Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

February 7, 2014


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists’ Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Join us as local journalists give us their insight into the week’s big stories.
Guests:
  • Bob Christie - Journalist, Associated Press
  • Jeremy Duda - Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - Journalist, The Arizona Republic
Category: Journalists Roundtable   |   Keywords: roundtable, top stories,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon's" "Journalists' Roundtable," two bills targeting Medicaid expansion advance in the House. We'll check recent fundraising and poll numbers in the governor's race. And questions arise concerning a state lawmaker's travel expenses. The "Journalists' Roundtable" is next on "Arizona Horizon."

"Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon's" "Journalists' Roundtable," I'm Ted Simons. Join us tonight, Mary Jo Pitzl of the "The Arizona Republic," Jeremy Duda of the "Arizona Capitol Times," and Bob Christie of the Associated Press. Arizona's new Medicaid expansion/restoration law is already targeted by a couple of state lawmakers. Mary Jo, what's this all about?

Mary Jo Pitzl: This is yet another assault on this law passed last summer. This one comes from two lawmakers, one from House Speaker Andy Tobin who wants to make a couple of changes to the state's Medicaid program. He wants to put a lifetime cap of five years that you can be on this program. He would like to seek mandatory copays for emergency room use, if you're not going there for an emergency. And work requirement that if you're getting AHCCCS benefits you should be out looking for work. He was followed at the committee by a Representative who very conveniently is running against Tobin for a congressional nomination. His bill would repeal what the legislature fought so hard to enact about eight months ago.

Ted Simons: And both bills advanced?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Both bills advanced out of that committee. There was no question it would get out of the reforming huge services committee on a party line vote.

Ted Simons: How far are they going to advance out here?

Jeremy Duda: That's probably about a far as they are going go. It was a five -to-two vote on the, all five of those Republicans were Republican lawmakers who opposed Medicaid expansion last year. Once to the House floor, the majority that voted in favor of expansion. If they get through both chambers, which they almost certainly won't, then you get Jan Brewer who will set a land speed record vetoing both of them aren't federal waivers involved here?
Ted Simons: The Tobin bill is interesting because aren’t federal waivers involved here?
Bob Christie: Absolutely. The Center for Medicaid Services has to approve those waivers. They told me about two hours ago, highly unlikely, at least for the work requirement and the five-year rule. Federal regulations and laws are in place on Medicaid that states provide and you have to follow them. If you want to tweak your program, if you have some innovative proposal they will look at it and they might issue a waiver. We did have a waiver for copays for the uninsured or for emergency room visits for people who did not need to go to the emergency room, they could charge them a $30 copay. That went away at the first of the year. AHCCCS now wants a $200 copay for that same thing. That's going to be a tough hill to climb.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Even if the Feds say they are unlikely to approve waivers from this bill that won’t stop him from promoting it. His argument is that look, this is not the state AHCCCS program, this is Obamacare. Tobin's argument is that Obamacare has shown lots of willingness to make changes alterations so why not for these?

Ted Simons: What are we seeing as far as these two folks running for the same office trying their best now to become opponents of Obamacare, if you will. Are they jumping on each other's side, hey, good bill, good bill?

Jeremy Duda: Tobin did call his bill a fool's errand, which I think he's already attacking him for. I think the bill may be brought to the floor They both know it’s not going to pass, this is all about the campaign really.
Ted Simons: It's about the campaign. Will it play for the campaign? Republican primary here.

Bob Christie: I don't think it's necessary. It'll play, but they have already been on the record opposing Medicaid. I mean, Speaker Tobin was almost overthrown last year when he refused to bring Medicaid expansion to the floor. He finally submitted and did it, but he fought as hard as anybody could fight and as publicly as anybody could fight. I don't quite get why they are going through this motion now, other than to get it back on the record.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Tobin kept saying he was working on an alternative to the governor's expansion plan, suggesting he wasn't averse to expansion; he just didn't want to do it the Jan Brewer way. That dragged on and on. Until finally, under the threat of being deposed he brought her bill to the floor, voted against it and the thing passed anyway.

