Journalists Roundtable

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Arizona journalists review the week’s top news stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon". I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are -- Mary K. Reinhart of "The Arizona Republic." Dennis Welch of "The Arizona Guardian." And Mike Sunnucks of "The Business Journal." Senate majority leader Scott Bundgaard's job is safe, for now -- It feels like this story has been around forever. But in the past week, a gun in the car and -- update us on what's going on.

Mary K. Reinhart: The latest chapter is a that senator majority leader Bundgaard told his Republican caucus behind closed doors that his now-ex-girlfriend apparently reached for or pulled a gun during the altercation on the Phoenix freeway on February 25th. That's news to everybody. They -- they -- this was in the context as people have told us of asking for another week. Please give me another week. It will come out in a supplemental Phoenix police report we expect to see in the coming week and the story will change and you'll see this was something I had to do and it was -- and I was protecting her and didn't want to bring this up but now I'm going to because I want you to give me another week before you decide my fate as the majority leader.

Ted Simons: Apparently, it worked?

Dennis Welch: It did for now. A stay of execution, the people we're talking to, we'll give him another week, but that doesn't mean he's going to keep his job. There are people frustrated about this. It has become an distraction down there. With people with camera crews every day asking about this. Day 14. It's been two weeks since this and we're still talking about it. People down there want to do the budget and get bills through and focus on that and not on this.
Ted Simons: What do you make of all of this? The idea, who are his supporters. A lot of people are questioning -- who is behind him.
Mike Sunnucks: Russell Pearce seems to be standing by him and the governor hasn't said anything. I think he's her state senator, I think. The media is on it, but I think they'd like it to go away and it's not like they're doing this great work down there. They've got to move on to the gun bill and putting guns other places and immigration bills and I don't know if the argument fits with the legislature. It's not like it's a distraction. But there's frustration especially among the conservation, in these case, the guy steps down. It's a distraction and he's not effective. All of that.

Dennis Welch: We talk about the senate president, he's trying to frame it like the media versus Scott Bundgaard. It's the media made this rush to judgment and, you know, he put that out in a press release earlier in the week and he's dug in and backing his guy.
Mary K. Reinhart: His press indicated that the caucus wanted to wait until the investigation was complete. When we talked to the caucus members, it wasn't like that. They weren't saying we want it wait until all the facts are in. Just he asked for a week and that's the least we can do. And the number of people said it's not going to change my mind. So he certainly did not have a lot of confidence from a lot of senators last Tuesday and I don't know that a lot of folks will change their minds this coming Tuesday regardless of the police report on Monday or Tuesday.

Mike Sunnucks: I think it's a huge problem because it gives the appearance he's held to a different standard. He gets to claim diplomatic immunity and that rubs people the wrong way. They don't have compassion for anybody, but they have compassion for this guy. Going to wait and reactionary on the other issues and the starting point is so tough.
Ted Simons: I mentioned his supporters. Let's go the other side, who are the folks standing in the caucus, obviously Ron Gould is one, but is anyone else standing up and saying something needs to be, as opposed the entire caucus saying we can wait.

Dennis Welch: I think Linda gray is getting tired dealing with this day in and day out. She's told us and others that she's disappointed that Mr. Bundgaard has hand himself in this situation. The other people down there, you can even talk about people in the house, saying they're getting fed up. Voters out there and people out there lump the legislature together as one body and it reflects bad on all of us.

Mary K. Reinhart: Senator rich Crandall has gone on record saying he supports Gould's position of asking him to step down. There's a investigation launched last week and it's -- when you have a phalanx of cameras -- it's focusing on things that they don't want attention on.

Mike Sunnucks: If this comes across as they're siding with this guy because he's a man and one of them, it's going to hurt more. The election, the next election.
Dennis Welch:It's gotten to the point they've changed press access on the floor. I mean, president Pearce issued an edict this week, hey, you're not allowed to go on the floor. You're allowed to a confined area off to the side. It's a change of a long-standing policy out -- a long-standing policy and due to this happening.

Ted Simons: And you can only approach the senator if they wave you over or gives you the high sign.

Dennis Welch: Originally, they had to wave or nod you over. But now they want you to go through the pages. Implementing that policy is a nightmare for staff.

Mike Sunnucks: It's like a invisible fence. Like the dogs have.

Mike Sunnucks: I think somebody like Russell, I am surprised this hasn't happened before. I don't think there's a shock. This is a good excuse to do it.

Ted Simons: Back to the gun, was not mentioned in the police report, correct?

Mary K. Reinhart: Was not mentioned in the seven-page original report but sergeant Tommy Thompson told me it's possible that a gun could turn up in a supplemental report. Different officers and detectives will file supplemental reports. All kinds of stuff could show up that wasn't in the original report. Indulge me.

Mike Sunnucks: Don't you think somebody would have mentioned the gun pretty quick during the interview?

