Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 11, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Local reporters review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Casey Newton - Arizona Republic
  • Dennis Welch - Arizona Guardian
  • Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services


View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Casey Newton of "The Arizona Republic," Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services, and Dennis Welch of "The Arizona Guardian." The U.S. Supreme Court this week suspended the distribution of matching funds during the upcoming election cycle. Dennis, Basically blocks the provisions pending the review by the lower courts. Got all that. Surprise here?

Dennis Welch:
I think there's some surprise that they would go ahead and make this decision without really deciding whether to even go into hear the case yet. They've kind of come in, changed the rules in the -- really late in the game, thrown a lot of campaigns, it's been -- sent a lot of it into turmoil. They haven't even decided whether they'll hear the case yet.

Howard Fischer:
The thing that's not surprising is everyone ignored the fact that this court, the high court, in another case involving federal election law, had said, you cannot have special rules, this is the millionaires amendment, it lets people gather extra money, the clean elections case and matching fund almost on point. The ninth circuit kind of of ignored that. What was interesting, they just were doing this sort of blinder thing. Oh The Supreme Court will never step in, the Supreme Court will never step in. These justices have shown over and over again with all their election cases that they don't want to place these kinds of limits on campaign finance.

Dennis Welch:
Barring these previous hearings and whatnot, this is really late in the game to really be making these decisions. We're less than two months away from early ballots going out and they're saying, hey, that money you were planning on, Governor Brewer, $1.4 million, sorry, you ain't getting it.

Howard Fischer:
But the other side of the equation, judge silver, who issued the original ruling in January, actually telegraphed it two years ago, and said, I think this unconstitutional, anyone who took public money with the idea they were going to get matching funds and assume they would be there, did so at his or her own risk.

Dennis Welch:
Agreed. Yeah, they did that. It's just interesting -- this decision actually prompted some of the biggest newspapers in the country, "New York Times," "Washington Post," labeled this court as an activist court to be coming in and changing the election rules. So late -- with so little time until people cast ballots.

Casey Newton:
Regardless of whether it's a surprise or not, it's true this has shaken things up. If you're Jan Brewer's campaign, there's $1.4 million you thought you would have that you no longer do. That's going to buy a lot of television ads. You have to wonder whether this is the best news to happen to Buz mills' campaign since he started it.

Ted Simons:
I know the governor's office was talking about, hey, let us go ahead now and raise private money, clean elections saying, not so fast.

Howard Fischer:
The problem becomes, there is a provision in the clean elections law that says if we don't have the money to give for a match, we can declare an emergency and you can go out and raise it. Now, you could say, well, we don't have the money, well -- we do have the money, but we can't give it out, therefore we don't have it. The problem is, the wording of judge Silver’s order, the one the Supreme Court upheld this week, says there may not be matching funds. Not that the state can't provide matching funds, but there may not be matching funds whether it comes from private sources. I think what's going to have to happen is someone is going to have to go back to Silver, ask for a clarification, a declaratory judgment to say, did you mean just the state can't provide the money, or did you mean nobody can provide those matching funds?

Ted Simons:
Goldwater institute said if you repay the money you've received, you should be able to go ahead and raise private funds. Again, clean elections saying they are not so sure about that.

Dennis Welch:
The Goldwater has been saying there's nothing in the law that deals with this at all. The point about the little known provision, the problem with that provision is, it's meant for, if there are financial problems where they can't pay out the money. There's $31 million in their fund balance right now. They can pay that out. This doesn't even, according to clean election commission, doesn't even constitute triggering that provision.

Howard Fischer:
The other interesting part, Buz mills' attorney was there too, to say, OK, here's the deal. If you want to let them raise $1.4 million on their own, make them give back the first $700,000, otherwise we're not on the same level playing field. Either make them give it all back, or give everyone a check that if you're going to go ahead and let -- and give an extra $1.4 million to Jan, give it so Buz. He's already said he's going to spend whatever it takes.

Ted Simons:
The idea of maybe a special session, clean elections commission saying it may be time for the governor to call a special session. How likely would that be?

Casey Newton:
We haven't seen a lot of enthusiasm for clean elections among the legislature lately. The idea they would come together to eliminate it, I suppose it's plausible. But do these lawmakers really want to come back during a time when they're all campaigning for their own seats, that's what seems really unlikely. So we may see a special session on clean election, but before the election that seems really --


Dennis Welch:
The other -- is the governor -- she doesn't really have the stomach to do that. I think it would also look unseemly for her to call a special session in order to benefit -- basically benefit her.