Jeremy Duda: Even if you’re both fully on the record as “no Obamacare”. In the same way that House Republicans in Washington have had 40 or 50 votes to repeal Obamacare, knowing it's not going to get through the Senate or be signed by Obama. They still do it because it's great for the campaign. I voted 40 times against Obamacare, I voted to overturn Medicaid expansion.

Mary Jo Pitzl: This would play more in a general election. If you look, there's I think 131,000, there’s 30,000 more Arizona adults who have been able to sign up for AHCCCS since the expansion. So if you reverse it you kick those people off. That's also a great talking point in the campaign. What do you say to things like that? I guess you say, go get a job.

Ted Simons: It's interesting to see how defining that issue will be in all campaigns coming up later in the year. All right. What is going on with Don Shooter and his travel habits?

Jeremy Duda: Don Shooter is a traveling man, which we already know he’s a senator from Yuma, so he spends a lot of time on the road. But maybe not quite as much as his campaign finance reports would indicate. In the report that came out last week, it showed $17,000-$18,000 on travel reimbursement to himself. What stands out is that at least during the session when a lot of this travel took place, he's been reimbursed for that by the State because lawmakers get per diem for mileage and stuff like that. And out of county lawmakers get more than that. He was already reimbursed about $8,000 from the state for that. Then he reimbursed himself for mileage and separately for gas. It doesn't really make sense, either.
Ted Simons: And Bob here are the numbers. 2013-- and by the way, I don't remember any elections in 2013 not involving Don Shooter.

Bob Christie: None whatsoever.

Ted Simons: $38,000 he spent on his campaign last year, $15,000 for legal fees, $18,000 for campaign travel expenses on top of the $8,000 he gets for being a lawmaker, per diem, et cetera. What's going on here?

Bob Christie: It doesn't look good for Don Shooter in the court of public opinion. That’s a lot of money to spend on things that it is hard to defend spending them on. I talked to him today and he said, well, I'm going to file an amended report. There were some mistakes made in the report. We’ll see what that says when it comes out. Still, those are big expenses that didn't appear to benefit anybody but the senator.

Ted Simons: How far does this story go? Are there investigations going to happen? Any ethics? What?

Mary Jo Pitzl: At the Arizona Legislature? No, none that I'm aware of. But it will go on. He is being contested in his primary and his opponent, Toby Farmer, put out a statement right away to say this is very disturbing to see this level of expenses, he needs to be held to account for it. If nothing is done at the legislature, it's unlikely it will be, at first blush there doesn't seem to be any law that breaks, it's going to become a campaign issue. There’s questions he will have to answer. Perhaps the sooner he does it, maybe some of it will quiet down. But, paying for his legal expenses? I don't know how you argue that's a campaign expense. This was resulting from when he went down to visit his grandson's school and barged into the classroom and got into an altercation that wound up having school personnel call police.

Ted Simons: And the whole thing, if he travels this much and spends this much in 2013, are we ever going see him in 2014? He'll be on the road all year.

Jeremy Duda: He's going to need to start raising more money, too. The campaign cash is only going to go so far. Especially when you have an opponent and when you keep giving your opponent the kind of ammunition that Senator Shooter has. Now with the travel stuff, the incident Mary Jo mentioned with the school, which he did use $10,000 of campaign cash to pay for his legal fees. There are comments to the press about, well if you want to us to pay for our own tickets and not take them from lobbyists, you should pay us more. There's a lot of stuff and it's piling up more and more.

Ted Simons: We'll see where the road takes us, if you will. Governor's race, we're seeing now fund-raising, some folks kind of leading the pack in fund-raising, some kind of hanging in there. Doug Ducey looks lilke he’s number one, obvsiouly Fred DuVal for the Democrats. What do we make of all this?

Bob Christie: It's pretty early still, Doug Ducey has a lot of money of his own, he's out raising money from his supporters. Christine Jones has self-funded a lot and is bringing in a lot of money. It's pretty early before the money really makes a huge difference, but it kind of will spread out the race a little bit. There are a lot of Republicans in this primary and it's going to be a real knock-down, drag-out fight by the time we get to the primary.

Ted Simons: And again it said that Christine Jones, I think $500,000 of her own money spent. There's concern that she's a little consultant heavy, but she doesn't have the operations on the ground some of these other folks do.

