Journalists’ Roundtable

More from this show

Local 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 "The Arizona Republic," Howard Fischer of "Capitol Media Services," and Jeremy Duda of "Arizona Capitol Times." More reaction to the President's immigration policy change as the state and country wait for the Supreme Court to make a decision on Senate Bill 1070. Let's start with the immigration directive, the prosecutorial priority from the President on down. Still some fallout from that?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Yes. Looks like the latest development from that is happening within the Republican Party. Last week the party spokesman, Shaynne Whitford, on another channel said at the convention, we Republicans need to sit down and take a look at this and figure out how we're going look at the people among us. In a way it was a call for a kinder, gentler treatment of immigration. Well, that percolated for a little bit and along comes a letter from the former Republican Party Chairman Randy Pohlan, saying that either Whitford has to go, say whether he agrees with the stance or disavow him.

Howard Fischer: Part of the problem the republicans have had, is that the President really did catch him flat-footed. Jon Kyl said, well, he did the right thing but the wrong way. To a certain extent Mitt Romney was going, well, now what do I say? Well, we need to do something, yeah, I'm going to staple a green card to any illegal immigrant who gets an advanced degree. You might not be able to get into the college and things like that. It really has created an issue. There are a lot of people who agree with the Dream Act. It had a majority vote in the Senate, it just didn't get the 60. It had passed the House. The President took the action which he had said he was going to take. Everyone plays this tape of him saying, I can't just overrule the law. The same interview he says, but I can prioritize who gets prosecuted. He did what he said he was going to do.

Ted Simons: Yet you have a couple of Republican hopefuls for Congress, incumbents both, going against each other, Schweikert and Quayle crawling all over each other saying, I'm going to stop this before it even starts.

Jeremy Duda: Quayle made some comments about a month ago he probably really regrets now. We need to secure the border and the violence is unacceptable and all this border stuff. Then later on he started talking about proposals that were similar to President Obama's. He basically says we might have to consider this. This week Schweikert teed off on him. He more likely said, we're glad he did a 180-degree shift on it.

Howard Fischer: Just last week we said, as long as they are in a primary, and we know who votes in the primary, they will keep shoving themselves to the right. Once they are not running for election, a la Jon Kyl, we really do need to address it and recognize the reality.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Howie, how do you explain, for people that aren't running for reelection, the Governor? She's out raising money for Jan-PAC, saying please send me money to help fight this directive from the President. I asked, what does that money go towards? It's like, to elect candidates. But how would that help to overturn a Presidential directive? It doesn't quite make sense, but in the broader scheme, a shift in immigration policy, enforce the border first, you need to get different Congresspeople.

Ted Simons: All this is happening and there's still a 60-day period where everyone the administration will try to help homeland security and they're going to get together and figure out the wherefores and whatnots. What about driver's licenses?

Howard Fischer: Back in 1996 Arizona passed a law that said you need to prove "legal presence" in order to get an Arizona driver's license. The President made it clear this is not amnesty. I am not granting anybody legal status. But I'm going to give them a federally issued card that allows them to work, which would seem to be legal presence. I talked to the motor vehicles division. We don't know. That's been the problem. MVD is trying to figure out what this presence means. If you have a permit to work in Arizona, is that legal presence?

Jeremy Duda: Plus the police officers standards and training board isn't sure what to do about this if 1070 is upheld. That is proof of legal residence, if you're pulled out and they have a reasonable suspicion that you're in the country illegally.

Mary Jo Pitzl: This reminds me of when SB 1070 was signed into law two years ago. All the questions, the people wondering how is this going to work out. We've somewhat been spared the answers to that because of the legal action. And there's been time to ponder this as we are awaiting a direction from the U.S. Supreme Court. I don't know how this directive is going to muddy the waters.

Howard Fischer: There will be a whole set of other issues that are going to come up. What about other issues other than driver's licenses? Including the issue of, for example, Arizona law says if you're not a legal resident, you don't get in-state tuition. Are you now a legal resident? Is it in-state or out-of-state? The implications are just fascinating. Then we get back to you, can the Congress overturn this.