Howard Fischer:
So -- there's a way she can play. If she stuck with $707,444, at a certain point when Buz gets up in that $4 million range, I can see the commercials already. Why would Buz mills spend $5 million and you know the other thing that's going to come up, we know the commercials are being already put together now, you do know Buz mills, there was a little Florida judge said there was a problem, he defrauded some businessmen, we know where he got his money. She's going to use that against him.

Casey Newton:
Let's say this as well. How many millions in free media has Jan Brewer gotten over the past two months with everything that's happened with the signing of senate bill 1070? She's been all over the Fox News and CNN this, is a woman who has benefited enormously from free media, that helps her level the playing field against Buz mills.


Ted Simons:
The spoils of incumbency.

Dennis Welch:
Definitely, The question now is, can she ride that for the next two months? Even given how the message -- Howie says the governor is one to push out, does she have the money to do that? $707,000 in this market doesn't buy you a whole lot. A couple mailers and maybe a T.V. ad.

Howard Fischer:
You got a million, 700,000 Republicans, mail them each 75 cents and say vote for the governor. That's what it comes down to. The loser of course in all this is Dean Martin, who doesn't have the benefits of incumbency. Jan can call a press conference and knows we'll show up. Dean calls one, he might get a camera or two. And he's the odd man out because he's stuck with the 700,000 and the lack of ability to be the governor and call those press conferences.

Ted Simons:
let's go forward on this, Dean Martin did call a meet can regarding the state loan -- state loan commission, and the idea of extending the Bank of America line of credit, and the governor did not show up, and Dean Martin made a big deal about that.

Casey Newton:
Yeah, I think Dean Martin may have been trying to stage a sequel to his career making performance against the previous governor, where he confronted her and said the state is running out of money and you better do something. Tried that again, and it seems like Governor Brewer said, I'm not going to fall for that. So she no-showed.

Howard Fischer:
They both knew that. If you talk to Dean's people ahead of time, they said, you want to show up at the meeting, it's going to be a surprise. If you talked to Jan's people, they're no dummies, they say, why would we show up? We're sending the DOA director, we don't need to have the governor there, and if it needs a vote, it needs a vote, the department of administration director is there. But Dean keeps looking for that magic pill. He thought he had it perhaps with this tent cities for illegals bill. He thought he had it with this. But the guy is snake bit. He seems to be sort of a traveling P.R. disaster.




Ted Simons:
We should mention that as we tape the program, we're just learning that there's a light plane crash into a high school up in Eager, that Round Valley High School I think, and who was not too far away, Dean Martin. I mean, it's --

Howard Fischer:
do not stand near the man in an electrical storm, I'm telling you!

Dennis Welch:
I'm not ready to write the Dean Martin candidacy off just quite yet. The one thing we know about this campaign is it's been very fluid. I think six months ago Howie and I were both on this show saying, well, Terry Goddard is going to be the next governor. That's changed again. It will likely change a few more times, maybe before people start casting ballots. So we're going to have to wait and see. He's still getting his $5 contributions to get his clean elections money, so when he gets that, he'll have more money than the governor technically.

Ted Simons:
Talk about his border plan. He announce add border plan that includes National Guard troops and tents.

Dennis Welch:
Well, why not go after something that's just tested to work, just copy the sheriff Joe Arpaio's plan and say, we can put these guys in tents and keep these guys under wraps for pretty cheap. It seemed to work for the sheriff, why not for him?

Howard Fischer:
One of the reasons is legal. It's one thing to have people in tents who are convicted of misdemeanors. The state prison system is under a whole bunch of federal court orders in terms of how they treat people, the Services that are provided, and if you're going to convict people under state law, and put them in state prisons, you can't just house them in tents. It's a nice headline. It got some national press. But there's a few technical problems with it.

Casey Newton:
But even as a campaign stunt, if you want to view it this way, I think you have to ask, is it smart at this point to be trying to get to the right of Jan Brewer on immigration? I think she's staked out that ground pretty well, and to try to win a republican primary on being more conservative on immigration than Jan Brewer I think is going to be tough.


Howard Fischer:
Buz mills is doing the same thing. They all think -- only in Arizona, could people actually try to run to the right of Jan Brewer and think that's what the party wants.

