Journalists’ Roundtable

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

Richard Ruelas: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Richard Ruelas of "The Arizona Republic" sitting in for Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mark Brodie from KJZZ-FM Radio, Howard Fischer of "Capitol Media Services," and Jim Small of the "Arizona Capitol Times." Gentlemen, thanks for joining us us all, glad we're all dressed in dark suits, it looks good on camera. JanPAC: What is it, and how much is it going to give in the last two weeks?
Howard Fischer: It's run by somebody that's got money to spend like a drunken sailor. The Governor formed the political action committee a year ago with the idea of having something to spend on federal races. She's not the first, Jan Napolitano had one also. After the Citizens United case, it allows her to take corporate money and other money to spend independently on various races, and she has. She took out after Kyrsten Sinema a week ago. That was the first major expenditure, other than buying copies of a book to send people who donated. Then she did an attack ad on Ann Kirkpatrick. She did a pro ad on Martha McSally in Tucson, rather than --
Richard Ruelas: Against Ron Barber.
Howard Fischer: But again, not attacking Ron. Most recently she spent $100,000 for an ad saying what a great guy Flake is, which suggests, perhaps, how tight that race is.
Richard Ruelas: Do we know how close she is involved in this PAC? Does she control the spending decisions made?
Jim Small: It's a little unclear. Certainly these are all candidates she supports, I think there's no doubt that Jan Brewer supports Johnathan Peyton in the CD-1 race or Jeff Flake in the Senate race. But as to what level of hands on decision making she has in the race, I don't know that it's excessively clear.
Richard Ruelas: Like whether she's the one deciding to pull the trigger on the Flake-Carmona race.
Howard Fischer: I think it has to be her. You know, this isn't something formed -- this isn't a traditional corporate political action committee where you have a board. She is the board. She raised the money. She's, you know, gone off this week and prior weeks to go to different states and get the money. The $110,000 she got from a guy in Tennessee she personally raised. Does she want to know how to spend it? You bet.
Richard Ruelas: She's out of town at another fund-raiser tonight.
Mark Brodie: In some of these races there's so much other outside money, the Flake-Carmona race, the Sinema-Parker race, there's so much money from the candidates and outside you kind of wonder, $100,000 is a lot of money. But when we're talking about millions and millions, does another $100,000 make that much of a difference when some people have already voted?
Richard Ruelas: Does she appear in any of these ads? Would that make a difference if she did?
Howard Fischer: It does have the disclosure, paid for by JanPAC. They may think it is the Jell-O Corporation, for all I know. I think it was on purpose so she could appeal to people who may not like her, as much as she may hate the fact that some people may not think she walks on water. She can go out for some Independents and Democrats and they can see the message. The attack ad on Ann Kirkpatrick in particular was very harsh. Talking about a series of votes she made as state lawmaker on immigration issues. The descriptions of the facts were a little lose, but The ads were basically correct, a little fast and loose with the facts. She figured that if people understand that Ann Kirkpatrick sponsored a bill saying that if you are a tax payer but you're not a citizen, you have expenses becoming a citizen, you should be able to use that as a credit. That may rub people the wrong way.
Richard Ruelas: If we look -- this is one of the few shows airing in the next two weeks that does not have a Flake-Carmona or Sinema-Parker ad. What can we learn outside the flake is either a bad or good guy, or carmona is a bad or good guy, what can we learn about the volume of ads on tv about these races about how tight they may be?
Howard Fischer: I think look at the polls. I don't necessarily believe polls are showing Carmona ahead, but we've all seen numbers that suggest that, depending on the day of the week, that could be a very competitive race. One of the ads that Carmona just put out, proving effective by virtue of the response we got, was taking the testimony of Jon Kyl, John McCain when he was nominated to be the surgeon general, on what a great guy he was. And pointing out that in fact the Republicans had approached him to run for the Senate as a Republican. And now all of a sudden he's a horrible guy? You know, that's pretty effective in terms of blunting the opposition from McCain and Kyl now.
Richard Ruelas: Have they reacted?
Mark Brodie: Oh, yes, quickly and often. I think the word "shameful" has come out.
Richard Ruelas: Shameful, but there's -- what they're using…
Mark Brodie: That its misleading, they are supporting a fellow Arizonan for a Senate post, and it's not appropriate for him to be misleading the public and the voters, and in fact they support Congressman Flake.
Howard Fischer: It still sidesteps the question that, had they approached him to run as a Republican, you can't get around that. I think them responding is -- plays into Carmona's hands. You've made from it a one-day story into a two-day story and we're talking about it here on "Arizona Horizon."