Dennis Welch: To be clear here, the implication she grabbed the gun and her fingerprints will be on the gun. Even if they're on the gun, it doesn't mean a lot and people in the caucus question that. She was his girlfriend for eight, nine months. Could they have gone shooting? Sure. Could she have put her hands on the gun he kept in the car? Even if the fingerprints show up on the gun, it doesn't mean a lot.
Ted Simons: The girlfriend says -- the response from the girlfriend the gun was not involved in the dispute. During this meeting, again, are lawmakers happy to be dragged this far into this thing where they -- come down to headquarters for questioning?

Dennis Welch: Yeah, there's the possibility and apparently they were warned in this meeting after Mr. Bundgaard dropped this revelation they could be dragged into the criminal investigation. If police feel there was any information he divulged that he didn't give the police officers, they could call them up. It's not like they're going to be hauled down to the station and stick them in a room with a dangling light bulb. But probably a few questions over the phone but its not something as a law maker--.

Mike Sunnucks: It's a treacherous case for the Phoenix Police. They don't like to deal with the MVPs. It affects your career. So they'll take their time and be careful and make sure they get it right.
Dennis Welch: The last thing that the Phoenix P.D. needs, they've gone through scandals and they're going to try and handle this as straightforward as they can.

Ted Simons: In terms of logistic, sounds like Mr. Bundgaard missed quite a few votes having to deal with this?

Mary K. Reinhart: He indicated he would speak to us after the floor session. Roll calls on 25 bills and he left the floor soon after he -- the debate began and when we all kind of realized he was gone and went to look for him, he had left for the day. Don't know where he was. Obviously, the same day he took a lie detector test and we've been hearing about the result this afternoon.

Ted Simons: The questions, the answers. Apparently, he ACED it.

Dennis Welch: I haven't seen the questions. But apparently he did ace the lie detector test. There were three questions. Was there a gun in the car? Did you tell me the police officer, apparently yes. Did he assert legislative immunity? He said no. And was his girlfriend intoxicated? He said yes. Apparently, he passed all three questions but what raises a lot of questions about the test, where are the baseline questions? Any standard polygraph test will issue basic questions at the beginning to determine a baseline where you're at. What's your name, how old are you? Easy questions so they can use that as a baseline and compare whether you're telling the truth.
Ted Simons: What about an independent observer. Any information like that on that out there?

Dennis Welch: We don't know much about this.

Mike Sunnucks: An attorney was there. Maybe Jason rose was there. A lot of times, guys batten down the hatches. He's been aggressive throughout and make the argument, oh, an innocent man proclaims his innocence. So he's aggressive. Immediately, they had the pictures of the shiner he had, which I think Jason rose took. And he's been out repeatedly on this. From a public opinion point, people respond when you're out there defending yourself.

Mary K. Reinhart: On the other hand, one more headline today about a lie detector test. You could argue that yeah, he continues to be aggressively proclaiming his innocence and his side of the story, but why do you want another headline. Unless it's the ultimate, he's cleared. It's all good.
Dennis Welch: The question about whether she was intoxicated. Who cares? It's like a guy starting to piling on to his ex girlfriend in a public way which contradicts the attitude I'm just protecting her. This looks like a person using every too many in the tool belt to go after his ex-girlfriend.
Ted Simons: Prosecutors going to get the case -- what's next here?

Dennis Welch: They could get it in a week and could charge him even during session. He still could face charges during the session.

Mary K. Reinhart: My understanding, they try to work around schedules and stuff like that. There's still a question allowing him to do his legislative duties but the prosecutor's office said he can be charged.

Ted Simons: Let's move on here. Immigration bills seem to be on track as far as senator Pearce. Hiring and education, hospital admissions and these things. Kind of stuck for a while. Now the idea is to -- what? -- get them to the house as soon as possible?

Mike Sunnucks: They probably have the votes to do these things. Considering the makeup. Without Bundgaard's distraction, able to do these fine pieces of legislation down there. Every year it's a winner for Republicans and a winner for Russell Pearce. To pick something illegal immigrants should be able to do x, y, or z. Hospital admissions is one of the more controversial ones, does the person at the emergency room want to be checking pastports and green card and I.D. If they don't have I.D. where do you make take it with that.

Dennis Welch: I thought he was supposed to hold off on the immigration business until there was a budget.

Ted Simons: Isn't the idea he wants to get them to the house in terms of a time frame, they haven't necessarily been passed -- I'm trying -- [Laughter]

Mary K. Reinhart: That's a great way to look at it, Ted, but there are members of his own caucus who are frustrated. Dealing with these issues now instead of after the budget, because they believe this was a promise made when he wanted to become president these issues would come after the budget issue was solved which is clearly and enormous issue that has not been solved.