Jeremy Duda: They spent at least a quarter million on consulting. They spent $540,000 of the 590 she had overall, including the half million of her own. When people saw that the first reaction a lot of people had was, wow she's getting fleeced here. No one had ever seen anyone spend that much in consultants that early. Every campaign cycle you see an independently wealthy candidate start to spend a lot of their own money, they end up spending a boatload on consultants. In 2010 it was Buz Mills who spent $3.2 million out of his own pocket. Two years ago it was Will Cardon who spent about $6 million out of his own pocket. And no one's quite sure what Christine Jones is willing to spend. Based on what we've seen so far, I'd be willing to wager a lot.

Ted Simons: So Fred DuVal had about $800,000 raised on the Democratic side, Ducey about $1 million raised on the Republican side. I think Scott Smith $300,000 so far but he just announced a few weeks ago, that's relatively hefty for that short a period of time. Then the rocky mountain poll which basically tells us nothing.

Bob Christie: It's too early to tell what's going happen in the governor's race and the Republican primary. There are just too many people. The only people paying attention to it right now are political people and us.

Ted Simons: What do you make of these numbers? Do they tell us anything at all?

Mary Jo Pitzl: It tells us the public's not glued into this and the candidates are not doing things to engage the public. With all the money the Jones campaign has spent have you heard radio ads, have you seen tv ads, have you seen signs? That tells us that there must be a lot of internal organizing going on, maybe some grass roots organizing but nothing that's getting on the public radar.

Ted Simons: It's interesting with the Democratic side. For the Democratic primary, Democrat voters only, Fred DuVal is tied with Ron Kavanagh, as his opponent. Yet when you put DuVal up against the top Republican names, he beats I believe Ducey and Smith and is second close to Bennett. People are just waiting to be wowed, aren't they?

Jeremy Duda: Head to head general election match, it's basically a party I.D. poll. No one's heard of these folks, which is evident in that DuVal is more or less tied with Kavanagh, who ran as Libertarian for governor four years ago. In a few months we'll start to see these people really start to spend some money. Right now, as you mentioned, organizing and stockpiling campaign cash, qualifying for clean elections and all the action really going on behind the scenes.

Bob Christie: The interesting thing about the governor's race is who's going to break out. Every one of these candidates including Andrew Thomas, Al Melvin, will get a percentage of the vote, 5%, 10%. So, we may see a winner who gets 30% or 35%.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Break out or maybe drop out. Nobody's submitted petitions yet so we don't know if they will even all qualify to get on the ballot. There does seem to be sort of a winnowing of the field before it gets to the voters.

Ted Simons: Speaking of dropping out, Leland Taylor is out of the Secretary of State's race, that is a surprise?

Mary Jo Pitzl: Not at the end of the day. She had signaled her intentions to run since last year, and formally got in before Christmas. Soon after that former A.G. Terry Goddard announced that he was intending to run for Secretary of State, and that touched off a series of meetings between these two with sort of a racial component there because Taylor is the only African-American lawmaker and is leaving the legislature due to term limits. But you take a state senator versus a man who has won statewide office twice as attorney general, lost a couple of governor bids but nonetheless has strong name I.D. I'm not privy to the behind-the-scenes conversations, but it was pretty heavily weighted in Goddard's favor.

Ted Simons: Sounds like she said obviously Goddard’s entry played no part in it, we were expecting that. But she's holding out and endorsing Goddard.

Jeremy Duda: He's still an exploratory, he told me a couple days ago he would probably change that around the end of the month. I'm sure she will endorse him eventually. If she had stayed in the head to head race a politician with more name I.D. than almost anyone else in Arizona out of John McCain and Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio, she would have had a lot of trouble competing in the down-ballot race. Most people just vote for party I.D. Goddard might be able to change that dynamic a little bit, because he's pretty well known and he might be able to compete in this general election.

Mary Jo Pitzl: And Leland Taylor said part of the reason she's maybe leaving is her passion is child welfare issues. The biggest issue at the legislature right now is remaking Child Protective Services. She is part of that process and wants to remain of part of that after her legislative term ends.

Ted Simons: She's part of the CARE team isn’t she?

Mary Jo Pitzl: She is.

Ted Simons: Vernon Parker not going to run for Congress, but running for the Corporation Commission. Is that a surprise?

