Journalists’ Roundtable

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Local Arizona journalists discuss the week’s top news stories.

Steve Goldstein: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Steve Goldstein in for Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Alia Rau of the Arizona Republic, Dennis Welch of the Arizona Guardian, and Jim Small of the Arizona Capitol Times. A lot of things have been going on with Attorney General Tom Horne this week. Campaign finance violations, accusations. What can you tell us?

Jim Small: Basically we know the FBI is looking into Tom Horne supposedly into campaign dealing from the 2010 election that involved his campaign and possible coordination with an independent expenditure group run by a former campaign volunteer who worked on his campaign in the primary, then they raised about a half million dollars in the general. Used that to run attack ads against his democratic opponent. From one of the things that's drawing scrutiny is the fact that his brother-in-law gave $115,000 to that independent committee to help air ads. You're not supposed to have any coordination or collaboration. The allegations at least that were filed by an assistant Attorney General out of the Tucson office say in fact there was coordination and collaboration.

Steve Goldstein: Dennis, how is he going to respond?

Dennis Welch: I thought the way he responded initially was fantastic. The guy has some scandal skills. He came out and he used his accusers' words against him. He quoted newspaper articles saying this person had no direct knowledge of this coordination, this kind of stuff. I thought it was a really effective way, aggressive way to come after it and to hit a story like that. But I'm really fascinated to see how this is going to play out. The way we first learned about it this week, we have looked at assistant Attorney General that was supposedly the whistle blower but we found out yesterday and this morning that in fact the FBI had been looking into him even before that. So I'm really fascinated to see how is this going to play out. If he's guilty of this stuff this is serious stuff for the top law man in the state to be dealing with.

Jim Small: It begs the question. If the FBI has been looking into this for a month before the complaint was even filed and the complaint was, you know, when it was filed it was shuttled off to the FBI as part of the, oh, yeah, you guys are already looking at this stuff, it begs the question as to what they are actually looking at. These are state campaign finance law violations, not the kind of stuff the FBI gets involved in typically. They get involved in political corruption, things like. That we talked to some federal prosecutors, Paul Charlton, who said this doesn't seem like these pittly little state campaign finance violations aren't the kinds of things you typically see the FBI or Department of Justice waste its resources on.

Steve Goldstein: Follow up on what Dennis had to say. Were you surprised he was as aggressive as he was.

Alia Rau: Ya but you wouldn't expect anything less of him either. He has to give an answer. I think he responded to the charges there, but like Dennis said, now we have a question of allegations that may have been made a month before this employee who Horn said the reason he made the allegations was because he was potentially being fired. So it's a question of what else are we going to see, where is it coming from and what does one have to say about that?

Dennis Welch: Look at the last lawmaker that the Feds were looking into. Richard Miranda. They just -- he's facing real hard time. To Jim's point, they don't normally waste their time with little state campaign finance stuff out there. Particularly now there's a lot of it -- maybe looking at something a lot broader than that. Really big problem for the top law man in the state.

Steve Goldstein: What I'm most curious about, I don't know if you know anything about one of his accusers, the accuser we knew about, Don Dibus. Because it seems like he's been involved in other things in the past. State treasurer's office. Do you have any background on that?

Jim Small: Ya, he in 2006 when state treasurer David Peterson resigned amid allegations of theft and impropriety in his office Don was brought in to basically negotiate a settlement payment from I think from like a claim they had made in another suit. They negotiated with the A.G.'s office, Terry Goddard at the time. Treasury staff said they didn't need to pay that money. DIVUS negotiated a $2 million payment to Goddard's office and that ended up being subject of an investigation action kicked off an investigation into Goddard by Arpaio. Part of the thing we saw a while a lot of especially back then was everyone investigating everyone else, all conflicted out of everything else going on. It was part of a morass of investigations at the time. But it was interesting, we heard from a couple of people this guy seems to pop up when there's scandal going on you have seen Don's name pop up a number of times in the last two decades.