Mike Sunnucks: They have the votes on abortion and immigration and they were stymied by the Carolyn Allen or Janet Napolitano. It's hard for them to not give into temptation and pass their agenda.
Dennis Welch: Obviously, trying to get it done before the budget is entered and all of a sudden, you see the budget politics of stuff. Where people who would normally vote for the stuff, Mr. president, I'm going to hold off until you get me what I want in the budget here. Those shenanigans happen every year.
Mike Sunnucks: It's tough for Republicans to vote against some stuff. Jeff white is going to face this, you're soft on immigration. If you hold it up because of some other reason, it's going to come back at you next primary.

Ted Simon: The house ok'd $5 million to the Pinal sheriff Babeu. This is money to fight illegal immigration. Where does this money come from, and what does this do to the argument regarding AHCCCS and prop 204 where there are no available funds so that would be the legal argument saying we can overturn it. Sounds like they're available funds.

Dennis Welch: It certainly does, and Democrats have certainly made that inference. This Money comes from the photo radar enforcing Sheriff Babeu, a rising political figure in the state so he can fight the border crime. Even though it ignores the four counties in the state that actually border Mexico. So there has been quite a lot fo discussion about the politics in this bill
Mike sunnucks: They have a lot of trafficking that goes through there. That's one of the main entry points.

Dennis Welch It's not an entry point half laugh.

Mike Sunnucks: But there is a lot of -- there's a lot of drug cartel activity and folks coming through there. It's valid to bring up why can't we find the $1 million for the transplants when we can find $5 million for this.

Ted Simons And that was the amendment.

Mary K. Reinhart: Unsuccessful.

Ted Simons: Well, we'll move on here. The mare of Mesa came out and -- the mayor of Mesa says he understands the state's frustration with the feds but says the state is doing the same thing to cities and towns.

Dennis Welch: The mayor, he hasn't been shy of criticizes the legislature. In the past, he's come out and opposed to 1070 last year, he expressed reservations about that and how it could be enforced. It's not surprising he would speak his mind. He's a popular mayor and rumored for higher political office but he's not stranger to speaking his mind.

Mike Sunnucks: They always go after impact fees, to recoup the cost of growth and using the contracting, obviously shall the immigration issue. They opposed the cubs thing. Ran into a big stone wall and there's frustration from the mayors, the legislature complains to Washington all the time, you're mandating things and they do the same thing to the towns.

Ted Simons: This is the same part of town where the senate speaker and president of the house, both come from this area and have political ambitions, what happens to those ambitions with something like that?

Mike Sunnucks: Maybe within the Republican party, but regular folks they trust the cities more than the legislature. They supply water, roads and the legislature spends time with Scott Bundgaard and immigration and designating state guns and any time the mayors take on the legislature, the mayors seem to have the advantage.

Ted Simons: Our final topic is one of pure speculation, it seems, but it's certainly fun. And that's the idea that Sarah Palin would move to Arizona, move into the house that her daughter, I believe, purchased in Maricopa. And from that base, run for John Kyl's open senate seat. Where are we getting this from?

Mary K. Reinhart: I guess it's a democratic representative from Tucson, Steve Farley, who has a couple of source. Close to the campaign, I don't know, that believe she's -- you know, it's so much fun to talk about Sarah Palin, it's hard for it not to be national news. When Bristol went to buy a house and thought she was going to go to ASU, it was a huge deal. So if there's a possibility, I think it will capture the attention of the media.

Dennis Welch: There was speculation she was going to go to the Cronkite school at ASU and that didn't pan out. There are a lot of rumors about Sarah Palin, but from a spectator sport of politics, it would be amazing if she came out here. This could probably be a state she could come to and win a senate seat. A poll released by Bloomberg shows she's got -- six in 10 Americans in the country view her unfavorably. There's no polling for Arizona, but my gut tells me that's probably not the case here in Arizona.

Mary K. Reinhart: Wasn't the governor in Alaska on a long weekend trip? Let's keep fueling the speculation.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask about that but --

Dennis Welch: Good business for us.

Mary K. Reinhart: It's a great story.

Ted Simons: There's another idea perhaps she'll set up her presidential campaign in Arizona as opposed to maybe running for -- there are all sorts of suggestions going on out there. Again, anyone buying this?

Mike Sunnucks: I think the political story was -- had her setting up her presidential campaign in Scottsdale. She could do that. Not going to run it out of Alaska anymore. Got to run it somewhere. Those are figure head things. Bush was in Austin, gore was in Nashville. They're traveling around. Scottsdale is a nice place to hang out. I think she would pound everyone in a Republican primary. Kill them. It wouldn't be close. Maybe flake might stay and maybe one other.

Dennis Welch: I think she'd have a better chance then the Republican primary for president. She's really lost a lot of clout. Particularly, really started to Cascade downhill after the crosshair stuff after Gabby Giffords was shot. She took a hit.
Mike Sunnucks: To knock on her, she's more interested in being a celebrity than a policymaker.

Ted Simons: We'll stop it right there. Appreciate it.

Mary K. Reinhart:The Arizona Republic;Dennis Welch:The Arizona Guardian;Mike Sunnucks:The Business Journal;

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