the filing.

4/19, 7:50am: More of the 11th hour contributions from House Speaker Paul Ryan's fundraiser for Lesko are tricking in. She received $24,000 in big checks*, $14,400 of that from outside Arizona.  Among the noteworthy donors were the Utah First PAC, the National Fraternal Order of Police PAC, and the Wellcare Health Plans PAC ($1,000 each). Here is the filing.

*Per federal law, contributions of $1,000-$2,700 must be disclosed within 48 hours in the closing days of the campaign.

4/19, 7:30am: National Republican groups are smashing through the $1M mark.  Politico has learned that the Congressional Leadership Fund is spending - they use the word "dumping" - $100,000 in a "final, hyper-targeted digital and phone effort" to push Lesko over the top. That would bring CLF's total to over $200,000, and the national GOP to $1.1M.

4/18, 9:15am: #AZ08 has moved from being a "Solid R" to a "Likely R" by a well-respected political report. The Cook Political Report said today that it made the change because of the recent quarterly campaign finance reports filed by the candidates' committees. As reported 1st by Arizona's Politics, Tipirneni outraised Lesko in the past 10 weeks and had $72k more cash on hand. Polls - which have been all over the place - apparently played a lesser role in the rating change.

4/18, 7:10am: Ad spending for the (general election portion of the) #AZ08 Special Election will likely fall just short of $1.5M. According to Medium Buying, TV and radio ads are currently at $1,470,000. And, it is nearly evenly split. The Tipirneni campaign has spent $749,000. The joint effort by the Lesko campaign and the National Republican Congressional Committee spent $550,000, while the NRCC has separately thrown in $171,000.

4/17, 10:15pm: Yesterday, the Lesko campaign received a $1,000 contribution from NEW PAC. NEW PAC is chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). Nunes also chairs the House Intelligence Committee.
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4/17, 10pm: Democratic mega-donor Fred Eychaner just donated the $2,700 maximum to the Tipirneni campaign, it was disclosed tonight. Eychaner, the wealthy President of Newsweb Corp. has long been one of the largest contributors to Democratic SuperPACs and candidates. (In 2012, he was the largest.)

4/17, 4:45pmBREAKING UPDATE: National Republicans Spend Another $68k Phoning, Mailing In As Candidates Reach The Home Stretch; $958k To Date (FOLLOWING MONEY IN ARIZONA'S POLITICS)



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