FOLLOWING MONEY IN 2016 PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

BREAKING/READ: Judge Recuses Himself From APS/Dark Money Case Brought By ACC Commissioner Robert Burns

The judge in Arizona Corporation Commissioner Robert Burns' case to force APS to disclose its suspected dark money campaign contributions has disqualified himself. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Blomo gave no explanation for the decision, which comes one week after Burns' attorney asked for an expedited hearing.

Today's minute entry (below) also comes only one day after Capitol Media Services published an article about the case. The explosive dispute focuses on whether Commissioner Robert Burns can force the state's largest regulated electrical utility to disclose whether it funneled undisclosed monies to be spent on the 2014 Corporation Commission election.

Other races, including those for Governor (for Doug Ducey), Attorney General (for Mark Brnovich) and Secretary of State (for Justin Pierce) may have been impacted by APS dark money, as well. APS/Pinnacle West also provided semi-open support that year to the Republican Governors Association and the Republican Attorneys General Association.

Arizona's Politics extensively covered the 2014 dark money influx while it was happening and afterwards, and will continue to provide coverage of the Burns/APS dispute.

Arizona's Politics has asked the parties for comment, and will supplement as needed.


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Monday, April 24, 2017

Arizona's Anti-Semitic Incidents Already Exceed Total 2016 Hate; Plus, Breaking News On JCC Bomb Threats

Arizona has already seen 15 anti-Semitic incidents in 2017, easily surpassing the total for all of 2016 by 50%. This exceeds a spike being seen across the nation.  The startling news from the Anti-Defamation League comes the same day that reports from Israel indicate the teen charged with most of the bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers in Arizona and across the country may have been paid by others on the "Dark Net" to place the computerized calls.

The ADL - which monitors and fights bigotry and hate of all stripes - released its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents (U.S.) and supplemented it with news of an 86% surge in the first quarter of 2017 (compared to the same period in 2016).

Arizona suffered 13 incidents between January 1-March 31, 2017, according to ADL Arizona
Goodyear Farm Cemetery,
Avondale, 2017
Regional Director Carlos Galindo-Elvira. Two more incidents (see accompanying pictures) have taken place in April.

Five anti-Semitic incidents were reported in Arizona in 2015. That doubled last year, with a couple of high-profile vandalism examples following the Presidential election.

"The trend we're seeing in vandalism and harassment incidents from 2015 through 2017 is clearly disturbing" Galindo-Elvira tells Arizona's Politics. "ADL is the organization for this time to counter anti-Semitism and all forms of hate, prejudice and bigotry."

Galindo-Elvira also noted in ADL Arizona's news release that it is "fully committed to fighting anti-Semitism in Arizona by speaking-up, speaking-out and working with law enforcement, at all levels, to put a halt to hateful incidents.” 

***

Central Phoenix, 4/2017
Nationally, the ADL reports that anti-Semitic incidents - including acts of vandalism, harassment and assaults - increased 34% in 2016, compared to 2015. The headline notes that the 1st quarter of 2017 shows an 86% surge over the previous year's period. 

However, that includes the more than 100 bomb threats allegedly made against Jewish Community Centers in the U.S. by a young man in Israel (with dual citizenship). On the surface, that may have raised questions about the anti-Semitic nature of those threats.

Coincidentally, the unnamed teen was indicted TODAY in Israel. A report on the indictment in the Jerusalem Post raises the possibility that the young man was paid by unknown persons (with unknown motives) to make the computerized phone calls.
"The Justice Ministry said the defendant also used the so-called “Dark Net” to sell his cyber intimidation and extortion services to clients who paid him electronic currency according to a price list he posted with set fees for calls to police stations, schools or airports.
He was also accused of using the undetectable Web network to deal in illegal drugs and sell computer kits to counterfeit official documents, manufacture poisons and explosives and to hack into social media accounts.
His business landed him roughly $225,000 in bitcoin currency, and at one point he employed two other individuals to operate as subcontractors, carrying out his tasks."
(Even if all of the 146 JCC (etc) bomb threats were removed from ADL's national numbers, it would still show an increase in the hate incidents between 1Q16 and 1Q17.)