Richard Ruelas: The polls show that the races, in the Sinema-Parker race and the Flake race - is there a tightening in the race or is this Flake trying to ensure his victory?
Jim Small: If you want to know how tight it is, you've got Republican groups dumping millions in TV ads into what should be a safe Republican seat. The NRSC, I think this is a nightmare that they are even here. Jeff Flake should be winning the state, Arizona is a Republican state certainly for now. Jeff Flake should have been in a position to win this seat by six or eight points. The fact that he is not, Whether Carmona or Flake's ahead, I don't know that it really matters at this point. The race is within a couple of points and that's why we've seen almost $20 million in outside money being dumped into here.
Richard Ruelas: This is the first presidential campaign we've seen since Citizens United. There's been a lot of discussion about the viciousness of ads coming in. I don't know how we covered two or three political election cycles.
Howard Fischer: Is that a reference to my age?
Richard Ruelas: Are we something outsized? Is this the worst we've seen?
Howard Fischer: I think, you know, it's hard to know from cycle to cycle. This has been a particularly nasty, vicious, dirty cycle of ads. Some of it was redistricting that created some opportunities that weren't there before, created some open seats. But the outside money being spent with bizarre ads -- there was an ad against Kyrsten Sinema that sort of looked like a "Star Trek" episode, that she's too far out there. You know, taking things a little out of context there. Kyrsten certainly has lot to explain from her early days as loud-mouthed lawmaker. But this has been a particularly nasty cycle. Again, because they don't have to respond to it, it doesn't have to be the candidate saying I'm Jeff Flake, I approve this ad, they get to do what they want.
Richard Ruelas: Do you think voters are seeing a difference between the individual ads versus the -- do you personally see a difference?
Mark Brodie: I think at this point viewers are just kind of tired of it. I never thought I'd want to go back to seeing beer commercials. It's like, enough already. Election day can't come fast enough. People are talking about where there should be something on your TV where if you've already voted you can register somehow and be automatically exempt from campaign ads. A lot of times the disclosure is very small at the bottom. They have to say I'm so-and-so and I approve this message. But talking to friends and family members, I don't think there's a lot of delineation between, uh-oh, this was a candidate's ad versus this was outside money or a super PAC or whatever.
Richard Ruelas: It's becoming eye wash maybe.
Howard Fischer: Some of the candidate ads are a little more positive. Let's come back to the Sinema-Parker race. Kyrsten had an edge, she was talking about all the things she's done for kids care and everything else, as opposed to the attack ads on Parker done by an outside group, saying he wants to get rid of the Department of Education. It's allowed candidates to play up the positive sides of their nature and let the outside groups do the dirty work.
Richard Ruelas: What did we learn this week about Tom Horne and some e-mails that were redacted and released by the County Attorney's office?
Jim Small: Several months ago Tom Horne's office released the results of an internal investigation that prompted the threat of a lawsuit over essentially discrimination within the office. The investigation was into leaks to the media. They released these interviews and there were a lot of chunks redacted out of it. When Maricopa County attorney's office released the results of its and the joint investigation with the FBI, that investigation from the A.G.'s office was in there unredacted. We got a chance to compare, here what the actual un-redacted documents looked like. Lo and behold, they redacted out stuff that was personally embarrassing to Tom Horne. Misconduct, people doing side work in the office. More importantly, allegations that Tom Horne was having extramarital affairs with people in the office.
Richard Ruelas: They didn't redact anything that dealt with the substance or coordination of the investigation?
Howard Fischer: The investigation was about leaks. I could make the argument -- you start with the premise that the Arizona public records law is a very expansive law and you err on side of the disclosure. If the investigation was about leaks, if somebody were leaking because they were unhappy with the attorney general over something he was doing personally, that's material to the investigation. I give the "Capital Times" a lot of credit for doing those side by side comparisons and looking at this and saying, now, wait a second, this is not some unrelated issue. This is directly on point here.
Richard Ruelas: And that was the next thing -- I know the more serious issue was the campaign finance pressure. The most interesting issue for a lot of voters is the car wreck. What Horne was trying to not let the media see did not have anything to do with coordination. He was worried about personal shenanigans in his office, from what you could tell?
Jim Small: And things that frankly may be even more politically damaging in two years whether he's running for reelection or governor, than the campaign finance law. Explain the wonky law to people, I think a lot of people think politicians are on the take to a certain degree. They are not surprised about politicians bending the rules or trying to get around the rules to get elected. But you're running a Republican primary and there are rumors there are people in your office talking about scandals and love triangles, that's bad and that really hurts.
