Journalists’ Roundtable

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Arizona journalists discuss the week’s top news stories.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic, Howard Fischer of capital media services, and Steve Goldstein of KJZZ radio. A bill to expand corporate disclosure requirements is getting some attention there at the Capitol. What are we talking about here, Mary Jo?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Introduced by Eddie Farnsworth with the assistance of Tom Horn, and it will require corporations to disclose who donates to them and to the packs that they create. And we can thank this last summer's recall election of Senator Russell Pearce, as well as an attempted recall as well as others, to oust the two men, and we could not find out who was giving them money.

Howard Fischer: And this was the outgrowth of the 2010 court ruling united citizens. Corporations are people, too, and I feel much warmer knowing that. Last year the legislature passed a bill saying that's fine but we want corporations to disclose where the money is going. That's the law. They never thought of asking for the donations because where does coca-cola get their donations, you know? My diet coke purchases. What happened is a bunch of corporations sprung up, saying, we're giving, but because there is no requirement for donations we don't have to tell you where the money is coming from even though we are sham corporations. So what it seeks to do is define what's a sham corporation. For example, if, in fact, 180 days before the election you spend the money on the elections and not the corporation, you are a political action committee and you should report.

Ted Simons: It sounds like a liquor license here. You have got to serve enough food to be a restaurant or else you are a bar.

Steve Goldstein: One of interesting things that horn had to say, if they discover the violation, when they discover, it they are not going wait until after the election when a fine is meaningless. That could be interesting.

Ted Simons: So, correct me if I am wrong, right now, you have to file, or register and notify one day after the election? And then it's got to be what, for $5,000 for state elections, $2.5 for legislation, and legislature --

Howard Fischer: It's within a certain, number of dates after the expenditure you have to file, if you hit these.

Ted Simons: After the expenditure.

Howard Fischer: Right, and that was, that's a year old law.

Ted Simons: Right.

Howard Fischer: But it was the contribution part that was driving folks crazy. Is that, is that it was not so much where the money was going. We flew that, that the x, y, z corporation, I remember it was spending money to recall Russell Pearce. We saw some of those ads. And but, what we did not know was who was behind it. Because they said as a corporation, we're not required to disclose where the donors come from.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I guess that you can thank the hot contests that happened in 2011, and in an off year. It's going to pave the way, and this bill probably has a good chance of getting through the legislature. This will pave the way for more disclosure in the 2012 election cycle.

Ted Simons: It's interesting you said it has a good chance to get through because you got Tom Horn, Ken Bennett, Farnsworth, and these are not relatively conservative folks saying, we want more transparency here. And that seems interesting.

Steve Goldstein: Well, I would think this means bipartisan is on the way, but one thing, there's a photo that we might all remember from the night Russell Pearce lost the election. One side was Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the other was Eddie Farnsworth, so as Mary Jo Pitzl mentioned, this has so much to do with the Russell Pearce election. I don't know if we mentioned this yet, but the Phoenix mayoral race came up. It seemed to be less significant. Pearce is the focus of this.

Howard Fischer: There is going to be some opposition. The Goldwater institute believes that despite citizens united, you cannot force disclosure. There is a long tradition of anonymous speech. Thomas Paine, the Federalist papers, and their contention is that, is that maybe you don't want to let it be known that you are contributing to such a cause because of repercussions but the citizens of united case suggests in an ideal world you would have no limits but full disclosure and let the public make the decisions.

Ted Simons: Right.

Howard Fischer: The same thing we're going to talk about with Terry Proud's bill.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about Terry Proud's bill and some other ideas regarding campaign donation, and David Gallon has an idea here, I believe. The max contributions for a legislative race would increase to 5,000? Something along these lines?

Howard Fischer: There are two bills, one which increases the contribution to 5,000 from 240 something.

Ted Simons: 488 or something like that.

Howard Fischer: Right. It goes up every year, and statewide races will be 10,000, but there is another bill that says, no limits that, if you are an individual, if I want to give 100,000, so we can have, you know, the Ted for Governor campaign, I can do that. Now, she has an interesting point here, but she's only got half the bill. And I don't personally have a problem with unlimited donations if you have immediate filing, we have a system in place now that you should be able to file within 24 hours. If you want to take $100,000 for me, that's fine, but let's make sure the public knows about that.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Right, but, I think that how he's going is that Representative Proud's bill just raises the caps. It doesn't do anything to address a more timely reporting period, which a lot of folks are talking about is, is, it's, it's -- you can do it, we live in an electronic age and what's the big deal and why do we have to wait for weeks after an election or a donation is made to find out who made it.