Dennis Welch:
Certainly the challenge I think for everybody, her Republican opponents, Terry Goddard on the democrats' side, is to make this election about the economy again, about jobs, about anything else but illegal immigration. Because she's staked that out, she's won on that issue, she signed 1070, that issue is done. Move on to something else, I would think.

Ted Simons:
We should mention, former govenor Simonington has endorsed Buz mills. Surprise there? He was for Munger correct?

Dennis Welch:
it's really not a surprise. His business partner runs Buz mills' campaign. Simonton has been a vocal critic of Jan Brewer because she's called for a tax increase, and he is also very much opposed to the clean elections system, any type of government subsidies for political candidates. So it a big surprise? No. Is it going to help Buz out a lot? Probably not.

Ted Simons:
What does this do to the campaign? Much, if anything?

Howard Fischer:
It gets a story about this large in the paper, and that's it. Endorsements really don't matter at that kind of level. There's 30% of the Republicans don't even know who he is or was, and what they may remember, may remember about him being forced out of office.

Dennis Welch:
Endorsements work early on in campaigns when you're trying to ignite the insiders, the rank and file folks to try to prove to them, you're the real guy, you're the real deal. When you're this late in the campaign, voters, they don't really care who's really endorsing.

Ted Simons:
We had another lease back deal going through, $300 million now, who wants to discuss the wherefores and whatnots?




Casey Newton:
The second time we've shared off shares in state buildings, we got about $300 million. The state will pay a 4.4% return, and we're trying to figure out how much that's going to cost us as we have to pay that back over the next several years.

Howard Fischer:
And that's the real issue that, you know, we're all looking for those short-term solutions. The legislature did some legislative slight of hand where they took this year's bills and put them into next year. Even the taxes is short-term solution. Everybody's praying, and believing that come 2014, the sun will come out tomorrow And that -- I know, I should never sing on the air.

Ted Simons:
We've talked about this before. [LAUGHTER]

Howard Fischer:
But that suddenly things are going to be better. Will things probably be better then? Probably, but that's a real wager. And we're building in so much structural debt, we're now talking about having -- adding on to a $8 billion budget A. couple of hundred million a year in just interest payments.

Ted Simons:
and yet john Cavanaugh says the B word is better than the T word. And the B word is borrow, the T word is tax, they want no part of tax they want to borrow, borrow…

Dennis Welch:
most of the legislature hasn't signed a no-borrowing pledge from what I know. They have signed no-tax pledges.

Howard Fischer:
And we're going to get more of that, because even John Kavanagh recognized he was not a fan of the tax plan. But when people in his own community of Fountain Hills supported it, he suddenly realized, this is the message to me that we can't do much more in tax -- in cuts in education spending, and in public safety spending, and that if necessary, he'll do more borrowing.

Ted Simons:
Are you surprised there isn't much more resistance to this in the concept of borrowing on top of borrowing?


Casey Newton:
There is, because nationally you see a lot of anger and concern among Republicans about the level of debt. And Republicans in Arizona are building it, a lot of new debt as the measure to avoid new taxes. So at some point they'll have to reconcile it, and I wonder how many will look that 64% of voters approved it.

Dennis Welch:
You think there would be a better argument to be made about a temporary tax increase, like the one just passed. Bridge us through these hard times. When you start borrowing, you're committing yourself to a generation of paying that stuff back, and that's not good fiscal policy.

Howard Fischer:
Not only that, coming back to Casey's point, aren't these the same people ranting about the level of debt under the Obama administration, saying, oh, my god, we're putting our great-great-grandchildren in debt? Oh, well, what we're doing here, that's different, I'm sorry.

Ted Simons:
OK, let's keep it moving. Howie, there's a drive to repeal a 1070, this is different than some of the initiatives that we saw earlier, the whole idea is to get what a new law?

Howard Fischer:
A new law. The original proposal was to refer 1070 to the ballot. Under the referendum law, if you get 76,000 change in signatures, you could hold up enactment to the law until voters get a chance to vote on it. The problem with that for some people is voters then ratify it. Now it's constitutionally protect and can't be be changed. This one in essence seeks to create a whole new law that would be the original law before 1070 was there. The problem they've got is, A, they need 155,000 valid signatures, which means 200,000, they need them by July 1st, and the law gets to take effect in the interim until this thing goes on the ballot.

