State Senate President Russell Pearce talks about the effort to remove him from office and other issues.
Ted Simons: State senate president Russell Pearce has never shied from controversy. He's been a leader in immigration enforcement laws, and he's been a strong proponent of smaller government. A group unhappy with Pearce and his policies wants Pearce recalled, and early indications are that the group may have signatures to force a recall election. Here to talk about that issue and more is senate president Russell Pearce. For joining us.
Russell Pearce: Thanks for having me.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about the recall election. Looks like it's going to happen. We have verification to go. Your thoughts.
Russell Pearce: Well there's a lot to go through. They had paid signature gatherers and when you're out there paid hours and hours to be out there, every post office and mall, you're probably going to get enough signatures, we know that, but they were told stories that are not factual and people are quick to sign. I look forward to the election. To be honest. I don't mind running every two years, running every year is a bit too much. I'm 16 in my district the born and raised there. My family is born and raised there. People know me and know what I stand for. The thing is I've done everything they elected me to do. Every year when I have an election, every time there's an election, the first brochure I put out is promises made, promises kept. I do what I tell people I'm going to do.
Ted Simons: First of all, regarding the paid signature gatherers. Virtually every initiative in the state has that part component. People are paid to do that. Its not necessarily unusual. But, it would be the first recall election of a state legislature in Arizona history. Does it humble you?
Russell Pearce: Of course, you do. I know there are good people that have signed those petitions that are out there. But the folks that lead this in reality make their living off this and the one guy who's a failed Democrat leading it. Failed democrat candidate for U.S. Senate, named Kyle. The other is an immigration attorney. People have to understand who these folks are. They've never been on my side. They're not mad because I didn't do what I say, they're upset because I do what I say. They're upset, you know, securing our borders, upset about limited government, about good fiscal policies. We went into the session and a lot of folks want to talk about the immigration issue. And I like to talk about those too. 30 states wanting what we have done in Arizona. But they forget the other things you know. Balanced the budget and bonding, an honest balanced budget. Put out a jobs package, that's going to be huge for Arizona, bringing jobs to the state of Arizona.
Ted Simons: Let's go back to immigration. Sounds to me, reading the petition that immigration was purposely left out. Quickly here, the petition read they need a leader who will pass laws to create jobs and protect public education and ensure access to healthcare for kids and those in need, that represents the beliefs of those in mesa and --
Russell Pearce: Remember, these aren't Mesa folks that are leading this.
Ted Simons: I got you. But have you protected education?
Russell Pearce: Absolutely.
Ted Simons: Considering the cuts to k-12.
Russell Pearce: Let's go through that. I would love to do that. K-12, we had a deficit for three or four years, trying to get rid of. And there were folks who still wanted to kick the can down the road. We came in and fixed - out of an $8 billion budget, a billion dollar deficit.
Russell Pearce: And fixed it with almost touching education?
Ted Simons: $182 million, k-12
Russell Pearce: Out of a $10 billion, this k-12 is a 10-billion total.
Ted Simons: But that's $190 hit.
Russell Pearce: It's a 2% reduction when other agencies had a 10-15% reduction.
Ted Simons: You did --
Russell Pearce: Absolutely.
Ted Simons: You think you did protect education?
Russell Pearce: I know we did, it was a priority with all of our members and I know we did. And we protected public safety which was a priority. And with the budget as it is with much the federal dollars that tie your hands. Some voter initiatives that increases that are automatic and tie your hands. It was a feat nobody thought we would achieve. Even the governor doubted if we could get there. We did get there.
Ted Simons: The recall mentions healthcare for kids and those most in need and when this comes to ahcccs cuts they were pretty healthy, to coin a phrase here. Did you protect the healthcare needs of these folks?
Russell Pearce: Did we take responsible action, ought to be the word. Absolutely. Arizona has the richest healthcare system in the nation and you have to trim somewhere. If you think healthcare is expensive today, wait until it's free. We reduced for childless adults and also put reforms in there, the federal government, for accountability and transparency, co-pays, if you miss an appointment, we have $25 million a year we spend in ahcccs for non-emergency transportation. The term should be clear to you what it is. We know there's fixing that needs to be done. It's unsustainable, unaffordable. The level we're at.
Ted Simons: You talked about the people in your district know who you are and know everything about you. People in your district, do you think they expected you do to things -- we'll list things. Supporting senator Scott Bundgaard, that was controversial. You supported a guy who has a ---
Russell Pearce: Now lets get this straight here. I said even a senator has a right to a trial before you hang him. You know?
Ted Simons: Did you not support Senator Bundgaard?
Russell Pearce: I waited until the facts were out. The truth is he has a right to have the case heard. Nobody knew the facts or seen a police report. You know, Scott -- I've known Scott Bundgaard a long, long time. I know him to be a good man. I wasn't there when this happened and saddened by the events and hope and pray that he get through it. If he's innocent, he's exonerated. If he's guilty, there's accountability that has to take place.
Ted Simons: Do you think the voters were voting for a guy who would get take the lead.
Russell Pearce: Media comes onto me on this. I didn't take the lead -- you know, just a little honesty would be nice from the media every once in a while. They love to put me in front of every parade. They came to me about Scott Bundgaard, a friend. I said, hang on, he has a right to a trial before you jump to conclusions, that's all I ask. Like any U.S. Citizen has a right to a trial.
