C.J. Karamargin isn’t the first congressional staffer to cross the partisan aisle, but some Democrats are shocked this former staffer to Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is working for the new Republican congresswoman in Arizona’s 2nd District.
Journalists like to believe that they work in an Oldsmobile factory. They believe that they deliver a high quality product that is disappearing because the younger generation has different tastes.
However if the newspaper industry were a car, it would be more like a Trabant--the terrible East German car that only survived as long as their were no alternatives.
If you want an example of Trabant-like analysis, check out these two paragraphs in a recent column by the Republic's Laurie Roberts.
As for special interests, I'm guessing that certain of them will be delirious with happiness when he releases his budget next week. We just won't know precisely who they are, given that they hide their identities behind dark money invested in this governor.
It's pretty clear one of them will be the charter school businesses such as Great Hearts Academy, the non-profit string of schools operated by long-time GOP insider Jay Heiler.
I will put on my blogger hat in a minute, but first let me approach that paragraph from a legal perspective.
In the legal profession, we call a paragraph like the "actionable." That means that Phil Boas needs to run it by Republic Lawyer David Bodney and see what he thinks. My guess is that the blood vessels in his eyes are going to explode.
Here's why: Roberts and the rest of the folks at Gannett have been vilifying "secret", "dark money" "special interests" for over a year. Roberts then claims that we don't know "precisely" who they are, but goes on to say that it's "pretty clear" that one of them is Great Hearts Academy operated by GOP insider Jay Heiler.
That statement is ludicrous. Or as we like to say in the biz, Roberts either knows the statement is false, or has exhibited reckless disregard for the truth.
Not only is there no evidence that Heiler is part of Team Ducey, but Ducey opponent Christine Jones is on the Great Hearts Board of Directors. And even if Heiler were a Ducey supporter, I never heard anyone suggest that he is associated with any dark money schemes.
Note to journalists: If you work for a corporation with deep pockets...you can't simply make up really negative stuff about actual people.
Roberts has made the double mistake of not only linking Heiler with Dark Money special interests, but adding Great Hearts Academies in a well. Since Great Hearts is an economic enterprise whose success largely rests on its reputation, that particular conflation will likely go to the damages portion of the case.
OK, enough law. Back to blogging.
Roberts not only express a reckless disregard for the truth, but she shows that she has no idea what she's talking about.
Take a second and re-read Robert's Heiler/Great Hearts paragraph--defamation aside--what else is wrong with it?
Well, is Great Hearts a "business" or a "non-profit"? I'm sure it's one of those so she probably shouldn't call it both in the same sentence.
What's wrong with this sentence?
But he (Ducey) is raising the hopes of charter schools for a massive infusion of public cash so that they can expand their operations.
This statement shows an amazing level of ignorance. Charter schools are PUBLIC schools. If the state is going to help them with infrastructure, then the money will obviously be public money. Roberts seems to have confused charter schools with private schools.
Next, why pick on Great Hearts? It's a phenomenally successful public school that has a long waiting list of kids who are eager to get a high quality education. What's wrong with Doug Ducey trying to make Great Hearts more accessible? Again, it's a PUBLIC school.
Finally, why pick on Heiler? Not only did he found and build one of the most successful schools in the country, but he started it with his own funds and then worked for the schools AT NO CHARGE for over 10 years.
Ironically, that's exactly the type of guy that the media like to pick on. I'm reminded of this quote from Robert Heinlein.
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
I'm starting to feel sorry for the members of the State Supreme Court.
Last year all of the Democratic and a handful of Republican Legislators passed a bill to tax the hospitals and expand AHCCCS. Republicans who opposed the bill sued because they say the bill was a tax increase and required a 2/3 vote.
You will recall that the Supreme Court recently ruled that a minority of the Legislature has standing to sue if they are arguing that the rights of the minority were infringed. There was really no other decision that the court could have reached.
The Court also isn't going to have much choice when they rule whether or not the revenue raised is from a tax or not. If it were a fee or assessment, then an agency director could increase the amount without triggering the 2/3 requirement, and indeed, that's how the bill was written. However, there's really no way that the court can rule that this massive, broad, non-user based tax is somehow a fee or assessment. Frankly, if they rule that this type of tax is really a "fee" then they will have gutted the Prop 108 2/3 requirement...and also displayed some serious intellectual dishonesty.
Conversely, if they rule that the bill required a 2/3 vote and is therefore invalid, then they will create serious chaos and hardship for a lot of people who have relied on the validity of the law. Not the least of these will be the lawmakers themselves who will have an even bigger budget whole to fill. But those hurt the most will likely be the marginal hospitals (especially in rural areas) that are likely to go bankrupt. Then, or course, there will be hundreds of thousands of people who will lose their coverage.