Steve Golstein: The term the Republic used was Zelig but I also think a Forrest Gump a little bit as well. Anything down on Don Divas?

Dennis Welch: No, I was just going to say don't you just love Arizona politics? You know, it's really the history of scandal. Jim just laid it out there. Five, six years. Great.

Steve Goldstein: Not to put anyone on the spot, I'll start with you Alia. Next step on this? Tom Horne, should we expect him to keep fighting or stay in office?

Alia Rau: I think he will keep fighting. It's too early to question whether he would leave office or step down. I think the question now is what do we hear? Where is the information coming from, what's the next allegation? That's what we're waiting for.

Dennis Welch: This guy, he may not look the part, but he's a fighter. He's not going to give up. You saw the way he responded and we have all covered him for a number of years and the guy is tough. He took out a campaign in the the primary he was supposed to lose to Andy Thomas. He's going to fight this all the way.

Jim Small: I agree 100%. That's exactly what we saw the other day when he held that press conference to refute the charges was the same kind of firebrand Tom Horne we saw on the campaign trail in 2010 where he really just focused on going after a guy who had no problem playing dirty, going after him. That was certainly a hard-fought race, one of the dirtiest of the year.

Dennis Welch: That was really hard, emotionally exhausting race for everybody involved on the two sides. Mr. Horne was definitely a bare knuckled brawler.

Steve Goldstein: One other thing on Tom Horne, Alia I'll start with you again on this. Horn until not that long ago was a Democrat. I wonder, when it comes to scandal like this, is there any feeling that maybe Tom Horne is someone in the party they would drop sooner than someone else?

Alia Rau: I would say there's been a strained relationship between him and the governor absolutely. We saw that with 1070. He's taken a back seat role in that despite his desire it seems like to get involved with that. I think that's definitely possible.

Dennis Welch: I think a lot of the Republicans in the party have always been skeptical of this transformation of Tom Horne as whether he is this true Republican that he says he is now because not long ago he was a really far left Democrat, part of the nucleus club, all of that. There's always been a bit of skepticism among Republicans when he switched over.

Jim Small: We saw certainly in the campaign a couple of years ago and at the legislature, even back in the late '90s and 2000, pro-choice, anti-school choice. He had a voting record that I think he tried to distance himself from a little bit as he's moved up the ladder in Republican politics. Certainly the kinds of things that are misgiving for rank and file Republicans.

Steve Goldstein: Let's move to the continuing saga of representative Daniel Paterson. What happened this week and what areas of the capital does he have access to?

Dennis Welch: He doesn't have a whole lot of access, any more than reporters have at this point. And really the general public. To get anywhere in the building had hey to have security to open up the doors for him and what not. This is just -- part of a whole series of events that has been playing out as Democrats are trying to get rid of a guy who used to be a member of their party amid this ethics investigation, amid all this scandal and accusations. The week started with really incendiary report filed with the house had all sorts of accusations, that he's a bully, he's rude, he uses his office for personal favors. Really nasty stuff out there. And it ended with him basically stripped of his office, his assistant. He already doesn't have any committees. So he's kind of out there in no man's land.

Steve Goldstein: And Alia, Representative Jack Campbell sent a letter to Andy Tobin asking for more security measures and would like Dan Paterson to no longer even be a member of the house. Where do we stand on that?

Alia Rau: Jack Campbell had asked for some additional things. He wanted pat-down when he came into the building, security escort on to the floor. I think legally they have to let him show up to vote. He has the right to vote he's been elected they have to let him do that but I don't know maybe he could do that with an armed guard sitting next to him is what Campbell is thinking. Chad has called to expel him. The Republicans had a counter call, asked to give him one more week to let him respond to the allegations against him. He has until Tuesday to do that.

Steve Goldstein: Are you getting the feeling a majority perhaps of the people the house think he's dangerous and maybe scared of him?

Alia Rau: That's a hard question. I'm not sure it would be fair to say a majority. That has definately been voiced by several people, mostly Democrats, but a few Republican women in particular who have mentioned similar fears. A majority I don't know. Some, absolutely.