Ted Simons: Something else that happened after the election, those are for the recallers, saying this is not necessarily what the people in your district voted for. The Fiesta Bowl--
Russell Pearce: Those aren't the people in my district, but anyway --
Ted Simons: They will get a chance, but --
Russell Pearce: Sure.
Ted Simons: The Fiesta Bowl revelations. Those were not out before the campaign, before the election. Do you think that kind of a person represents that district.
Russell Pearce: Yeah. The way the media portrays it, it's a difficult issue. None of us -- about 25 legislators that participated in working to bring a national championship game here. We didn't ask to go. They asked us to go. And I have reports to show that. Even newspaper reports admit that they were back then, before they became controversial. We work hard and I love the Fiesta Bowl, it's our non-profit charity. Now what went on behind the scenes, we had nothing to do with, can't make up for that, can't address that. Those allegations need to be dealt with. But every one of us sought legal advice before we went, including me. I can tell you some that I know of have in the legal advice I got from house counsel, these are legal legitimate trips and educational trips to benefit - to bring a national championship game to Arizona.
Ted Simons: But you had to amend your reports. You had to --
Russell Pearce: Good point.
Ted Simons: An the '05 navy game became the '07 game --
Russell Pearce: No, that was a transposing of dates. None the information changed. None of the information changed. I went --
Ted Simons: The Fiesta Bowl says they never wanted you to present a donation check. Never asked you to do that.
Russell Pearce: You have staff there, the folks there have left. Simply not true. They presented a $25,000 check to -- for the military reconstruction of an event there, asked me to go and represent Arizona, I checked with counsel before I went. The statutes are clear for a ceremonial event. You know what? If I want to go on a trip, I go. I paid for my stuff. I have paid for trips I'm not required to pay for.
Ted Simons: But the investigation suggests there were trips in which there's no receipts and no one can find you paying for the tickets or paying it back.
Russell Pearce: First, we never told -- I always asked for an invoice and when I got one, it was paid. My history shows that. In fact I have four receipts that I can't account for, I've asked for information about what did I pay for, they can't produce and say â€˜I don't know', and refuse to give us the information. We went and gave it to the media. You know, it gets a little silly here. I never do what I can't justify and defend and good for Arizona and I do exactly what I tell people I'm going to do.
Ted Simons: Last point. You say you do what's good for Arizona. We just had a situation with extending jobless benefits. A special legislative session that didn't turn out special at all. Do people in your district want a representative who looks at the opportunity to get federally appropriated funds into Arizona to help folks long-term unemployed and something and I forget your quote. Something along the lines - I'm not comfortable paying people to sit at home. Is that what people in your district want to have?
Russell Pearce: There are some folks who take advantage of this. The point is that's out of context like anything that the mainstream media seems to do. Never let the truth interfere with the story. The federal government requires to you sit home and get that money, one day a week. Let's make you certify each week in writing, where have you looked to make sure it's verifiable. That we have a track record. If you're getting unemployment, make sure you're looking for a job. My members at one point thought they might vote, and the day before the special, they came in and said, Russell, without real reforms but without a jobs package, I can't vote for it but I will if we can get all of that together in a package.
Ted Simons: But you understand how people who know people who are unemployed.
Russell Pearce: I know folks who are unemployed.
Ted Simons: Some wonder if you do. The fact that the money comes in without costing the state and pumps money --
Russell Pearce: Going to two years, two years without accountability? Without transparency? Come on. The taxpayers deserve accountability and transparency, it's their money, not my money. I am going to spend somebody else's money. If I'm going to spend somebody else's money and the federal government's money. I mean the federal government has no money. Every check they write should bounce. They have no money. But if you're going to take that money, all I wanted was accountability. There were many willing to vote for it without that. But it took an emergency clause. I didn't have 20 votes. Without the other measures, there weren't 20 votes. They don't want to write a check. They want to create jobs. Let's put them to work. That was the debate.
Ted Simons: Extending unemployment benefits, Fiesta Bowl revelations and Scott Bundgaard -- challenging the 14th amendment, trying to get nulifaiction, that whole situation, which didn't get too far. It was out in the press. We talked about it on the show. All of those things, you feel the voters who put you in office expected that from you?
Russell Pearce: I have been on this issue for years. Yes, they did. They know me. That's what -- you know, my brochures make it clear. I went overwhelmingly in my district on these issues. They want fiscal responsibility and transparency in government, borders secured and everybody forgets about Mr. Crandall who was murdered and the 12 police officers murdered and maimed, City of Phoenix Police Officers and a month ago, two officers shot and one died. Murdered by the landscapers. When is enough enough? I continue to do what I think I'm set to do and respect the constitution --
Ted Simons: And you're ready for the election?
Russell Pearce: Yes, I am. I stand for what I stand for. I never varied. This will be the first recall ever in the state of Arizona where they're attempting to recall a guy because he did what he said he was going to do. Keep my promises.
Ted Simons: We have to stop there. Thank you for appearing on the show.
Russell Pearce: Thanks for having me, Ted.
Ted Simons: You bet.
Russell Pearce: State Senate President;