Ted Simons:
And we should mention the law says something along the lines of a moratorium of some kind against immigration-related legislature?

Howard Fischer:
They're afraid of what Russell pierce has up his sleeve next. He's looking at at direct challenge to the federal law that says if you're born in this country, you get citizenship. And I think he'd like to challenge that. A three-year moratorium is designed to be a cooling-off period to say, let's see what works.

Ted Simons:
A lot of questions regarding whether this gets on the ballot, but let's say they do get these massive amounts of signatures in a few weeks. Is this going to pass in Arizona?

Dennis Welch:
I think when you throw up anything that's construed as getting tough on illegal immigration, it's going to pass. We've covered this for years, and anything that goes on that ballot passes usually with quite a wide margin.

Ted Simons:
But this is just the opposite. Will it basically be a moratorium on that kind of thing? Is this the climate for that kind of thing?

Casey Newton:
Absolutely not. Arizona voters have not shown any willingness to pass any law that could be described as remotely lenient on illegal immigration.

Howard Fischer:
And again, this group has no money, the other thing is things are going to happen between now and then. We know between now and July 29th there will be a federal court hearing. I would be willing to bet lunch that some judge joins at least part of that statute from taking effect, which means it won't be the hot button issue that it is now in November, because we'll be waiting on a federal court hearing on the thing. I don't even see them getting the signatures. This is a nice group of well-meaning people, but they're counting on hundreds of thousands of people turning out to gather signatures, when if you look at the marches that have occurred this, isn't like four years ago where you got over a hundred thousand people in the streets. For whatever reason, there isn't a fire under this one.

Ted Simons:
Terry Goddard has come out and basically said payday loan stores, sunset's over. It's coming up. Get ready, get used to it, I'm coming after you. Talk to us about this.

Casey Newton:
I think cynics may have seen this as a campaign move on Goddard's part, but do you have this sunset coming up where after July 1st, instead of being able to charge you 400% interest on your loan, they can only charge 36% plus 5% fees. So what Goddard is saying, in other states we've seen lenders turn to alternative lending tools like maybe an auto title loan, he's going to go after them, make sure they're not doing anything illegal. So he wanted to put them on notice.

Howard Fischer:
Come on, look. I'm with casey. Terry's campaign people went out, Terry went out to stand in front after loan store with the T.V. cameras and beat his chest and say, look at me, I'm getting rid of these payday lenders. No, the voters got rid of them. Number one. Number two, even his own office can't answer the questions of what else remains legal. Auto title loans have an interest rate as high as payday loans for small amounts.

Ted Simons:
there's also internet-based lending they could get involved with that he's apparently on the lookout for.

Howard Fischer:
Some of that is illegal depending on whether you have a presence in Arizona. But there are other forms. For example, if I buy a refrigerator on time, there is no interest cap in this state. If a merchant wants to charge me 400% interest, and I agree, that's legal.

Ted Simons:
You think the loan stores will become appliance stores?

Howard Fischer:
If you're buying a debt card with some other financing involved with it, are you buying a product or are you buying a loan? If you think the payday lenders haven't thought about it, you're wrong. They're already looking for those loopholes.

Ted Simons:
What does this do to Goddard's campaign? Help much? Make a difference?

Dennis Welch:
The payday lending thing is a big deal. I think amongst his constituents. I think the poor people that tend to vote towards more democrats and those middle class folks, it's a bigger issue for them. And I think --

Howard Fischer:
He doesn’t have a primary. Oh, good, he's going to win over nobody among the democrats, because of his position on payday lending.

Casey Newton:
This has nothing to do with the primary. This is about positioning Terry as a competent fighter, a guy that does his job well because he's going to show up in the general election campaign and depict himself as exactly that.

Dennis Welch:
And that's what he's been doing. And that's what his campaign people will say. Terry is just busy protecting Arizonans. It's part of that whole campaign going through this stuff, and this is a good issue for him for his folks who just want to see Terry doing something. His whole thing is, let's keep a low profile, let Republicans fight it out, and we'll see what happens.

Ted Simons:
All right. We'll stop it there and keep an eye on you, if you want to buy an appliance at a payday loan store –

Howard Fischer:
do I have to sing for it?

Ted Simons:
No.

Monday we'll talk more about the Supreme Court decision to block matching funds provision of the state's clean elections system, plus we'll learn about research on the matter antimatter symmetry of nature.

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