Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 26, 2005


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Howard Fischer - of "Capitol Media Services"
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>> Michael Grant:
It's Friday, August 26th, 2005. In the headlines this week, homeland security Michael Chertoff says he's willing to use the Department of Public Safety officers to help fight illegal immigration along the border. Senator John McCain has come out in support of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage in Arizona, and a hearing officer has found that state representative David Burnell Smith did violate Arizona's Clean Elections law and should be removed from office. That's next on "Horizon." Announcer: "Horizon" is made possible by the friends of channel 8, members who provide financial support to this Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>> Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. This is the Journalists' Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Howie Fischer of "Capitol Media Services." Robbie Sherwood from "The Arizona Republic" and Mike Sunnucks of the "Business Journal." Homeland security director Michael Chertoff responded to Governor Janet Napolitano this week regarding the problems on the border. Howie, what did he say in the letter and also phone call?

>> Howard Fischer:
Yes, this is been an ongoing little issue. Back in July, you remember there was a summit up in Flagstaff and the Governor at that time had proposed using 12 DPS officers, paired up with 12 border patrol officers to go out jointly and when local police come across the group of illegal to pick them up and transport them, otherwise local police are waiting on border patrol and they do catch and release.

>> Michael Grant:
Right, the so-called catch-and-release problem, designed to address that.

>> Howard Fischer:
What happened is, she waited for a response and the Governor figuring I need to stay on top of the immigration issue for political reasons wrote a letter to Chertoff saying, darn it, I wrote to you, where are you? He wrote back on Monday and said, well, look, we've been studying what you've got. We're not sure we like your plan. Now if, DPS wants to transport those great, we love to have them our taxi service, which isn't what the Governor had in mind Burks we've got a couple of other ideas. Number one, we have two taskforces here in the Phoenix area designed to catch smugglers. We will add four DPS officers to those two taskforces to work undercover with us to catch smugglers. Number two; we'd like DPS help along I-10 near Casa Grande and I-8 near Gila Bend to help us with our roadblocks, both of our rolling roadblocks and our stationary ones to find the smugglers. The Governor told me yesterday, well, I like the ideas, I think we can do them, and she's accepting it. Now, interestingly enough, immigration and custom enforcement has repeatedly asked the State to participate in these sort of joint taskforces and the State had always been well, we're not sure. Part of what's changed, though, is up until now, the Governor has always said I don't want state police enforcing federal immigration laws; it's not our job. On August 12th, a new state law took effect that makes human smuggling a state crime so now she can put DPS officers into these taskforces and say we are enforcing State anti-smuggling laws.

>> Michael Grant:
One of the other aspects of the Chertoff response which I thought was interesting was that the Department of Corrections pointed out that there is a fair number of state prisoners being housed at state expense who would be eligible for release, but they can't get homeland security to -- and immigration to process the necessary paperwork to do that. They had offered some state personnel to do that thing, and Chertoff said okay.

>> Howard Fischer:
Yeah, he basically said we're willing to cross-train people because you have to have certain federal training to do this paperwork. We're willing to train them, and then we will start to pick them up at our cost. But essentially he's saying if you'll spend the money, state money to do the processing, that may help expedite picking them up.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
One of the big issues was red tape over transportation and who was qualified to come and pick them up. So that seemed to me to be just red tape that was dying to be cut by some rational dialogue between the federal and state government.

>> Howard Fischer:
Part of what's changed is that you -- up until now, a lot of the discussions that have occurred between corrections and DPS and border patrol and customs have been at the lower levels and sometimes there has been some personalities at work. I think part of what happened is this Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary and Napolitano as Arizona Governor, I think the message has gone down to both of their sites you will work together.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
There is a loft action from Napolitano over the next few months. This will be the issue in next year's election. And the Republicans were beating her up for some of the vetoes on immigration bills during the session. She followed the lead of Bill Richardson from New Mexico. She has appeared on Lou Dobbs and Fox News. She is boosting her profile on this. This could have been a weak spot for her and she has turned the issue a little bit.

>> Michael Grant:
You talked to Senate President Ken Bennett, and he was sort of repeating the same statements about well, welcome to the game, stuff like that?

>> Mike Sunnucks:
He said the Governor is late to the game. This is her third year in office. She vetoed a lot of bills on immigration that the Republicans passed from the legislature. She opposed Prop 200, which passed last year with pretty good support. And he said basically she's trying to show voters that she's taking action on this and it's more political than action, basically.