So what to do?
Well, they obviously could ignore the politics and economic realities and simply invalidate the statute. I would certainly respect the courage and honesty of that decision, but...wow.
Or they could be really creative...what if they rule that the bill was indeed a tax increase and that under Proposition 108 the bill needed a 2/3rd majority vote in order to be enacted...
Then instead of invalidating the law...they decide to invalidate Proposition 108 itself.
That would be a clever solution and the Court might be quite happy to deliver a Pyrrhic victory to the Legislators who sued to enforce the provision and ultimately got it repealed.
Don't get me wrong. I support Prop 108 and I would be pretty unhappy if the court went this direction. But hard cases make bad law...and this is a really hard case.
Pop quiz for you journalism students. Let's say your paper is providing a "to do" list for the upcoming Governor and the article includes this line:
Abortion? The state has passed plenty of restrictive laws already, most of which were promptly bounced by the courts.
You then find out that the state has actually passed 31 abortion laws recently and that 2 of them have been overturned and one is still being reviewed. The other 28 remain on the books. What should you do?
The obvious answer is that the paper needs to run a correction.
The lame answer is to never acknowledge the mistake, but publish an OP ED from the bills' supporters in which she points out the real numbers.
Why is that lame? Because the Republic touts itself as the "fact checker" that keeps Arizona honest. Well then when they make a mistake they need to acknowledge that mistake and admit that they got it wrong.
Republic columnist Bob Robb is frustrated....and I think he has a right to be.
Recall that the State Supreme Court recently ruled that a group of legislators has standing to sue in the Medicaid expansion case. Robb points out that the ruling should have been obvious to anyone who understands the judicial system. (I predicted the outcome here.)
But Robb is frustrated by the reaction....Here's what he wrote this morning.
Nevertheless, the decision was a surprise to many and widely condemned. That illuminates a big political problem: a lack of understanding of, or appreciation for, the proper role of the judiciary in our system of government.
The condemnation had the following tenor: Medicaid expansion was a good thing. Judges should not be aiding and abetting sore-loser legislators who want to overturn it.
I agree. Critics shouldn't have been surprised by the outcome and it's childish--and decidedly uncivil-- to call the legislators "sore losers." More importantly, the critics have no understanding of the role of the court.
Who are these clowns anyway? Actually, they are Robb's colleagues on the Editorial Board. Here's what they wrote last February.
Sore losers in Medicaid lawsuit, it's time to accept defeat
Our View: Minority group didn't have standing to sue
Our View: By allowing a sore-loser Medicaid expansion lawsuit to proceed, Arizona has now saddled itself with years of court battles and appeals.
It's disappointing that the Arizona Supreme Court let a sore-loser lawsuit move forward....
The Goldwater Institute, which sued on behalf of the losers,...
...the Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the losers' case...
How many other losers will run to the courts to overturn votes they don't like?...
Unfortunately, this type of editorial from the left side of the Republic (Linda Valdez) is all too common. The writing combines name calling and personal attacks with a fundamental lack of understanding of the issue.
It must be frustrating for Robb to work in an environment in which this type of poor analysis is common. And it's refreshing to see him point it out.
An era has ended...Michael Preston Green has announced his retirement. When I arrived at the Capitol 24 years ago he had already been lobbying for 24 years. He is a true gentleman and the Capitol will not be the same with out him. Here's a copy of the note he sent out.
Almost 49 years ago, I began practicing law full time; and for 47 of those years, I lobbied at the local, state, and federal levels. My first year lobbying at the Arizona Legislature was 1968, which I believe makes me the Dean of the Lobbying Corps, nudging out Barry Aarons by a few years. During this time, I was privileged to work for two terrific law firms, namely Fennemore Craig and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. As some of you may be aware, I have encountered some significant health problems over the past two years, including a close brush with death from pneumonia and infection in December 2012 – and most recently, two heart surgeries this past October and November 2014. There is nothing like poor health to bring home one’s mortality and to force one to examine his or her future. In my case, I am blessed to have my wife of 49 years, Karen, plus my two children and five grandchildren (ranging from six to eleven years of age). After much reflection, Karen and I have decided to take some time to smell the roses, to more fully enjoy our family and friends, and to travel and relish the other fruits of our labor. Thus, as of December 31st, I resigned as a shareholder/partner in Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. I will miss working with the wonderful Brownstein team. However, you will still be seeing me around the Capitol, as I am making myself available for consultations and special projects. The simple fact is, after 47 years, it is difficult to “quit cold turkey”…especially when I feel as if I still have the talent to accomplish meaningful legislation. Nevertheless, I am being extremely selective in taking on clients and issues, because I fully intend to take the time to enjoy life outside the legislative process. My new contact information is attached. In closing, I just want to thank all of you: members of the executive branch, legislators, staffers, fellow lobbyists, clients, and my law partners and associates, for the opportunity to work with you over the years, and for all you have done for me. I am so grateful for your support and friendship, and I trust that you share my genuine sense of satisfaction that – jointly – we have made at least our part of the world, Arizona, a better place.