This report contributed by Phoenix attorney Paul Weich.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

BREAKING: Arpaio Finds A Tax Exempt Nonprofit For Supporters To Fund Legal Defense, Starts With $250K

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has come up with a way to permit his thousands of supporters across the nation to fund his legal defense with tax deductible money.  His non-exempt Legal Defense Fund has now received $250,000 from the new tax EXEMPT organization the National Center for Police Defense.

Arizona's Politics has been reporting on the ongoing efforts by Arpaio - who is now facing a criminal contempt trial in June for admitted violations of federal court orders in the long-running Melendres v. Arpaio civil rights case. Impassioned solicitations for the Sheriff Joe Arpaio Legal Defense Fund (from Arpaio) have mistakenly informed his supporters that the contributions to keep him out of jail would be tax deductible.

Ironically on Tax Day, this plea for money hit Arpaio's supporters' email inboxes today. It comes from the new NCPL, and includes one of the Sheriff's *personal* emails. (The entire email is republished below the jump in this article.)  It emphasizes the unlimited, tax deductible nature of gifts.

Arpaio's Legal Defense Fund is an opaque entity operated by Summit Group Consulting, the same consulting firm that has run Arpaio's campaigns and made him into an unparalleled fundraising machine. There is no evidence that the fund is incorporated in Arizona (or, elsewhere). No public disclosure of the funds received or expended is required under law.

It is very likely that any monies raised by the fund and disbursed to attorneys on Arpaio's behalf are taxable income for the Sheriff. On his personal financial disclosure statement (filed while he was in office), Arpaio did not divulge receiving any income from this fund, nor did he list any gifts, reportable interests, or personal debts.

Arpaio also maintains control of his campaign committee, which had more than $460,000 on March 31, 2017.  His report filed last week does not show that any transfers were made to the NCPD during March, although that would appear to be one possible way for Arpaio to dispose of the campaign monies.

Arizona's Politics has asked for responses and explanations from both Jim Fotis of the NCPD and Arpaio's longtime campaign guru Chad Willems. This article will be supplemented as needed.

(Phoenix election law attorney and Arizona's Politics' co-founder Paul Weich contributed to this article.)


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

READ: "The Circus Is Over; The Tents Are Coming Down": New Sheriff Closing Expensive "Tent City Jail"

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BREAKING UPDATE: Judge Sets Emergency Hearing In Arpaio Criminal Contempt Case

(UPDATE, 3:45pm: The Department of Justice's Public Integrity Section informs Arizona's Politics that it will attend the Thursday hearing in person, rather than by telephone.)

Outgoing and incoming legal counsel for former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio are ordered to appear personally at an emergency hearing this Thursday afternoon.  U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton issued the order this afternoon, after lead counsel A. Melvin McDonald told the Court last night that he needed to withdraw three weeks before the criminal contempt trial. (The Order is published below.)

The prosecuting attorneys for the Department of Justice are permitted to phone in for the accelerated hearing. However, a spokesperson for the DOJ's Public Integrity Section informed Arizona's Politics this evening that they will be in the courtroom. (And/or in the Judge's chambers, if necessary.)

Arizona's Politics reported yesterday on the surprise 11th hour withdrawal application. The Arizona Republic followed up with some possible insights into what may have prompted the ethical quandary that former U.S. Attorney McDonald and the Jones, Skelton & Hochuli firm found themselves in.

If the withdrawal is permitted, Mark Goldman (Goldman & Zwillinger) will become Arpaio's lead counsel. Goldman unsuccessfully asked that the trial be continued due to his son's Bar Mitzvah taking place the following weekend.

Late last night, McDonald filed witness and exhibit lists (subject to change by Goldman), showing eight possible defense witnesses in the April 25 trial. Those witnesses are Russ Skinner, Jerry Sheridan, Former Chief Brian Sands, Lt. Joseph Sousa, Chief Jack MacIntyre, Lisa Allen, Lt. Brian Jakowinicz and Brett Palmer.