Howard Fischer: You know what people are going to remember in the 2014 race? Tom Horne backed into somebody's car and drove off. He drove off, at least according to the allegations, because he didn't want anyone to know who was in the car with him, a woman not his wife is the way the police like to express it. That is what people will remember. A good percentage of folks have had somebody backing into their car and leaving. They can relate to that. When the top prosecutor of the state does it, that's chutzpah.
Richard Ruelas: Back to the Public Records law… Well, I guess. No let's stay with the car wreck, it's too good. The woman not his wife in the car was also the woman the "Phoenix News Times" was writing about, Horne didn't like the article and that started the investigation into the link in the first place. What did we learn about the accident? Was there anything new this week about that wreck?
Howard Fischer: The Phoenix police did the first stage of their investigation and went by his office and said, here's your citation, show up in court. Horne has never denied that he may have backed -- I didn't know I hit something. And if the county attorney would have told me who I backed into, I would have been happy to pay for it. What's fascinating, of course, the soap opera aspect that he was being tailed by the FBI, they saw him drive into a parking garage in his gold Jaguar, they love emphasizing that, drive out in somebody else's car, wearing a baseball cap, because you wouldn't know it was Tom Horne if he was wearing a baseball cap, and go over to the location close to this woman's townhouse. They saw him back into this white Range Tover there. It's stuff you cannot make up. This is the kind of stuff two years from now people will remember.
Richard Ruelas: When you -- having filed public records requests myself I kind of know the answer. What is the recourse if you end up with documents filled with black ink? Do you have to implicitly trust that officials are doing their best to follow the law?
Jim Small: Well, go to court and -- essentially, the recourse would be going to court, having them prove to a judge behind closed doors that what they are redacting is something they have a legal justification to redact. The reality is, in that environment, news organizations aren't made of money as they used to have been in the past. That kind of stuff doesn't happen very often. A lot of times you do have an increase in government officials trying to push the boundary knowing nobody's going to be pushing back against them.
Richard Ruelas: It was almost like a lucky break for the media that there was another agency that had the records and released them without redacting them?
Jim Small: No doubt. I'm sure part of the reason they released this part of the investigation without redacting is the exact same reason they released the information they didn't have to about this hit-and-run, which was I think to politically tarnish Tom Horne's political future. The hit-and-run had nothing to do with his campaign, but they dropped it out into the press conference and moved on quickly, and knew the media would grab that bone and run with it. That's exactly what happened.
Richard Ruelas: How damaged is he after last week?
Mark Brodie: I'm not sure how much more. I think basically the extra details may or may not matter. The fact that, as Jim and Howie have both said, the law and the independent expenditure and coordinating with that and maybe soliciting his brother-in-law for money, voters may or may not care about that or understand that. But a hit-and-run accident, backing into somebody's car and not leaving a note, whether or not you think there's damage, the possibility that he's cheating on his wife, these are things that voters, especially for awhile, will carry on.
Howard Fischer: This is gonna bleed for a while. Because he's challenging the civil allegation of illegal coordination, that's going to an administrative law judge. We'll all be in court that day. Whoever loses will take to it the Superior Court. We will all be in court that day.This could drag on right into the 2014 race.
Richard Ruelas: And we can see what kind of car he's driving. I know there are issues in Glendale with the sports arenas and the debt and all that. But the focus is on Representative Jerry Weiers running against Cruz for the mayorship. This video, what was he doing, when was this, what was going on with this video?
Mark Brodie: He basically -- the video that was released was incredibly difficult to make out. At least the version that I saw was really hard. It was grainy, not good video. But what the Cruz campaign is saying is that Jerry Weiers backed his truck up to one of these planters, these massive, very heavy planters at the capitol for security so people can't drive through the capitol mall between the House and Senate buildings. He took a rope out and dragged the planter about 10 feet so he could park his motorcycle there. The Cruz campaign has made a really, really big deal about this. They have send out e-mails and the video, they clearly think this is a really big issue for the Glendale mayoral race.
Richard Ruelas: Having hung around the state capitol much more than is probably healthy, have you seen his motorcycle flashed?
Howard Fischer: Oh, yeah, he has a favorite spot basically on the sidewalk where the security people I'm sure can keep an eye on it. He doesn't want to park where the homeless hanging around the capitol can monkey with it.
Richard Ruelas: Is it a nice bike?