Steve Goldstein: Sarcasm here, I think what the voting public wants is more money in elections, and certainly a legislative election, so it doesn't partly.

Howard Fischer: But, it doesn't -- look, the money is there. It's there, 527, PACS, it's there, and the issue is where is it coming from? Again, if you are not embarrassed, that you are taking $100,000 from a guy who just got indicted, fine.

Ted Simons: But, there is also -- we mentioned the Gallon proposal, and that one says there is no public record request, no idea to make public a conversation between a lawmaker and a resident, a citizen that is intended to be secret or private. That kind of -- do we have an umbrella here?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I'm not sure what the impetus is because right now from personal experience when you request to lawmakers emails, often that will be rejected under name of legislative privilege because if it pertains to deliberations on ongoing legislation, then you can't have it. So, I guess this is to cover what, somebody, somebody saying I want to, to just have coffee or you want to go bowling this weekend?

Howard Fischer: And the issue is, there is a small precedence. There is case law that says that, that in certain cases of confidentiality, you can withhold records. We do this with personnel records already. I get concerned, obviously, as a journalist, I believe in the absolute First Amendment. I don't like carving out exceptions. Who gets to carve out the exceptions, who gets to determine whether the email to Representative Gowin is, in fact, something where we're saying hey, buddy, if we give you 500 bucks, can we get that bill?

Ted Simons: That's the point. Everything we're talking about is shadowed by this. Everything that I say to you, Representative Fischer, I want kept secret so it will be kept secret.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The point is that if, if, if either you are going to call it private or deemed, well, this is part of the deliberative process, and that can be cloaked, and then it's up to the lawmaker, and his or her discretion to make that public. It's very hard, the bottom line, it's really hard to get to this stuff, unless the lawmaker is willing to share that with you.

Howard Fischer: And that becomes the issue, and if you don't know the document, if you know a specific document exists, it's easier, but when you make the request that we make, we would like to see all your email, even from this particular lobbyist, and they say, well, you know, that's part of our deliberative process, and the problem becomes if we had all the money in the world we could take these cases to court. You are talking 20,000 to bring a public records lawsuit.

Mary Jo Pitzl: But, these are the people who make the laws. City Council, you know, a lot of my colleagues at the Arizona Republic, you know, routinely get emails from public officials who serve at the city council or county level. But, can't do that at the state level. It's harder to pierce that because these are the guys that make the rules.

Ted Simons: And interesting. Let's keep it moving here regarding the pension system. The idea to fix the fix has been around a bit here, but now, it sounds like we have got the bill out there, and basically, it says what? The 53-47, which is a great idea, not so great an idea?

Mary Jo Pitzl: This was, this was a tactic that was, that was slipped into the budget late last session, and it's a budget balancing measure. It was not necessarily intended to be part of pension reform. And it said, it changed the, the then current contribution levels for the state and employees each kicked in 50% towards that employee's retirement contribution. And, and this altered it to 47% for the state. 53% for the state worker. That triggered a lawsuit. That's in court. And the judge is deliberating on it now, and over the, right before Christmas, some of the Republican leadership came out and said, you know what, we have got extra money in the budget, and this wasn't such a good idea, and we'll be Santa Claus and we want to go back to the 50-50.

Howard Fischer: But this could, actually, spread because they also affected the elective officials retirement plan, and the corrections officer, public safety, and there were separate lawsuits on that. Now, what, what their argument is, is that, that we have a contract that, that we, we signed, in essence, when we became, and we're entitled to certain raises. We're entitled to benefits. And here's, here's what gets real interesting. You know who is in the elected official's retirement plan? All the judges in this state. And so, when this kind of stuff goes to court, the judges are going to say wait, we have a constitutional provision that says pensions or contracts?

Ted Simons: And it sounds like the lawmakers are looking at the court and looking at the arguments and saying, we don't have too much of a chance here, let's right the wrong and move on.