<p  style=" margin: 12px auto 6px auto; font-family: Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 14px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -x-system-font: none; display: block;">   <a title="View Order Setting Accelerated Hearing On Application To Withdraw on Scribd" href="https://www.scribd.com/document/344052458/Order-Setting-Accelerated-Hearing-On-Application-To-Withdraw#from_embed"  style="text-decoration: underline;" >Order Setting Accelerated Hearing On Application To Withdraw</a> by <a title="View arizonaspolitics's profile on Scribd" href="https://www.scribd.com/user/218365445/arizonaspolitics#from_embed"  style="text-decoration: underline;" >arizonaspolitics</a> on Scribd</p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" src="https://www.scribd.com/embeds/344052458/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&access_key=key-rEvhzz21kOBizN1VhBl8&show_recommendations=true" data-auto-height="false" data-aspect-ratio="0.7729220222793488" scrolling="no" id="doc_12782" width="100%" height="600" frameborder="0"></iframe>
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BREAKING: Trump Pays Approx $2M, Clears Lawsuit & Lien On Old Post Office (NATIONAL NEWS)

President Donald Trump's Old Post Office LLC officially removed the lien and the lis pendens stemming from its failure to timely pay $2 Million to the electrical contractor for work done last year on its new hotel, Arizona's Politics has learned. The taxpayers own the property and lease it to Trump*.

The lawsuit was filed by Freestate Electrical the day before Trump was inaugurated as President. The Trump company's rush to open the luxury hotel near the White House two weeks before Election Day required contractors to incur significant added costs, according to Freestate's lawsuit. The bills were not timely paid, and contractors rushed to file liens on the property. Freestate was still unpaid, so it filed the legal action to enforce its lien.

Three other contractors separately had to file mechanics liens against T.O.P.O. LLC since November. All were (paid and) released in February and March (after hotel revenues began to roll in).

Freestate's legal action was due for a hearing at the end of this month. The dismissal was filed on Friday, and the releases of the lien and the lis pendens were recorded today (see, below). It is unlikely that the plaintiff settled for less than the balance due.

Arizona's Politics has requested comments from representatives of both Freestate and the Trump Organization, and will update this article as necessary.


***************************************************************************


* Trump's interest may or may not be held in a trust and may or may not be able to access monies from the Trump Old Post Office LLC, per recent news reports. For purposes of simplicity, Arizona's Politics refers to "Trump" because he still appears to have a significant level of involvement and interest in the LLC.

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WATCH, IN-DEPTH: Rep. Schweikert On C-Span Re: Healthcare Reform; "I May Be An Outlier" In Freedom Caucus

Arizona Rep. David Schweikert had "fun" this morning discussing healthcare reform in-depth on C-Span.

Although we have not yet watched/listened to this entire interview (he took many calls), we did catch the end where he says he

When asked what the Freedom Caucus wants, Schweikert gave a disclaimer that he "may be an outlier because I was a yes vote within the group". He then said that the group - of which he is a member - wants to lower costs and give states more discretion on how to use Medicaid expansion funds.

If you find some interesting tidbits, please let us know. The uncorrected closed captioning is below the jump.



McCain Still Very Sad, But Will Vote To Go Nuclear (In Senate): "I Have No Choice"

John McCain (R-AZ) says he will vote to go "nuclear" in the U.S. Senate this week because "I have no choice." Last week, McCain said he was "very sad" at the prospect of changing the filibuster rules in order to get Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch confirmed; today, he said he has "terrible
qualms" but will vote with his party.

McCain - possibly in his final 6-year term in the Senate - told Politico: "I have no choice." He warned that the GOP will pay a political price for opting for a simple majority - "Democrats are obviously paying a heavy price for what Harry Reid did, and I believe we will pay a price for this."