>> Howard Fischer:
Ken's whining is just that, whining. Nobody cares. I'm sorry, yes, it's true, and she was against Prop 200. She said I would enforce the will of the voters. Was she slow on the issues of voter identification requirements? She said well the attorney general said we had problems with it. All she needs to show between now and November of '06 is that she continues to take action.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
I think she needs to show that she is strong on the border, that she is strong on border security, and just taking a few steps and going on TV and issuing a few executive orders maybe doesn't go far enough in doing that.

>> Howard Fischer:
But that's the question of action. That's exactly what I mean. I understand it has to be more than words, but a lot of the test will be next year, you know the legislature, the Republican-controlled legislature will send her bills to push the edge of the envelope there and see whether she'll bite and sign them.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
On the veto issue, the governon, at least on the voter ID issue, can argue that her veto was absolutely needed. It threw some things into delay, but she vetoed it on the ground that they made corrections on, basically allowing you if you have you driver's license address is not up to date, you still get to cast a provisional ballot. I don't think that that was going to be allowed before the legislation that became before the legislature. She is okay on that one. You're right. The Governor has sensed that she lacked the high ground on this issue, and has taken some immediate steps to regain it. And with the bully pulpit and access to media and what not she is happy with the job she's done.

>> Mike Sunnucks:
She'll see an expansion of Prop 200 on the ballot probably next year and she will be pressed on that. Is she with 58\% of the voters who voted for that? That's going to be a pressure point for her.

>> Michael Grant:
Robbie, I think, though, obviously for us around the table, we are familiar with those details and the Governor's veto record and position on Prop 200, although I think she had a fair amount of political cover on most of the establishment was against proposition 200. It does seem to me, though, in the past couple of weeks, particularly by elevating the profile of the issue and a variety of other things that I think the last couple of political rounds have clearly gone to the Governor, particularly for those who don't follow it at the level of detail that we do.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
Sure. People who -- I think the average voter will understand that the Governor may be reacting instead of acting. It looks like acting, and they are pretty straightforward attempts to deal with a pressing problem in Arizona, and a year from now when they cast their votes, it may be all they remember.

>> Michael Grant:
Well, speaking of acting, Mary Peters acted to come back to Arizona. Refresh our recollection as to who she is and what may happen.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
Mary Peters is our former director of office transportation, Department of Transportation, and she got pulled up into the Bush team as a federal highway administrator. She is recently had enough of that job. She has ridden her Harley-Davidson back to Arizona and is now considering a run for Governor. People are like Mary who? That's her biggest problem is probably lack of name ID, but she has an interesting story. She seems like a very capable administrator and has a rags to riches type of story. She might really be compelling. She started as an administrative assistant or secretary is what we were calling them back then, at the Department of Transportation and worked her way up to head that Department of Transportation, and then moved up to a federal level to a high executive level job there. You don't see that for a career track in politics.

>> Howard Fischer:
The other piece of it, if you are going to put up somebody against a female moderate Governor, then you look certainly for a woman and somebody who is not extremist on either side. You've got Don Goldwater who is trying to hammer down the right wing of the Republican Party, and you've got John Greene who on social issues supports gay rights and rights to an abortion, so somebody like a Mary Peters is not a bad choice. Now, can she get the backing of the party? The problem, as we all know, the people who vote in the Republican primaries tend to be from the conservative wing of the party. Now, how many people get involved and how that splits the vote gets interesting. If in fact Bennett gets in, we all believe he will, if Goldwater has hammered some folks together, if Russell Pearce doesn't get in but we've got the question of Carmona, I think Marilyn Quayle has given up the ghost on this one, but now we're down to a question of low turnout in a primary with four to five people, somebody could pick up, you know, and become the party standard bearer were a few radical backers.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
It depends on things that are unknown about Mary Peters, where she stands on social issues, abortion, things that are the dividing and telling issues in a Republican vote turnout primary. As one political pundit said, we don't know if she is pro-choice or pro-life but she is pro-asphalt. She needs to prove that she is more than a one-trick pony.

>> Howard Fischer:
That gets her the attention of the entire East valley. Do you not understand how important asphalt is to Mesa and Chandler?

>> Michael Grant: I understand, but is she the quiet type? Is she pro-asphalt on the freeway noise?