Howard Fischer: It is a very nice bike. He's a very avid motorcycle rider, he's involved in veterans groups that help escort funerals and everything else. But he's sort of a classic, I'll just take care of it myself. When there was a problem with the flagpole at the capitol, he went ahead and got somebody else to take down the old one, do a little welding, and put up a new one. Oh, you mean I'm supposed to ask somebody first? That's Jerry.
Richard Ruelas: He's a take-charge kind of --
Howard Fischer: Well, it's take charge but there's take charge and then there's -- should you be doing that?
Richard Ruelas: Take charge without asking or getting permission first.The question will be just sort of live the character issues with Horne where the Glendale voters will see this as a real mark of who this man is.
Jim Small: Character is what they are trying to paint it as. This is a guy who ignores the rules when they are in his way. He's going to try to work around it and go to the effort of dragging an 800-pound planter out of the way to have the convenience of parking his bike eight feet from the front door. I don't know if it's going to make a difference or not. The Cruz campaign starts to talk about this two weeks ago. They didn't get the video until two weeks ago. It really isn't high quality and it's tough to make out what's going on or who the people are in the video. Early voting began three weeks ago. So we're at a point where probably half the electorate has already cast their ballots.
Richard Ruelas: We'll see if there's a line item for better cameras.
Howard Fischer: There are bigger issues for voters in Glendale, particularly the issue of the sales tax, was it 457 I think, the proposition number. Is this what is going capture the fancy of voters out there? I'm not sure. If you're running against Jerry Weiers, the guy's got name I.D. He's represented the area. His brother has been in the legislature even longer. There's some cachet with that. You go for what you got. If that's moving a planter, you go for that.
Richard Ruelas: I guess we should remind voters that Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th. not Tuesday, November 8th. What happened with the county and Spanish language materials on election day? Do we know how this happened?
Howard Fischer: I have no reason to believe there was anything intentional. When you see in the material in English, Tuesday, November 6, and translate it in Spanish to November 8th --
Richard Ruelas: On the same line --
Howard Fischer: -- somebody just screwed up. The problem is it occurred. We've got the bookmarks, certain mail, and cards that went out. Obviously people are looking for conspiracies. I don't see it. But given the sensitivity, particularly that Helen Percell is a Republican and the allegations have always been Republicans want to suppress minority voting, I think she did and Karen Osborn, her elections director, did the right thing. They find $30,000 and said, we will put out a Spanish language media blitz to remind people, to go to the polls. You know, look, I've got to admit, if you don't know Election Day is on a Tuesday versus a Thursday, you're probably not the most educated voter in the first place.
Richard Ruelas: Did the idea of it being a conspiracy get much traction? Or was it in a way itself getting publicity
Mark Brodie: I think the fact that it happened twice sort of led some of the folks -- and one time I think most people can say, okay, it was an honest mistake. They apologized and said, we screwed up. You know, we were wrong about this. But I think the fact that it happened twice had some activists saying hold on a minute now. One time okay, twice we're starting to see a little bit of a trend.
Richard Ruelas: There was some ruckus over groups collecting ballots. That Helen Purcell saying if someone says they are from the county collecting ballots…
Howard Fischer: Again, it's all in message. As we all know around this table. What I think Helen Purcell was trying to say, if somebody comes up to you and says I am authorized to collect ballots, that's a violation of law. But there's nothing against, hey, Mark, give me your ballot and I'll drop it off. It's how the message gets across. I think her concern was there were people who inadvertently or purposely were saying, you know, I am authorized, I am an employee, I am something, and I will take your ballot. That's where you've crossed the magic line. Why you would give your ballot to somebody else --
Mark Brodie: Especially somebody you don't know --
Howard Fischer: Is of course always an issue. You better be able to trust somebody.
Richard Ruelas: And I think again, accompanied with the other issues we've talked b sort of raised this specter of a conspiracy, election heavy. I'm sure it'll continue to be next week and maybe some actual issues rather than moving planters or --
Howard Fischer: No, no, no, we've got one more unemployment report coming out that's going affect certainly any federal races. No, this is -- the mud will continue until about 7:01 p.m. on election night. Then you can have the Horizon edition and sit around the table and say, what went wrong.
Richard Ruelas: We used to hear tightening of the races. Obama and Romney, is it any closer?
Howard Fischer: I think the same thing is happening in Arizona that happened nationally, he tanked after the first debate, he's coming back. The issue is going to be get out the vote.
Richard Ruelas: Arizona might be blue?
Howard Fischer: I'm sorry, I'm not buying it. I don't know whether you guys are. It's a nice wishful thinking, somehow if Mitt Romney is found in bed with a dead goat between now and then, maybe.
Richard Ruelas: A dead goat, we have to close on that, thank you so much.

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