Steve Goldstein: As Mary Jo said, John was very outspoken about this. The question becomes, I guess, if there is an extra 60 million, is the figure that I have heard that the state would have to come up with, where does that come from? Does that come out of the surplus?

Howard Fischer: There is a surplus there, and they could, do what they wanted to retroactively. That becomes part of the issue, and how, how quickly, it may be the savings that the Governor thinks that she is going to get by, by getting folks to leave the personnel system, and merit protection.

Ted Simons: We talked about that last week.

Howard Fischer: Yes.

Ted Simons: And with the Governor there week, as well.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And it's also worth noting that although the lawmakers are proposing this, it's not part of Governor Brewer's budget. So, if this thing gets through the legislature, and up to her desk, it's a little unclear what she will do.

Ted Simons: Steve, University Presidents appeared before the legislature, and Michael Crow at ASU, knock it off with the micromanagement.

Steve Goldstein: Not a big surprise. He has said, we have gone along with the cuts, we have made certain, John, maybe the cuts made us better and more streamlined, but now they are saying with a surplus, we need some of this money back, and even Fred Duval, the outgoing chair, said we played along, been nice but now in order for us for avoid more tuition hikes, and allow innovation to take hold again, and have ASU and U of A become moneymakers, we need a bit more money back.

Howard Fischer: And it goes beyond that. Part of what, what President Crow was talking about, is the fact that, that as you cut back and raise tuition, and make the universities less affordable, he said look, let us keep the tuition and maybe make the state responsible for financial aid, and, and that way, you know, we can build our universities, and not block out the middle class, and you, and fix it that way. And the, the -- it used to be the university's probably got somewhere near 25% of the state budget years ago, and now, we're somewhere probably down in the teens. And, and I recognize some of that is, is, we're spending a lot of money on corrections, Arizona health care cost containment system ballooned, but the question, is do you believe in a university system? Now, there are lawmakers who would be just as happy if this were a private system, and ASU were just some other corporation.

Steve Goldstein: One of Michael Crow's tactics is a term that came out of Silicon Valley 20 year ago, just tech transfer, which is a case where the universities are utilized and it's about coming up with great ideas that the universities can get to market faster, and then bringing in more money for the state. He's all about bringing in the funds.

Ted Simons: And, and investment models, think of the university as an investment model, and I think that speaks to some down, in but again, there are folks in the legislature who see the universities as a big problem, don't they?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Oh, yeah, I think that that's clear, they took almost a $200 million hit to their budge last year, and one of the bigger, if not the biggest percentage cuts of any of the agencies that were reduced.

Howard Fischer: And this becomes the same fight over public schools. There have been proposals for vouchers.

Ted Simons: Right.

Howard Fischer: That once you graduate from high school, we will give you a voucher, which you could spend at ASU or Grand Canyon or anywhere else. And that's their way of, of, of maybe starving the system.

Ted Simons: All right, democrats released their plan, their 2012 plan, and it's, it's an interesting plan. I am sure a lot of work was put into it, and will fully of this get, although we talk about it? Because how much is going to get heard and considered down there?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Um, well, given that the democrats are the minority and, and that the Republicans have a supermajority in both chambers, you know, it's probably slim, very, very slim chances, and there are some areas, and, and the, the craftier democrats will work with Republicans and let the Republicans, you know, carry the bill, maybe become a cosigner or, or a lesser sponsor on a bill. And but, the kinds of things, what you are talking about are things, that that sometimes just, just follow along the partisan divide. So, more money for schools, and well, you be, the Republicans have signaled there is not going to be, you know, much more money for school beyond inflation growth.

Ted Simons: And no private prisons?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Right.

Ted Simons: That's, that's pretty much --

Howard Fischer: well, again, that's, that's the problem, rather than looking for the middle ground, you know, this is a statement of flying the flag, and here's what we believe in, and that's very nice, and if there were more than nine democrats in the Senate and 20 democrats in the house, we would talk.

Ted Simons: But there are, and Steve, CPS reforms, incentives for small business, those things can get some conversations going.

Steve Goldstein: This will, and the cps, the Governor has asked for a bit more money based on the task force, and one thing that I want to go back to, though, is how things might change, at least with the tone, actions speak louder than words. But, I talked to Senate President Steve Pierce before the session started, and he said, you know, there are Democrats that have pretty good ideas. He mentioned Kyrsten Sinema, who is not there anymore, but there are a couple people I would like to work with, and he said does that mean the bills will get heard? He didn't say yes on that one, but he did say he wanted to hear the Democrats' ideas. The ones in which they agree, small business, maybe cps, and they can come together, and otherwise, unlikely.