>> Robbie Sherwood: I'm sure she'll say she's for it.

>> Howard Fischer:
What's fascinating, particularly this issue of abortion, some of the very conservative groups have withhold their support from Don Goldwater because he has said in cases of rape and incest and the health of the mother, he is willing to support the right to abortion, and for them that is oh my God, what a liberal.

>> Michael Grant:
Mike, sticking with political themes, John McCain comes out and says he supports the protect marriage constitutional amendment which will probably be on next year's a ballot.

>> Mike Sunnuck:
They are collecting signatures now for that ballot question. It's interesting, McCain was not supportive of a federal constitutional amendment pushed by President Bush to ban states from allowing same sex marriage, but he comes out and supports the state effort. He's been pretty conservative over the years on social issues like abortion, but this is kind of seen as him reaching out to the Republican base. He's gotten a lot of heat over the past few years from conservatives, Rush Limbaugh, the talk show crowd, for his stand on taxes, the filibuster, and those types of things. So now he's come out with this and it reaches out to the party base. What he's done in South Carolina, in the second and third primary in the 2008 run for president, he can time-out this and the conservative base may support him more.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
In a related story, he also came out in favor of teaching intelligent design in schools.

>> Mike Sunnuck:
I don't think that's as cynical as people like us think, because he has been pretty conservative on social issues. He gets good ratings from the right to life crowds on though types of votes. It's on taxes and it's on spending and pork barrel where he often kind of jumps the ship.

>> Michael Grant:
Also things like campaign finance reform and those kinds of things. What did he have to say about the pharmaceutical?

>> Mike Sunnuck:
He was at a business event. There were some pharmaceutical sponsors there. And he criticized both the pharmaceutical industry and the Bush Administration, Medicare drug benefit and Bush is coming in a couple of day to tout that. He's been opposed to that. He likes drug imports allowing cheaper prescriptions in from Canada and Europe. He voiced kind of criticisms of the Bush drug plan forced by Democrats, that it didn't allow for Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate lower prices with the pharmaceutical companies.

>> Howard Fischer:
There is a flaw in the whole thing. He loses nothing. Now we're being cynical again. I know you pick on us for this. You lose no points by criticizing drug manufacturers. There is no downside to that. They are not contributing to his campaign in the first place, why not?

>> Michael Grant:
Well, in fact, Mike, most people thought intuitively, boy, I just don't understand this provision that you wouldn't allow people to negotiate, you know, with drug companies on that aspect of the plan.

>> Mike Sunnuck:
And the pharmaceutical industry lobbied hard to keep those provisions out of there and they have lobbied hard to ban imports from Canada and Europe citing safetly concerns and the Bush Administration has mostly sided with that.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
He very specifically put out fires amongst the right wing of the Republican Party. Even in his own legislative district, district 11, North Central Phoenix, the precinct committee people there have evolved into a conservative group of folks. They passed a measure sensoring John McCain in his own district. That could be a potentially embarrassing thing in the 2008 race. He gets in front of a lot of precinct committee people from the East Valley and Mesa Community College and I think they came loaded for bear and he totally disarmed them by answering their questions directly, making them ask him face-to-face whether than in writing. Some of these folks are tougher on their Internet sites than they are face-to-face. He totally won the day and probably did some inoculation the same way that the Governor has been doing on illegal immigration.

>> Mike Sunnuck:
It's interesting. He's taking kind of an alternate route to the Whitehouse, Bush ran to the right with the base, and he ran in the middle in the general election. McCain has the middle, independents, moderates love him. So he's got to run to the right a little bit in order to appeal to the base who have a lot of ill feelings towards him.

>> Michael Grant:
President Bush showing up on Monday?

>> Howard Fischer:
Yes, he's here to tell us, you know that drug plan I was here touting two years ago to senior citizens in Phoenix? Well, I'm going to come back and tout it in an RV park of all places out in El Mirage.

>> Michael Grant:
Your stomping grounds.

>> Howard Fischer:
Definitely. That's where I'm going to retire. I'm out there looking for my discount and I'm moving out there. The drug benefit kicks in at the end of the fiscal year, October 1. There has been a lot of criticism from McCain about it. There have been questions about it saying can't we do better by signing up with some of the drug companies have their own cards. The Governor pushed her Copper Card, which has its own particular provisions, and own particular flaws and has her name on it, which -- so does everything in this state.