Ted Simons: Probably. As we wait for the Supreme Court to make this decision, we are expecting it next week. Some say probably health care Monday and followed up by 1070. What did Ginsberg say? Those who know aren't talking, and those who are talking don't know.

Howard Fischer: That's exactly the issue. The question is, do they want to go out with a bang. The bang is not immigration, the bang is in health care. Part of the problem is procedural. Probably everybody knew the day they argued this back in April how they were going to vote, 62, the papers please provision, the other section busy making a state crime out of not having federal papers, everyone I think knows. If the back-and-forth, the writing of the opinions, why does it concur with the result of saying you can enforce section 2 but not for those reasons. Everybody gets a chance to comment. We can only release these opinions on the days when the Court is sitting.

Ted Simons: Next week promises to be as exciting as this week promised to be, I guess. Jeremy, quickly, the fast and furious story continues. Much of the wrangling going on back in Washington regarding Congress and Attorney General Eric Holder, holding him in contempt. We're not even sure if there is such a thing as presidential privilege. This is a lot of Arizona tie-in.

Jeremy Duda: Basically the Congressman from California has been beating the President and Holder over their heads with this for months. They were trying to work out a last-minute deal where they could avoid this vote. Holder has refused to turn over these documents. Obama said, I invoke executive privilege, we will hold you in contempt and probably go to the full House next week. They have been waiting, building up to this for a while.

Howard Fischer: The Department of Justice has turned over documents. Some of this boils down to the fact that at one point DOJ said we never did that. Now they want the documents to say, what were your internal communications about lying to us in the first place. And Holder is saying, you've got some of it, but some of it involves other open investigations, internal communications. This is a classic power struggle. It's an election year. Let's come down to what this really is.

Ted Simons: There's also a question of who will go ahead and prosecutor the attorney general and the attorney general's office. What kind of federal prosecutor is going to -- hey, I'd like to take that one up myself. That's not likely to happen.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Careful what you ask for. There's an Arizona legislative committee that Speaker Tobin formed in January. And they were going to work really fast. I think they had a March report date. They have not yet met. But two weeks ago, we were told that this Arizona-centric panel has something coming out but we have yet to see it. It's chaired by Representative David Brunell Smith.

Howard Fischer: We're really upset they just weren't really fast.

Ted Simons: Somehow forgotten, but now bubbling back, didn't Attorney General Tom Horne try to do something regarding Colorado City and Hilldale only to have it forwarded at the legislature? We've got the Feds now involved here?

Jeremy Duda: Yeah, this Tom Horne had this bill and the same bill failed in Utah, too. It allowed him to basically just disband the Colorado Police Department. That failed and the Feds are stepping in and sued them on civil rights grounds. They retaliate against people who are disloyal to the church in dozens of different ways. They want an injunction and damages paid by these entities. If they get an injunction, I'm not sure how you really enforce that.

Howard Fischer: I asked the folks at the Department of Justice, if you're alleging violations, i.e., returning a child bride to one of the plural marriage husbands, how do you allege civil rights against a community? Who do you enforce it against, who do you jail, if you will? There are no individuals named. I think they really wanted to put the town into receivership. I'm not sure how I like the federal government running Colorado city.

Ted Simons: Back to the bill Tom Horne was pushing, why didn't that go through?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, the charge was let by two of the state Representatives that represent that district, Doris Goodale and Nancy McClane, both Republicans from Northwestern Arizona. Their argument is that these problems that the bill attended to address are in the past, the Colorado City Marshall's office has reformed itself and got rid of the bad actors who will follow the law first and warn Jeffs later.

Howard Fischer: They are still driving the young men out of town so the old men have dominance over the young women. Some of the officers are there from before, some of these incidents are actually from earlier this year. The question of what's changed then in Colorado City? Hard to say.

Ted Simons: Didn't they succeed in getting some money to Mohave County, and having the sheriff's department look over our somehow do some sort of law enforcement there that did not involve this kind of alleged discrimination?

Jeremy Duda: It was kind of like Tom Horne's consolation prize. The bill failed, but they had money for the sheriff's office to do round-the-clock patrols. You can go to the sheriff's deputies if you're trying to get away from a plural marriage or something.