Ted Simons: All right, Howie, as the child of the 1960s of the program, medical marijuana, ordered to proceed.

Howard Fischer: Yes, and this, I think, was expected, you know, there were two lawsuits filed over this, and the voters passed the measure said you get 2.5 pounds of marijuana every two weeks if you have a doctor's recommendation. The state issued those permits, and they envisioned a system of dispensaries. What happened is the, they wrote to the U.S. attorney, then U.S. attorney, and said, can you guarantee that our people will not be prosecuted for simply processing the paperwork under the facilitation displays. The U.S. attorney will not give immunity to anybody, so the Governor said we will in the issue these, went to Federal court. The judge threw it out as meaningless. And meanwhile some would be dispensary operators went to court and said, we want an order for her to follow the law. We also think some of the rules that will humble enacted, some of the restrictions are illegal, and the judge said gee, Governor, what part of obeying the law do you not understand? He said, very clearly, the public said within 120 days, after enactment, you will have a medical marijuana plan, and you did not do it.

Steve Goldstein: But, some of the rules that were involved, I think this was interesting, each people who helped write the actual proposition, he said that, that the judge's ruling may not work out that well because he would like there to be standards as to who can open a dispensary.

Howard Fischer: But the problem is they did not put that in the statute. He would like -- one of the rules is, is that, that they enact you have to be a resident for three years. Fine, if they put it in proposition 203, you could have done that, and it's not there. And you cannot just pull this thing out of some body part and say, we're going to do it.

Ted Simons: And we should say, and, and I'm not going to go any further with that line of reasoning, but we should say, that the Governor now can accept applications, and we're just not going to issue licenses quite yet.

Steve Goldstein: Not quite yet.

Ted Simons: How far does that go?

Steve Goldstein: We'll see if she is going to go with an appeal on things, and not to be too funny here, but if Howie is a child of the 1960s, he should mellow out and see how this goes.

Ted Simons: Good luck with that one. [Laughter]

Howard Fischer: As soon as I get my drugs --

Ted Simons: As soon as he gets rid of that tie, too. Redistricting commission. We got the final maps, and it sounds like the final meeting, everyone was just getting along famously?

Mary Jo Pitzl: It was one of the better performances. If you think of this as sort of the final chapter in this whole segment of their ordeal because they are constituted to exist for ten years. But, they gave their final tweaks to the map, and wanted to make sure statements for the record about how wonderful or how horrible these maps were, and the most outspoken comments came from the two Republican commissioners, who feel that they were outvoted and outfoxed at every turn, and wound up voting no on the maps. They felt pretty much the commission delivered the Democrats a big gift.

Howard Fischer: And this was built-up frustrations going with the first days that we covered the commission when Colleen Mathis, as the independent, supposedly the non partisan voted with the Democrats to say that the Republicans, no, you don't get your choice of attorneys, and voted with the Democrats to hire strategic 'til Tre, which caused Obama to do the mapping, and they feel that, you know, that at every turn, that, that things were done in a way to hurt them.

Ted Simons: Let me ask this question, because we keep hearing that, and those accusations are very strong, and the Republican Party in general is very locked up behind those accusations. Ok, got the accusations. Let's look at the maps. Are we seeing Democratic Party map, dream maps?

Steve Goldstein: Well, I think it was Scott Freeman, the commission member who pointed out district 9 saying, this is a tossup am this leans Democrat because Terry Goddard would be Governor, President Barack Obama would have won Arizona. That's the prime example. You are saying it's competitive, that's democratic.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think a lot of this fight, and a lot of that anger derives from the new district 9, for Congress, as well as C.V.L. Once you get beyond that, there are four of the nine districts that are pretty slam dunks for the Republicans. Two that are slam dunks for Democrats, three tossups, and nine and one are called tossups. You know, we'll see.

Howard Fischer: It's in the eye of the beholder. I talked to Dan, who used to be here in Arizona, now working for the national Republican congressional committee. He said that he thinks that cd-9 could go Republican. So, whose numbers do you believe?