>> Michael Grant:
Her picture?

>> Howard Fischer:
It's not on the card, but it's on the web site. So he is here to kind of say, look what I've done, and other piece of it is, to the extent he's appealing to the seniors and he's out here and he's not taking about the war and he is not dealing with a woman camped outside of his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

>> Michael Grant:
Is this an invitation only sort of affair?

>> Howard Fischer:
Yeah, I don't think there will be anybody who can get in. You can call the party and try to get a ticket and some people will, but it is a Whitehouse event. It is not a political event, but I have a feeling that if the great unwashed show up, don't bother.

>> Mike Sunnuck:
It's interesting he is not talking about Social Security and private accounts. He had a lot of town meetings on that and that doesn't seem to be going anywhere. We won't see that this year or next year.

>> Howard Fischer:
That was a proverbial led balloon.

>> Michael Grant:
Speaking of lead balloons, more trouble for David Burnell Smith. Earlier this week an administrative law judge ruled that Smith violated campaign finance laws and should be removed from office. On Thursday, clean elections will be voting to accept the ruling. Robbie, where are we and what happens next?

>> Robbie Sherwood:
Well, what's not going to happen is representative Smith is not going to clear out his office and leave.

>> Michael Grant:
I'm glad you cleared that up.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
He's not going anywhere, and that's a month into our future. He is going to most likely appeal the administrative law judge's ruling, and he can wait 30 days to do that, which would create another hearing and add more time to the docket. And eventually he'll end up, provided he doesn't win there and it's in front of the same judge, so he probably won't, but he'll end up in superior court where he can -- there he can argue the merits that he doesn't think he overspent but also the constitutionality of the commission's ability to overturn an election and throw out a sitting lawmaker.

>> Michael Grant:
What was the final ruling here, because the threshold is don't overspend by 10\%, or, arguable, you lose office. What did we finally end up in terms of overspending?

>> Robbie Sherwood:
The investigation showed that he overspent by about $6,000, which is 17\%. Representative Smith says that his latest accountant and bare in mind he's redone his books several times on this, his latest accountant has redone his books and showed that he had not overspent and he's very frustrated that the commission didn't take that into account before they issued their order to get rid of him. Their argument was, well, your accountant testified before the administrative law judge, and the judge did not find him to be credible and felt that you are really just shifting expense from the primary to the general and that really those expenses occurred in the primary and so, they are overspending.

>> Howard Fischer:
This is such a tricky issue from a variety of perspectives. The whole Clean Elections system has created not just a bureaucracy, but a whole set of rules so hard to come by. We were sitting around this table a couple of years ago discussing cash versus accrual methods of accounting.

>> Michael Grant:
That was some of the most tragic minutes in this show.

>> Howard Fischer:
It really was but that's been the problem. When do people have to book expenses, if somebody buys a billboard is that for the primary, the general or both? Can you parse it out? So we've created a money strong city here and now we have a situation where the commission says we need to be able to enforce our law. See, if overspending by 10\% has no penalty, it's sort of like saying there is no penalty for running that red light, why shouldn't I run the red light.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
He has a couple things going for him. He has a lot of due process heading his way. And it's pretty clear from the statements that he plans to milk it hopefully -- if he can't win, to at least still be in legal limbo by the time he stands for reelection. If he wins his reelection in the general, then it moots the point of them throwing him out. He might still face fines, but he gets to hold on to his office.

>> Mike Sunnuck:
He's got some pretty good constitutional arguments. The constitution says the voters can recall or he can be impeached by fellow law schools, and he can take that argument all wait to the state Supreme Court.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
While other states have not allowed lawmakers to be thrown out by means other than impeachment or recall, Arizona Supreme Court has. And Tony west and the Corporation Commission and attorney general John Sullivan years ago -- it was a long time ago, but they've done it and it's held up.

>> Howard Fischer:
The Tony West thing was the court determining that he was legally ineligible to run, even though his argument was let's assume that I was legally ineligible to run, the voters voted for me in the primary and voted for me in the general, so clearly they want me. And the Supreme Court, it was a divided opinion, but the Supreme Court said I'm sorry, the law is the law.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
The constitutional argument was available to Tony West and his lawyers didn't take it up because I'm assuming they didn't think it was a winner.

>> Michael Grant:
They felt it had been settled.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
Yeah.