Ted Simons: We've got the Goldwater Institute getting kind of a win. But who wins?

Howard Fischer: Maybe some of the taxpayers win, they do have the right to refer the whole issue to the attorney ballot. This was one of those screw-ups where they had printed the initiative to the ordinance. The emergency clause takes effect right away. Without that, you have a period of time to gather signatures if you want to refer it to the voters. If they get the signatures the whole thing is stayed until the next election. Is that a victory? Well, we'll see what the public wants. Now, I can't tell you what the temperature of the people in Glendale is. There are folks there who don't like the idea of the tax revenues and tax hikes. But there are others who see this as good for business and the image of the community.

Ted Simons: Some others see the fact if they do get enough signatures and it does come to a vote, that would pretty much scuttle the deal, because it would add complications as far as raising money for the Jamison group. They got the emergency clause overturned or invalidated because the judge didn't have enough votes. The judge has yet to decide on other aspects.

Howard Fischer: And judges don't like to rule on things they don't have to rule on. I have a feeling after the period for petitions-gathering ends they may be back in court.

Ted Simons: Sheriff Joe Arpaio wanted to use private money, private funds to get a deputy over to Hawaii to spend, what, nine, 10 days to search for President Obama's birth certificate, something along these lines. The Board of Supervisors basically said no.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I think he got that deputy over to Hawaii and wanted to use private funds to reimburse Maricopa County and the taxpayers for that expense. On a deadlocked 2-2 vote, the Board of Supervisors effectively said no. Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley, Arpaio's people said, see, it's all political, those are the two that Arpaio went after with one of his criminal probes, or many of them. They have since been exonerated. A lot of politics in there, and now questions about, can government take private funds: Is that a gift, which is prohibited.

Howard Fischer: Of course, you can take private funds, we're funding the whole 1070 fight with private funds. You start off with that. The question is where law enforcement becomes interesting, do you end up with somebody giving money for a specific investigation that could be considered political. At that point who's driving the bus?
Ted Simons: Well, indeed, and I think that's a separation between a 1070 and an actual law enforcement procedure. If I'm a very rich person and I think someone should be investigated, and I'm willing to give you, Sheriff Duda, $25,000 to go and do it, is that constitutional or right?

Jeremy Duda: Arpaio has already spent this money. He said, we want to backfill this. You wonder if they are trying to spite Arpaio saying, you spent this money on this silly birther investigation.

Howard Fischer: How much control can the supervisors have over what the sheriff decides is a legitimate criminal investigation. His argument has always been a fraud was committed on the people of Maricopa County, which is what gives him jurisdiction. A little attenuated from my perspective. If it's investigated by somebody pulling the plug, I appreciate checks and balances but --.

Ted Simons: Who's pulling the plug? He's got a budget.

Howard Fischer: And that's the issue. But the question then becomes, yes, he could use his funds there. He's saying, I have other needs for the funds, so that's why I want to do it.

Ted Simons: Priorities at the sheriff's office have been a complicated issue for quite a while.

Howard Fischer: Well, you know those -- never mind.

Ted Simons: Speaking of the birther issue - What is going on with secretary of state Ken Bennett? He just can't get away from this issue.

Mary Jo Pitzl: No, but he says he will from now on. Secretary Bennett spoke to a group of Republicans in the Southeast Valley last month. He was chairman of Romney's campaign in Arizona. He was there to urge, come on, we've got to support the GOP candidate for President. He also recapped and gave his version of what happened with the whole birther flap from last month. He reassured the crowd that he believes the President was born in Hawaii. He actually believes the President was fibbing about being born in Kenya in order to get into college and to write a book. All of this was captured on videotape and posted on YouTube and various blogs. When asked about it, Secretary Bennett said, I said if anything happened, it must have been years ago back in his college days. No, he actually stated -

Howard Fischer: He said, if: If you were beating your wife -- come on. The whole issue of him lying about being born in Kenya: The best I can find is that when he first planned to write a book in the early 1990s, some P.R. firm promoting him through an aide had him born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii. It seems to have been repeated when he published a book years later. Nobody has suggested that the Harvard reports have said that. The guy was black, he was going to get into Harvard because he was black, not because he was born in Kenya.