Jim Small: Ya that was kind of the constant refrain we heard this week once that report came out, it was almost instantly we think this guy is dangerous. We think steps A through F should be taken to keep him from being a danger. I don't know if they necessarily have any proof. I think it's all supposition. There's a lot of things in the report that frankly a lot of people knew about some of the erratic or aggressive behavior, intimidation tactician he employed. One argument is that, well, in domestic abusers it's all about control. When they lose control they can lash out. They are kind of trying to connect the dots and -- the realty is they don't like the guy and they want to get rid of him. Democrats especially are voicing these concerns, out of a personal and political nature as much as it may be for safety concerns.

Steve Goldstein: What did Paterson say to defend himself?

Jim Small: Patterson said that he called these claims utterly ridiculous is what he told one reporter. I don't know. He's certainly had a history. This is the second time he's been charged with domestic violence. During his divorce there were allegations he had a stockpile of weapons. I know he talks often about being a member of the NRA, so he's certainly a guy who is not a stranger to firearms but at the same time I don't think that that necessarily equates to being certain somebody is going to come in and be an actual danger in the building.

Dennis Welch: I was going to say too, if you get back to this report, some of the stuff that's in there is just really incendiary. If anybody at this table would write it, we probably wouldn't have been allowed to write this in news stories. It's unattributed, hearsay, rumor. One thing Mr. Paterson will say there is not a lot of proof. He's also said he hasn't been afforded his due process, that he's waiting for the ethics hearing to move forward. Those are all great sound bites. I think he's missing something here. That this is not a legal process. This is a purely political process and people want him of there, for whatever reason that is. They want him out. This was the opportunity he gave them there. This is a lot of grudges going back a long time against this guy. He's made a lot of enemies and it's coming back on him.

Steve Goldstein: We were talking to Chad Campbell this week. He said he can't figure out why house speaker Andy Tobin won't just go along with the Democrats and get rid of Daniel Patterson.

Alia Rau: I don't know exactly. I think the clear answer from the Republicans is they want to assure he's had every possible opportunity to respond given that due process. We had Kirk Adams on twitter saying the same thing. Just give him that extra week saying there's no harm in it. Let him do that and then we'll decide. I think his fate's inevitable.

Steve Golstein: Is Paterson truly a Democrat now?

Denis Welch: He says he is. He's changed his party registration. So he is definitely -- frankly, yeah. I don't think the democrats want him as part of his party. It's part of the reason I think Mr. Campbell is pushing so hard to get rid of him. He wants to end this conversation. He wants to put this away put some distance behind him and get away from this scandal. Still be seen as a thing involving a Democrat.

Jim Small: That's absolutely part of it. You look at the contrast between what happened in this situation and with the Scott Bundgaard situation. The way the respective parties acted in the caucuses acted it's night and day. I think you could make the argument that maybe the Democrats in this case are doing what they are doing because it is political and they are trying to excise a member that they don't like, but at the same time just from a pure P.R. standpoint you have one group that says, hey, this guy got accused of doing something really bad. Let's investigate him and punish him, appeared the other group that says we think he's the victim in this case, which is what you saw with Russell Pearce and Scott Bundgaard.

Dennis Welch: What's fascinating too is you have this bit of hysteria at the capitol where lawmakers are saying we're bringing guns to the capitol now. You've got Mr. Campbell saying he has been a loose cannon all this time. One of the questions I think for Mr. Campbell, look, if you knew this stuff was going on for this long why did you wait until now to get rid of him? That's an interesting question and a fair question.

Steve Goldstein: Let's move on to the subject of contraceptive legislation. What has changed with Debbi Lesko's bill that went down in defeat, coming back with changes. That had been gutted?

Alia Rau: Not gutted but significantly changed. We haven't seen the amendments yet so this is based on what she has said, what lawmakers are promised. Basically the deal is she couldn't change -- they couldn't get them switched so this version would slightly change what is currently allowed in law and only allow religious based groups, hospitals, schools, St. Vincent de Paul to opt out of providing that contraception health care coverage to their employees.