Steve Goldstein: I do want to go briefly back to the fox thing, having spoken to a lot of strategists the last few weeks, they are saying, the Democrats outfox the Republicans. These are not just Republicans saying that.

Mary Jo Pitzl: A teeter totter, but a lot of the complaints, and if there is a lawsuit, I think that's a big if, will focus on the process, not the outcome. We tend to want to look at the maps, and the maps still are going to favor Republicans given the voting patterns in this state. But, there are arguments about the process. Did they respect the communities of interest? Is the population really as equal as it can be in each district? Did they, well, there is not much dispute about the voting rights act.

Ted Simons: And congressional district 9 of course the new district, David Schapira is announcing about that. That could be interesting, especially if someone else decides to get in.

Howard Fischer: David Schapira says what he has as opposed to Kyrsten Sinema, who jumped in earlier, is the, "hometown advantage." He's always lived in Tempe, Kyrsten will have to move into the district there. Kyrsten has a lot of national contacts, has a lot of national money. Done stuff for the White House. I think that she will run rings around him. There are so many races people have to wonder do I get in figuring we'll mix it up? Does Speaker Tobin get into the race figuring you have Gosar and Ron Gould, and Paul Babeu, and figure well, maybe I could come up with 26% of the vote. And that, those are the calculus that people do.

Ted Simons: And we mentioned, you know, the Democratic side because it's that -- that's a high profile primary. On the Republican side we're trying to figure out if Ben Quayle will be the candidate over there.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yeah. He is in that district. The way it is drawn, and I think that all the Republicans are waiting to see what he's going to do and again, he has said that he will run in the district that most mirrors, has the most number of constituents as those he currently represents. If that's the case he would run in district 6.

Ted Simons: Against David Schweikert.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes, in a primary.

Ted Simons: And that can be as nasty as the one of the Democrats.

Mary Jo Pitzl: That hasn't happened, and Ben Quayle is saying, stay in district 9 of course and you go to six, you don't have us.

Ted Simons: Steve, the President will visit the Phoenix area next week. Do we know where he's going to be and how long he's going to be there?

Steve Goldstein: I have heard he's going to be in the South Mountain area, but I don't know that we confirmed where that's going to be, but I thought it was interesting today, the story that he's been talking about, international tourism. And I am wondering if he's possibly going to bring that up as far as being in the area, the fact that Arizona is a great place for tourism. I want to go back to the political practices, the idea I have heard analysts say that while this shows that Arizona can be competitive, and I think that we have heard that before, and I guess that I'm trying to figure out concerning 2012 we were not sure, a democratic year or not, but it doesn't seem to be one that President Barack Obama would shine in Arizona.

Ted Simons: It doesn't seem to be one, but Howie, these happen for a reason. They must have some polling or indication, unless they want to have a presence in the southwest to radiation to the other states.

Howard Fischer: I think that, well, you have got Arizona's primary coming up, and of course, he's coming to, ahead just to say hey, look, remember me? I'm the guy you have got to run against. And can Arizona be in play? A lot of it is going to depend on who is at the top. If you end up with Rick Santorum at the top of the ticket, somebody far off to the right, I think that Arizona could be in play, much the same way Bill Clinton was.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I wonder if those people have looked at those maps, especially on the congressional level, and maybe count those tossup districts like Scot Freeman does, all Democrats of course and maybe this might be a state that could tip democratic.

Ted Simons: Is that, is that -- is it realistic out there to think that Arizona could -- and again, a lot of Democrats are saying, as they always do, depends a lot on the Latino vote.

Steve Goldstein: Well, it does but one of the things we talked about with the Latino vote, two, one, not a monolith, and if you get people to register, you have to get them to the polls to vote, and we don't know that's going to happen. I am dubious, especially if Mitt Romney wins, which one would expect, that enough independence, we'll see him as moderate, but --

Howard Fischer: But, see, I think that Mary Jo Pitzl has the better idea, that Arizona doesn't pick up the presidential electors, but what you do is you pick up a cd-9 that, perhaps, you have got some chances elsewhere. Gabby runs, you hang onto two, and pick up one other district in there, and now you have got a real race. Perhaps you could see cd-1, and Patrick taking that back.

Ted Simons: We'll stoop it there, thanks for joining us, and Howie you can turn off your tie now. [Laughter]

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