Ted Simons: Long since the aide says, I basically screwed that up. I assumed because the father was born in Kenya, he was born in Kenya.

Howard Fischer: Ken has a certain naivete about him. You know how this started? It all started because he said, we're going to send Barack Obama back to his home, wherever that is. Is he from Hawaii or Kenya and everything else. If he's trying to do Mitt Romney some favors, he's not doing him any favors.

Mary Jo Pitzl: I did ask him, because he's obviously frustrated by the attention on this. He feels he was misquoted in the news accounts but I refer you to the videotape.

Howard Fischer: Let's go to the tape, Ted.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Let his words speak for themselves. Why do you keep commenting on this? It does seem to really cause a mess. He says, I'm done.

Ted Simons: I'm done, I'm not even going to answer your question, I'm done.

Mary Jo Pitzl: No, no, he always answers questions.
Ted Simons: He's not that old but could be from a different time. Pre the idea that everything you say is being recorded by someone.

Howard Fischer: But the funny thing is, if you look at the video tape, it could have been somebody's cell phone. The person's back three rows. How do you not notice somebody with this for 15 minutes? And you have to assume, given what's going on today, everything you say is being audiotaped, videotaped, transcribed, it's all going to come out there.

Jeremy Duda: After the press from the last one, you'd think he wanted to stay away from this as much as possible. A gubernatorial candidate in a couple of years, and you got national bad press for this last month, and decided, well, let's talk about it again.

Ted Simons: A ballot initiative looked like it was ready to go with lots of signatures, I guess they are going to submit the signatures on Monday.

Mary Jo Pitzl: This is the quality education and jobs initiative that seeks to make the one-cent sales tax permanent, directed mostly to education infrastructure, universities, et cetera. This week it was noticed that the official copy of the initiative pre-filed with the secretary of state's office, that language does not exactly match the language on the petition circulated for folks to sign. The proponents say we gave a CD or a basic, looks exactly like what we're giving to the voters. So they match, we really don't have a problem. The Arizona Tax Research Association, which found this after being questioned about it by the legislative budget staff that was trying to look at this for budget analysis basically, they said, no, wait a minute. The law says it's going to be the written copy that's pre-filed. If it doesn't match and they are substantially different, you gotta toss it.

Howard Fischer: It gets trickier. If you go to the website and you'd like to review any initiatives, they scan in the printed version. They don't upload the CD version. The law doesn't require you to attach the actual measure to any petition. Nobody's looking through 19 pages of single-spaced typewritten stuff there. If it's what you're being asked to sign, that's where the complications come in. We know this is going to court. Ken Bennett refuses to accept it, generally speaking, with citizens' initiatives, the courts have said you have to be in substantial compliance. Give me three attorneys and I'll get you six opinions.

Ted Simons: Clerical error, they say.

Jeremy Duda: Ken Bennett says this was the version officially filed. I'm not accepting signatures on anything else. But going back to substantial compliance issues, you have to imagine, 260,000-plus people signed this thing. There are very complex details on this pot of money and this pot of money. Very few went to the secretary of state and said, gee, this isn't what I signed. Of these 7,000 words, 150 are different.

Howard Fischer: If it comes down to an evidentiary hearing, the pot of $350 million of this, if they get the first $1.5 billion. That first has got to go. The people aren't going to say, I wouldn't have signed this with that extra on there.

Ted Simons: So what happens? They're going to submit Monday, so what happens then?

Mary Jo Pitzl: There's a little wrinkle because Bennett was talking to a Tucson talk show, and the story that was written off of it said that he said that he will accept them. But then you listen to the tape and he goes on and says, well, I'm going to do whatever -- we'll move this to court to pass this matter. Will he take them, will he not? We'll find out Monday.

Howard Fischer: And maybe not, because it's going to court.

Ted Simons: And we'll talk about it when that happens. All right, good stuff. Good to have you all here. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us, you have a great weekend.

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

An armed forces bugler playing the trumpet in front of the United States Capitol building.
airs May 26

National Memorial Day Concert 2024

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 26

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: