Horizon Roundup: Dark money, school vouchers and Grijalva accusations




TED SIMONS: COMING UP NEXT ON "ARIZONA HORIZON'S JOURNALISTS' ROUNDTABLE," WE'LL DISCUSS A NEW INITIATIVE EFFORT TO REQUIRE DISCLOSURE OF ALL POLITICAL DONATIONS. AND WE'LL UPDATE AN ATTEMPT TO BLOCK VOTERS FROM DECIDING ON THE STATE'S EXPANDED SCHOOL VOUCHER PROGRAM. THOSE STORIES AND MORE, NEXT, ON THE JOURNALISTS ROUNDTABLE.

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TED SIMONS: GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO ARIZONA HORIZON'S JOURNALISTS' ROUNDTABLE.

TED SIMONS: I'M TED SIMONS. JOINING US TONIGHT, DIANNA NANEZ OF THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC, HOWARD FISCHER OF CAPITOL MEDIA SERVICES, AND BOB CHRISTIE OF THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. A NEW INITIATIVE EFFORT WAS LAUNCHED THIS WEEK, THIS ONE CALLS FOR MUCH MORE TRANSPARENCY REGARDING POLITICAL REGARDING POLITICAL DONATIONS. What is going on here?

DIANNA NANEZ: The outlaw dirty money campaign. They are going for what they believe this is, not just dark but dirty money. If you donate, they capped it at $2,500. Anything over that, you must disclose where it's coming from.

DIANNA NANEZ: The source of the money.

DIANNA NANEZ: The corporation, the supreme court said they have the right to give but this campaign says give all you want. We want to know who's giving it.

HOWARD FISCHER: That's key. For all of the talk about citizen's united and corporations and people they can give. The supreme court never said you can't require disclosure. There is commentary in the opinion by Scalia --

TED SIMONS: That points that out.

HOWARD FISCHER: You can require an individual to disclose they are the source of the money. In the state of Arizona there is a belief by lawmaker, if you have to say you gave to a campaign, that might subject you to harassment. They are doing this under the idea that we’re protecting people’s privacy, and that somehow it shouldn’t matter who’s funding to these campaigns.

BOB CHRISTIE: We have seen an explosion of money funneled through social welfare organizations under the tax code. If they can make an explanation that they are promoting social welfare, they can funnel unlimited cash, if you don't say the word vote, they can say this person is a wonderful person. The public has no way of knowing who the giver is.

HOWARD FISCHER: This is crucial. If you look at the gubernatorial race last time, I think the combined spending by the candidates is $4 to $5 million. The amount of dark money or dirty money as you will, was closer to $9 million. It consumed the campaign to the point we don't know where the money is coming from.

DIANNA NANEZ: It's important to talk about the messaging. We have Goddard, the face of. Putting Goddard there they are saying, regardless of republicans, we need to protect from bullying. There are plenty of democrats getting this. Putting people to task, asking them why can't you agree with Scalia's opinion. Why can't you protect the public from where this is coming from?

BOB CHRISTIE: For instance in the governor's race. I want to pick out Doug Ducey, but he can spend his $5 million running ads saying what a wonderful guy Doug Ducey is. Meanwhile the dark money groups are throwing mud at the opponent secretly. The governor has his hands clean. Not saying that's what happened, but that's the way it works in campaigns. TED SIMONS: and we could see a lot of dark money against the initiatives targeting dark money.

HOWARD FISCHER: And the ballot measures are loosier than candidate campaigns where there are no limits and you can come in and you can have a group called Arizonans for Better Government pouring $2 million into convincing people to vote no. We'll never know who funded it. Is it George Soros, Charlie Koch, a friend of Doug Duceys? The source is important. It's nice to know who's saying this. Lawmakers say it shouldn't matter. BOB CHRISTIE: We need 281 thousand signatures to get on the ballot. Goddard says I don’t have any money do this and we are going to do an all-volunteer effort. That’s a really tough hill to climb. It means 350-400 thousand signatures under a strict compliance standard from volunteers.

TED SIMONS: Will it get the signatures?

DIANNA NANEZ: Will it, could it? He's partnering a messaging with the school group, teachers out there that were successful in this. This particular initiative is going for the Constitution for the higher amount mentioned. Could it be done? He's saying with the school group model, if you look at their social media sites, they are co-messaging. Say they get the ground swell and do that, will it pass? We are sealing polling thrown around. The public on both sides will support this.