Steve Goldstein: what's been, obviously question, so controversial about the original bill?

Alia Rau: There was a debate over who was most impacted. Employees would be left without a choice. We heard Republicans stand up on the floor and say, okay, this is about freedom of religion. What about the rights of these employees?

Steve Goldstein: Jim?

Jim Small: I think the interesting thing about this whole procedure, it's one of those political maneuvers that relies on trust. Debbi Lesko has to convince two Republicans in the Senate, take my word for it, you have to vote for the bill the way you don't like it, the way you voted against it, but please vote for it, send it back to me in the house and I promise I won't say, I'll send it to the governor this way. I'll send it to a conference committee and put these amendments on there. Sometimes trust can be a fleeting thing at the capitol, especially on an issue like this where people want it make sure they aren't getting hung out to dry. It seems she has convinced a couple of Senators to do that. Gotten promises for a couple more when the bill comes back they will vote for it in its narrow form. I'll imagine it will happen but it's always a little bit of a gamble in this kind of situation.

Dennis Welch: I can't wait to see how people vote on this. One of the things that have driven a lot of what's happened this year is the new district maps. These Republicans that are on the fence on this thing are going to say, is this something I'm taking a risk on in voting for, something that's so controversial, when I got to go back and in a much more competitive environment a year not so dominated Republican in a district there's probably more Democrats in.

Steve Goldstein: What I was struck by was some of the stories, having read about this bill, the various moderate Republicans -- which I didn't think existed at the capitol any more. Republicans who are against this bill are considered moderate now?

Alia Rau: I think we found some last year with some of the immigration bills. That little group really killed some of those immigration bills last year. They were quiet. You'd ask them, are you organized, do you have a group, they would deny it and hide in their little corners. I think with this one they came out and they you know I didn't get phone calls yelling, you called me moderate, this year, which happened last year.

Dennis Welch: It's telling about the change in political environment. They aren't in the shadows any more they are much more willing to say I'm a bit more moderate then some of my contemporaries.

Jim Small: Although to be fair moderate is a relative term. You look at the caucuses, a guy like Steve Yarborough is tagged as a moderate which is just really funny when he's been down at the capitol for a number of years. This guy is fiscally conservative, socially conservative. The only break he has had was on an immigration issue. Suddenly he's not a Republican any more. It's really kind of comical.

Steve Goldstein: So Alia, Where do we go from here? Doo think it will get the votes?

Alia Rau: I do. There's always an issue of trust but all you have is trust in some of these situations and I do think they trust each other with situations like this. I think we'll get the votes, we'll see them and it will be amended.

Steve Goldstein: Jim what do you think?

Jim Small: I don't see any reason why that wouldn't happen. Representative Lesko she is a caucus officer. If you canned trust the whip in the other chamber it doesn't speak well for the institution.

Dennis Welch: I agree. It will pass, but we'll see what the governor does with this. She has been more than willing this year appeared last year to whip out the veto stamp and use it. Something like this I could see her doing that.

Steve Goldstein: Speaking of the governor, one of her nominations for the board of regents, Greg Patterson, former lawmaker, generated some controversy, especially among Democrats and it looked like his nomination was not going to get a hearing next week. That has changed. What can you tell us about anything behind the scenes of Greg Patterson's nomination?

Dennis Welch: For what we hear is a lot of people in the business community are upset about his potential appointment to the Arizona board of regents. He's been a frequent critic of that group. He has been critical of the university system. He doesn't think that -- he thinks a lot of the academic major should be changed. He's critical for people hiking tuition rates. He's made a lot of enemies with his blog. It's read by a lot of the capitol folks. He's been critics of a lot of people including people sitting at this table, including myself. I think it's an interesting pick. There's a lot of controversy about it, but put it in some sort of context he wouldn't be the first loud critic of an organization who has been asked or co-opted to join it, which I think would be an interesting dynamic. Now you're taking a loud critic voice putting it into the situation, it kind of silences that. Now he has a piece of that. He's going to have a say in what that group does.