Democrats removed the 60-vote threshold for confirming nominations and appointments other than for the Supreme Court (though the rule could have been reinstated) during the Obama presidency, claiming that Republicans were filibustering non-controversial District and Court of Appeals nominations.


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Monday, April 3, 2017

BREAKING: Former U.S. Attorney Moves To Withdraw As Sheriff Arpaio Counsel 3 Weeks Before Criminal Contempt Trial

(UPDATE, 4/4, 7:40am: Arizona's Politics requested a comment from the U.S. Department of Justice. They "decline to comment at this time." We do expect them to file a response with the Court very quickly.)

A. Melvin McDonald, lead counsel for former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, has applied to withdraw as counsel 3 weeks before the criminal contempt trial set for April 25.

Late Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton denied Arpaio's efforts to delay the trial due to co-counsel's son's Bar Mitzvah at the end of April. Late today, the Jones, Skelton & Hochuli's Application To Withdraw was filed, claiming that to continue to represent the former Sheriff because "the representation will result in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law." The Rules of Professional Conduct refers to ethical rules that attorneys are required to follow.

It is unclear what specific type of violation could occur or what has suddenly changed in the law firm's relationship with the former Sheriff, although McDonald did state that he is "ready, willing and able to answer, in camera, any questions the court may have relative to this application."  He suggests that he is available for a private hearing in the Judge's chambers during the next three days. McDonald's Application does reference "comment 3" to the ethical rule, which is reproduced at the bottom of this article.

As for the law firm's fees, Arpaio recently has been sending out regular emails soliciting funds from his massive donor base, claiming that he was falling short in his efforts to pay his attorneys. It is unlikely that that is what caused today's Application to Withdraw, however.

Arpaio is still represented by Mark Goldman and his Goldman & Zwillinger firm. In fact, the 8-person firm filed a Notice of Appearance adding its Jeff Surdakowski to the Arpaio trial team.


This is a breaking news story. The documents and more details will be posted shortly.
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Comment 3 to Ethical Rule 1.16:
[3] When a lawyer has been appointed to represent a client, withdrawal ordinarily requires approval of the appointing authority. See also Rule 6.2. Similarly, court approval or notice to the court is often required by applicable law before a lawyer withdraws from pending litigation. Difficulty may be encountered if withdrawal is based on the client's demand that the lawyer engage in unprofessional conduct. The court may request an explanation for the withdrawal, while the lawyer may be bound to keep confidential the facts that would constitute such an explanation. The lawyer's statement that professional considerations require termination of the representation ordinarily should be accepted as sufficient. Lawyers should be mindful of their obligations to both clients and the court under Rules 1.6 and 3.3.


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Thursday, March 30, 2017

McCain "Very Sad", Flake Also Misses Bipartisanship; See "Nuclear" Reaction To Gorsuch Filibuster

This Huffington Post article has key quotes from both of Arizona's U.S. Senators. John McCain is "very sad" because he has "failed" to convince enough Democrats to not filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, and that the Republicans will go "nuclear" in response.


Jeff Flake sees sad parallels to the currently-dead Obamacare repeal and replace effort in the House.

Both seem to acknowledge that they will go along with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plans to invoke the so-called "nuclear option" - changing the Senate rules to require only 51 Senators to close debate on a Supreme Court nominee and proceed to a vote.

Neither Senator mentioned to the Huffington Post reporter that their acquiescence in last year's blocking of the Merrick Garland nomination contributed to this year's (planned) Democratic filibuster.

Here are the quotes from Arizona's Senators:




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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

GET YOUR EXERCISE: Rep. McSally On Her Bill To Conduct Large Scale Anti-Terrorism Exercise Re: Americans-Turned-Foreign-Fighters

(Update, 4:15pm: Rep. McSally's office informs Arizona's Politics that the House vote on H.R. 1302 is now planned for tomorrow (Thursday).)

he House debated a bill from Arizona Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) today, which would require that the U.S. Government conduct a large scale exercise probing weaknesses in dealing with Americans who travel abroad and return to commit acts of terror.