Here are a couple examples of the tricks that reporters like to use. Check out this article about the bonuses that Gov. Brewer gave to her staff.
First, Chad Campbell plays the role of outraged opposition leader...
"You are talking about people who make three to four times the average Arizona income," Campbell said.
Reporter Craig Harris then frames Campbell's quote with this little factoid...
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Arizona per capita income is roughly $25,000.
Did you catch the trick? Campbell is talking about the what the average JOB pays. This is a much larger number than $25,000. But Harris has used Per Capita income. That's obviously a much lower number because of all the children and retirees.
Harris's juxtaposition of two completely different numbers makes the bonuses look more extravagant while giving Harris the cover of implying that the $25,000 number came from Campbell.
But wait there's more!
You would have to be a political junkie to spot the REAL trick...remember what happened when Napolitano left office? Of course not....that's because I broke the story and then Howie Fischer followed up but the Republic NEVER reported that Governor Napolitano let 150 members of her staff accumulate thousands of hours of vacation and sick time---to the tune of $870,000.
That's the best trick. Brewer hands out 160K in bonuses and we get story after story. Napolitano pays out $870,000 to a staff of 150 and the Republic boycotts it.
Are there any adults left at the Republic? If you fit that category, please read the last couple Republic fact checks and then call the editor and ask what the heck is going on.
Consider this "Fact Check" of a statement made by Senator Kelli Ward. Here's the statement:
THE COMMENT: "Almost 1 in 4 of every Arizonan receives some sort of state aid - how do we deal with the crowd out this mandated #spending causes?"
Now check out these facts that reporter Julia Shumway presents as part of her analysis:
In September 2014, more than 1.5 million Arizonans were enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program...Using the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 Arizona population estimate of 6.6 million, enrollment in those programs represents about 23 percent of the state's population.
Okay. So 23% of Arizonans are covered by those two programs alone. Remember, we are trying to verify the statement "almost 1 in 4".
Ward continues by pointing out that there are a lot of other programs, and the reporter counters that those programs aren't mutually exclusive....i.e. someone on AHCCCS can also receive foodstamps. Fair enough, but if there's 100% overlap--which seems unlikely--then at a minimum, 23% of Arizonans receive some sort of aid.
So here's a question for the Republic Grown ups: If Ward said "Almost 1 in 4" and if we conceed that the number is at least 23% and may be much higher, then how many stars does Ward get?
Her statement is obviously true...unless you are going to quibble that 23% isn't the same as "almost 1 in 4" And even then, if you are going to insist that the number is only 23% then you are going to have to assume that the hundreds of thousands of Arizonans who receive other types of aid are merely a subset of the ones who are on AHCCCS. That would, of course, be an absurd assumption.
So with those facts in mind, what did Reporter Julia Shumway conclude about Ward's statement?
Have you ever had a confrontation with your homeowner's association, or tried to transfer a title at Motor Vehicles, maybe mailed something a bit odd sized at the post office or--god forbid--been audited by the IRS? Then you know that the natural tendency of government...and the people who are empowered by government--is to assert ever more control on the people it "serves."
Keep that in mind when I mention that I recently ran into Bill Mundell. Bill and served in the House together in the 1990s and let's just say that Bill wasn't a champion of smaller government. Bill and I also worked together when he was on the Corporation Commission and then after he was termed out, Governor Brewer appointed him to be the Director of the Registrar of Contractors.
He's been there a couple of years and I asked him how it was going--and I have to admit that the answer surprised me. Did you know that there's a license available for mirror hangers? Well, not anymore. And that bathroom fixture refinishing license? That one's gone too. He actually got rid of 30 classifications In fact, Mundell combined or eliminated enough licenses that the total number went from 238 to 106.
He also lowered the fees, removed requirements for multiple licenses and created a process that allows the Department to waive the Trade Examinations for out of state contractors who have already passed similar exams.
I asked him to write a summary of the changes that he has made and he sent me this summary.
Wouldn't it be great if the rest of government got smaller, cheaper and easier?
In yesterday's post I pointed out an absurd AZ Republic "Fact Check" in which the paper challenged Matt Salmon's statement that Obama's Executive Order is a direct violation of US Law. Incredibly, the Republic didn't declare the statement to be "controversial." The author simply declared it "False" and gave it no stars. This is part of a series called "Keeping Arizona Honest."