Alia Rau: He's already said, if he gets on there he won't write about them anymore, which some people may decide that's worth it.

Steve Goldstein: He said he's met with Michael Crow, some of his criticisms are now in the past.

Jim Small: Clearly I think you walk back a couple of the things he wrote in the republic. Maybe I shouldn't have included Dr. Crow into this thing where he attacked the university presidents and would have just left it with the U of A president who is no longer at the U of A so that's ok that's fair game now.

Dennis Welch: It's healthy. It's a 12-member board. It's healthy to have that divergent point of view that makes people reevaluate everything. It wouldn't be the end of the world like some are maybe suggesting with the way they reacted to this potential appointment.

Steve Goldstein: The man who's been in charge of whether Greg Patterson's nomination goes forward, Rich Crandall, was not going to run against Russell Pearce but he is going to run for the senate again.

Jim Small: Ya it turns out after he announced he wasn't going to run again, he said I made that announcement and people came out of the woodwork. They called me, education people, lobbyists and folks who were involved in the public school arena which is you know where he's very active and said, boy, Senator, we don't want you to leave. We want you to stick around. Is there anywhere else you can run? He looked at the new map, said, this district next door I could run in. My kids go to school there, it's got part of my current district. I can move and then we can run in that district. The only person he has to run against is a freshman representative Republican who already said he's going to run for the Senate and isn't going to back down. So we'll see he'll make a run at it.

Steve Goldstein: And Alia, Rich Crandall is one of the few who may fit the category of moderate Republican. Were you surprised he decided to switch districts?

Alia Rau: I don't think so. He said he did not want a nasty campaign, didn't want to run against Russell Pearce. But I think there was always that thought that maybe he would switch districts and run. He's pretty active. He's done a lot of education issues he still wants to work on.

Dennis Welch: He's one of the more well known, respected lawmakers down there. He will be running against a guy if he decided not to run for election people would say, who? He probably, Mr. Fillmore probably wouldn't be getting a lot of phone calls like Mr. Crandall did. That doesn't mean he doesn't have a chance to win the race or anything like that but voters will have a very stark contrast if someone, Mr. Crandall, somewhat moderate, and Mr. Fillmore has had some ideas all over the place. He supports the idea of racinos. Supports creation of a bank of Arizona. Some ideas like that that I think you would never see these kinds of ideas come from Mr. Crandall.

Steve Goldstein: And Jim let's rap up with this topic. Former Governor Napolitano was in town as part of her duties as homeland security secretary. If in fact President Obama loses in November does Janet Napolitano have a future in Arizona as a politician? Does she want it?

Jim Small: I think there's certainly the opportunity, certainly her role in the administration would end in that scenario, but even if President Obama gets reelected you're probably going to see a lot of transition among cabinet level folks who say, okay, I did the first term, going to get through part of the second and get out. A return to Arizona is certainly possible. I don't know what the future is going to hold. Democrats were obviously stung when she left here and turned control of the state over to Jan Brewer, but they say time heals all wounds and so if you're looking two years down the road wondering if something is going to open up she would certainly be a viable name I think.

Dennis Welch: Democrats here were stung, bitter about the whole thing. Like a breakup, you know, they are looking back at it saying, she wasn't -- we would love to have her back. Things have just been so terrible for them since she left.

Steve Goldstein: What might she run for if she comes back.

Alia Rau: Good question. We have a gubernatorial race coming up. She has a lot to say about immigration now. That would certainly keep us entertained.

Steve Goldstein: Alia, Jim, Dennis. Thank you so much, all of you. Join us Monday on "Arizona Horizon." Plans for a new office towner Tempe. What it says about the valley real estate market. And a plan to visit Arizona's recall law is getting bipartisan support. Those stories Monday at 5:30 and 10:00. Tuesday the work of the valley permaculture alliance is the focus. Wednesday meet a researcher who has created his own working version of the star trek tricorder. That's it for now. Have a great weekend. Ted will be back on Monday.

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