Here is McSally's explanation of H.R. 1302:


The bill  is expected to pass the House before the end of the week.


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UPDATE: Gosar Bill Removing Antitrust Exemption From Health/Dental Insurance Passes House 416-7

(Update, 4:10pm: Rep. Gallego's office informs Arizona's Politics that the Congressman "actually voted no by mistake", and that he will submit a statement to that effect tomorrow.)

Yesterday, we reported on the bipartisan support for Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar's (R-CD4) bill removing an antitrust exemption from health and dental insurance companies. Though H.R. 372 only had Republican co-sponsors, the Democratic debaters announced their support for it.

Today, the bill passed 416-7. Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-CD7) was among the Democrats who voted against it. (See "update" noting that the vote was mistakenly cast.) (Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-CD9) did not vote.)

The debate yesterday focused on how much of an effect the bill would have, the larger healthcare/ health insurance debate, and who should get credit for the bill (House Democrats had passed it in 2010 - with bipartisan support - although it died when it did not become part of the larger Affordable Care Act).

In light of the fierce debate surrounding the Republicans' repeal-and-replace efforts, the prospects for this modest measure is also uncertain.


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LISTEN: Dark Money Group Bombards Gosar, Schweikert, Franks To Support Trump-Ryan Health Insurance Bill; Conservative Talk Radio Ads, Robocalls

The dark money American Action Network is targeting Arizona Republican Representatives Franks, Gosar and Schweikert with talk radio ads and robocalls, in an effort to get them to support the Trump-Ryan-GOP-conservative healthcare reform bill that is set to come to a vote tomorrow.

One small change between the robocalls started last week and the radio ad running on KFYI yesterday through tomorrow? Last week, the AAN - which backs the House GOP Leadership - touted the AHCA as both President Trump's and Speaker Ryan's; the new ad only emphasizes the President's support.

The new ad is costing only $3,000 per day on the state's largest conservative talk radio station, KFYI. No word on how much was spent on the robocalls last week.

Reps. Paul Gosar (R-CD4), David Schweikert (R-CD5) and Trent Franks (R-CD8) are all linked to the more conservative House Freedom Caucus, which is vowing to bring down the bill.

#50ShadesOfDarkMoney

AAN is a 501(c )(4 ) social welfare organization that does not disclose its donors. A number of "grant recipients" have reported receiving money from AAN in IRS filings.

AAN receives a dark gray shade of 45 on Arizona's Politics' #50ShadesOfDarkMoney scale.

(h/t to Politico)





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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

READY FOR VOTE: Rep. Gosar Bill Removing Antitrust Exemption From Health and Dental Insurance

(UPDATE, 12:20pm: Gosar Communications Director Steven Smith informs Arizona's Politics that the vote on Rep. Gosar's bill will take place tomorrow, separately from the rest of AHCA (aka Trumpcare). He also notes that the White House came out in favor of it today, as well.

Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar (R-CD4) has successfully pushed a bill to remove the antitrust exemption from health insurance and dental insurance to the House floor today, as part of a Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The bill - H.R. 372 - is proposed as a way of encouraging competition in the health and dental insurance markets, and is a favorite of the American Dental Association. Dr. Gosar was a practicing dentist before entering Congress, and the ADA has been his biggest Congressional supporter.

Gosar notes that his bill "liberates the insurance industry and doctors and empowers patients" by removing the portion of the McCarran-Ferguson Act that grants an antitrust exemption to  health and dental insurance companies. (Here is his news release on the bill.)


Democrats debating the measure on the House Floor today are indicating that they support Gosar's bill and that they overwhelmingly - and in a bipartisan manner - passed "substantively similar"  (Cecilline) legislation in 2010.  Instead, the Democrats are arguing that HR372 is being oversold and neither permits health/dental insurance to be sold across similar lines nor increases competition on its own. They are also concerned that Republicans are attempting to "put lipstick on a pig". (Jackson Lee)

The American Dental Association has lobbied hard for this measure, and - among other things - has sent this explanatory letter:




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