HOWARD FISCHER: It comes down to marketing and advertising. I can see the folks that don't want this doom and gloom music under the ads saying, do you know that you could be harassed? There is a case law out of the south about whether they can include the NAACP. The people concerned about being harassed are not the people with the money making combined. The people who are hiding their money are the people with 7 or 8 figure incomes. Can the public be convinced this isn't in their interest. Right now we have a tax bill for the middle class when we know how that works.

TED SIMONS: Behind all of this is the corporation, commission, concerns where you are trying to find out if a company regulated is going to be given to people regulating it. You mentioned they team up with the voucher folks. The referendum is on the ballot or what is going on?

BOB CHRISTIE: It's still on the ballot. The grass root folks and parents getting signatures to block the ballot bill got it on the ballot in August. Voucher proponents are trying to knock it off the ballot by challenging the signatures. They are going about it several ways. They have several arguments. Today was the first hearing for that. The anti-voucher folks argued that these people don't have the right to sue. There is no right by an individual to sue once there is something on the ballot. Look at the law that the legislature passed in 2015 which took it away. We have the right to sue if I thought there were problem with the initiatives. The legislature took it out of the law in 2015. This year they put it back in because it's lack of standing. It was complicated today. It was interesting. The voucher folks said, we were just clarifying the law this year. The law in effect before they turn in their petitions should be retro active.

HOWARD FISCHER: You repealed the law. How can you clarify a right that didn't exist. Then we get to the other argument, assuming it survives the first thing. Kory Langhofer said there are people telling would be signers this will take $24 million out of the public schools, which is not exactly true. It may be indirectly true. The people that want universal vouchers are throwing everything at this.

DIANNA NANEZ: Strict compliance has added the notary. Is the signature readable. They are there to say, can we take this to a courtroom and what can we throw at it.

TED SIMONS: Are the people regarding dark money watching this, taking notes, making sure this doesn't happen to them? Should this pass?

DIANNA NANEZ: They are watching it. Knowing they have to meet the higher number to amend the constitution. BOB CHRISTIE: We had three voter initiatives. One had to be withdrawn after the legal challenge. The other two survived. The idea that, that's the minimum wage and marijuana legalization survived and went to the ballot. It's cheaper to knock it off the ballot in the court than fight it in the ballot.

TED SIMONS: What is the likelihood that this polls firm and the legislature says the heck with it. We'll repeal and replace good luck starting over again.

HOWARD FISCHER: I would be willing to bet you dinner at a nice place that this is not on the November ballot. They'll say there is a technical flaw so I'll amend it. Once you amend the education flaw, it's meaningless.

BOB CHRISTIE: They did it several years ago where they passed it and the next year they repealed it. There is a big problem that if it survives it goes to the ballot, the legislature needs to think, will we get backlash pulling it out from under the rug of the voters.

HOWARD FISCHER: You have a governor seeking reelection, claiming he's about public schools but signed the voucher bills, credit enhancements for charter schools. He doesn't want his reelection on the ballot. Bob and I wrote stories earlier in the week. For all of the claims of how well we are doing we are not back to where we were before the recession on a per pupil basis.

TED SIMONS: We are hearing a law about women lawmakers, a call from other women lawmakers, for them to lose their leadership positions. What is going on?

DIANNA NANEZ: So we have four republican lawmakers who have joined a call to ask Rebecca Rios to step down amid the investigation. That happened to representative Shooter during the investigation. If we are doing one for this, we should do the same for the other. What is very different here, and we have to make this key, a lot of the accusations against shooter came from the people that said this was said to me. The accusations and investigation ongoing are not from the people specifically involved. You have a realm of issues that are going to get stickier and stickier. when you message four women are accusing two women --

TED SIMONS: It sounds like you have evidence v. hearsay.

HOWARD FISCHER: Assuming the hearsay is true that they had affairs, relationships with house staffer, these are consenting adults. The staffers were not people they could hire or fire at will, and so the question becomes, as you point out, this is a clearly different kind of situation. This is not a sexual harassment case. It may be bad judgment or violation of who can date whom but it's different than Don shooter going to a lobbyist and making a bad joke about women.

TED SIMONS: But there is an investigation. The four women in the legislation say as long as there is an investigation -- can the speaker get rid of the house minority leader? Isn’t that up to the caucus of the democratic party?