>> Michael Grant:
Robbie, there are ways you can shorten this up, the attorney general would have the ability to challenge his right to hold office, and at least at some point, it's also been discussed whether or not just interested citizens could challenge his right to continue to hold office. Is there any possibility that -- which those procedures could shorten this somewhat.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
At some point. I think they are going to allow him to get into Superior Court so there is evidence presented about whether or not this was constitutional, whether or not he really did overspend. And from a superior court judge. But if things start dragging on or -- I you went to law school, I learned it a week ago.

>> Michael Grant:
It's a Latin word. It's a Latin phrase.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
Anyhow, the Attorney General's Office can do this Latin phrase and basically drag the whole thing up to the Supreme Court and ask them to, you know, force this guy to vacate office. You know, we've got the evidence; we've got the case. But I do think that they are going to wait and allow more of the due process to occur before they do it. And -- but if they refuse to do it, at some point, a citizen could actually do this themselves.

>> Michael Grant:
Speaking of due process, superior court judge commenting on how Sheriff Joe is approaching the abortion issue for female inmates?

>> Howard Fischer:
If we didn't have Sheriff Joe, we would need to make him up. We need him for headlines. A couple of years ago the sheriff instituted a policy, an unwritten policy that says if a female inmate wants an elective abortion, she first has to get a court order before he will transfer her. It's not that the state was paying for the abortion, she had made other arrangements, but he wanted this sort of cover. The ACLU went to court on behalf of a woman and said look this woman, first of all, there was a delay, and the nature of abortion is, if you delay it you are endangering her health. Judge Barry Schneider ruled this week even if there weren't a delay, the sheriff's argument that, oh, taking inmates out of prison for this stuff is a security risk, didn't hold up, because he pointed out that inmates get taken to funerals, and they get taken to visit sick relatives, and nobody requests a court order on that. And so I asked the sheriff, who is personally against abortion, I said does a woman give up her constitutional right to abortion when she goes to jail and Joe says, sure she does. She gives up the right to abortion, the right to see R-rated movies, the rights to cigarettes and coffee. Only in Arizona could somebody equate the right to have an abortion to the right to have caffeine. Obviously that did not wash with the judge, obviously knowing Sheriff Joe, he is going to appeal this and we will see this drag on now for months, if not years.

>> Michael Grant:
City of Phoenix kind of interesting thing. They are looking at a local ordinance on pseudoephedrine?

>> Mike Sunnuck:
Yes, there was a state battle over cold medicine that contains this ingredient. It's an ingredient used by crystal meth producers. The state passed kind of a watered down one backed by the retailers that didn't really lock them behind the counter. It's taken this to the local level and trying to control it there. A lot of states have a crystal meth problem. We're one of them. The one thing that the retailers and businesses argue is a lot of the meth coming in from the state is coming from Mexico. It's being cooked in mega labs in Mexico. We still have a meth problem here. There are a lot of small timers doing it in their house and bathtub, but this issue will come up in other localities.

>> Robbie Sherwood:
That argument misses a key point, which is that these labs are total health hazards to everybody around them including children and that sort of thing. So there is an argument that it would do us good to get rid of locally produced meth.

>> Mike Sunnuck:
The bill passed by the legislature-increased penalties on folks that cook, increased penalties on those --

>> Howie Fischer: The problem that I think Robbie is the one who pointed it out on the show, you can't by more than 9 grams, 150 doses but you can go back to the line and buy it again. What the city wants is 9 grams every 30 days.

>> Michael Grant:
Panelists, we're out of time. If you would like to see a transcript of tonight's program, visit the web site. You'll find that at www.azpbs.org. When you get there, click on the word "Horizon." That's going to lead you to transcripts, links and information on upcoming shows. Monday, we'll tell you about a plan -- I didn't know I was still on. About that meth thing. Tuesday, senator John Kyl will talk about his immigration plan and other issues.

>> Reporter:
Many Americans say the border is broken, as illegal immigration has become a hot political as well as political issue. We'll look at the phenomenon of immigration, the situation on the border, the role immigrant's play in the work force and the politics behind it. That's Wednesday night at 7:00 on "Horizon."

>> Michael Grant:
Thursday we'll discuss how to close the show. Thank you for joining us on a Friday evening. Hope you have a great weekend. I'm Michael Grant. Good night.

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