BOB CHRISTIE: I don't think that can happen. The speaker appoints committee members. He could go to her nicely and ask her to step down, but he has no control over the democratic caucus. Michelle, head of if house, ways and means committee, he could remove her or demand she step aside temporarily. To Howie's point and to the point of this is not sexual harassment, but maybe inappropriate, if I'm an elected official in the house of representatives, and all of the staff works for me, they all work for the lawmakers. You can make the argument, and it's been made to me by people that say it's only fair, it's just like an employer or employee relationship. They are serving the elected lawmaker.

DIANNA NANEZ: Let's get to the core of power dynamics. I think Bob makes a good point regardless if you work for that person, are you in a relationship with a person with less power than you. We’re these two or three people, they could come forward. We are early investigation. Are we going to treat these equally, I think there is a case to be made, but as you go forward, you have to take the steps carefully. You don't want others to demean the claims of others.

HOWARD FISCHER: There is something else here that concerns me a bit. If you are going to allow, you talk about the question of hearsay, if you are going to allow one lawmaker to say, I had one lawmaker went to lunch with, shared a kiss with someone else, every time they bring this up they can have someone removed from a committee. Do we want to set that precedent?

TED SIMONS: And you are talking about representative shooter who is accused of misbehavior among other things, lashing back at the accuser. B will come back saying what about A, so who is going to make the accusations?

BOB CHRISTIE: Correct. it's a serious problem. We have one male and two females swept up in that. That's all. If that's all, bless us for next year. Everybody's --

TED SIMONS: Well, Bob, that's all at the state capital. Raoul GRIJALVA, paying off a staffer because she was threatening to sue? What was that situation about?

DIANNA NANEZ: Raoul, and I'm sure he won't be the last, national reckoning of sexual harassment cases, journalists are looking for any settlement. He got looped in because there was a settlement. He acknowledged it because he wanted to say it clearly wasn't sexual harassment. It was a person who worked for him three months saying he created a hostile work environment and there were instances of him showing up to work inebriated. I think many people will be caught up with what public money was used for. TED SIMONS: she worked for him three months, gets five months to go away after threatening to sue him. He comes out, I was not drunk. I did not create a hostile work environment.

HOWARD FISCHER: I did not have sex with that woman. You are right. Something did occur. We have sat here and talked about the corporations of settlements to make them go away. Sometimes it isn't worth the hassle. Was it worth that much pay? We are not talking about $5,000 and they'll go away. clearly, something more happened to result in the payment of this size. I'm along with you. To the extent that if you are paying out public money, you shouldn't be able to have a nondisclosure. There is work at the capital to say we'll make nondisclosure agreements illegal.

TED SIMONS: Impact?

BOB CHRISTIE: He's in the minority. Obama is no longer president. He can't do anything. Second, he wins by 80% every time. I don't see this having a long-lasting effect on Raoul who will be a congressman until he retires.

DIANNA NANEZ: Unless more people come forward.

TED SIMONS: Thank you for being here. We appreciate it.

TED SIMONS: MONDAY ON "ARIZONA HORIZON," AN IN-FOCUS SPECIAL WITH KIMBER LANNING OF "LOCAL FIRST ARIZONA," AN ORGANIZATION THAT SUPPORTS LOCAL BUSINESSES IN HELPING BUILD RESPONSIBLE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. ONE-ON-ONE WITH KIMBER LANNING, ON "MONDAY'S ARIZONA HORIZON." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend. ¶ ¶



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Former state Attorney General Terry Goddard is spearheading a movement to remove dark money from Arizona politics. The initiative Goddard is pushing for would require political donors who donate more than $2,500 to publicly disclose the donation.

Arizona’s school voucher program was put on hold when opponents of the law delivered a petition with more than 100,000 signatures requesting that the state stop the voucher program. Arizona courts will decide this month if they will allow proponents of the vouchers to challenge the petition in court.

A report from the Washington Times claims that Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) used nearly $50,000 of his office’s budget to settle claims made by a former aide against the congressman. Grijalva refutes the allegations that he created a hostile work environment, and that he would come to work under the influence of alcohol.

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In this segment:

Dianna Nenez: Reporter, Arizona Republic
Howard Fischer: Reporter, Capitol Media Services
Bob Christie: Reporter, Associated Press

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