Bob Christie: That tells you nothing about the Corporation Commission race and everything about ninth congressional district race. Sinema won handily last time. This tells you that Vernon doesn’t think he can beat her this time. So I think Sinema probably is safe in that Tempe-based Democratic leaning district. We'll see if there's another Republican who wants to jump in.

Ted Simons: Is there another Republican that wants to jump in?

Jeremy Duda: I haven’t heard of one. Parker was the leading fund-raiser on the Republican side actually, he's been out there raising money and spending money. Switching over actually reinforces the reputation he's gotten as a man looking for something to run for. Five years ago this guy had rising star written all over him. When he started to get into the governor's race to run against Brewer, dropped out to run for Congress. He lost that primary to Ben Quail. Two years later runs for Congress again, loses to Sinema in a pretty tight general election. And now Corp. Comm. it's kind of one of those offices where people run for when they don't have anything else left to run for.

Ted Simons: Well we’ll see how he does there. It’s kind of almost a lesson there for other candidates who want to jump from lower office. I know you want to aim for the sun and land on the moon, but sometimes you get burned if you land on the sun. So--

Mary Jo Pitzl: It's an interesting period, he's running with Lucy Mason, a former state lawmaker, who did express a big interest in water issues. She's based in Prescott, Parker's from the valley. I don't know if those kind of dynamics make for a broader statewide appeal for a team but it's a different approach.

Ted Simons: There are two seats and they are running as team, both Republicans. That will help them both, as well. What’s going o--- we talked about folks in the legislature who were pro Medicaid expansion and restoration. The thought was, we're going see real trouble come election time, may not be able to raise enough money, may find tough candidates. Sounds like they are doing just fine raising money.

Jeremy Duda: They are doing really well, supporting Medicaid expansion, at least financially, is very good for reelection. How that plays with the conservative grass roots might be another story, which is why you kind of have to raise this much money. But down to about 12 Republicans running for election who voted for that, there have been numerous fundraisers by health care industry groups, Governor Brewer raising a lot of money. You look at campaign finance reports you see a lot of hospital and health care group CEOs and related PACs. Heather Carter, a leader for this, has already raised over $100,000, Kate Brophy McGee about $113,000, $78,000 for Jonna, she’s not running for re-election, and another 75 for Bob Robertson who is in the same district. A lot of these people have contested primaries. So far we haven't seen those opponents really raising much.

Mary Jo Pitzl: The money sort of serves as firewall, an attempt to try to repel candidates. Not all of the Republicans who voted for Medicaid expansion, not all of them face challengers or tough challengers. It probably comes down to a hand thankful really have some horse races on their hands.

Ted Simons: Is this a message from big business in the health care industry, we're behind you and not behind you.

Bob Christie: I think that’s clear. The Governor pulls in more than $600,000 for a separate PAC she created specifically to help candidates in Arizona. Guess who's going to get the money if necessary? Those who supported her on Medicaid.

Mary Jo Pitzl: What's also helping is the higher campaign contribution limits approved by the court after that was contested. Just thumbing through some of the reports, some of the candidates last fall were collecting at bit above the previous limits. We haven't seen anybody pulling in a $400,000 check yet, but that's permissible.

Jeremy Duda: But remember last year when all these Republicans started lining up behind Brewer, everyone knew the threats came immediately, we will run someone against you in the primary, you're not conservative enough. The health care groups, the chamber of commerce, Governor Brewer, all said we will vote for this, we will help you next year when the election rolls around. And people are making do on those promises.

Ted Simons: Speaking of money there's an attempt to get hold of what is called dark money. This is money that is impossible to figure out where it's coming from. There is now legislation that attempts to do what, Mary Jo? This is so complicated.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Well, it attempts to shine a light on ultimately where would the money come from that has been labeled dark money. What we've seen in past elections, more so in other states but somewhat here, it's like a daisy chain of committees. Committee X gives to committee Y gives to committee Z, which ultimately gives to the cause or to the candidate. When you try to trace that back it's gets lost in the whole maze of nonprofits which do not have to disclose their business profits or their members. Along comes Senator Michelle Reagan with flashlight in hand looking with Senate Bill 1403. We should mention that she is running for Secretary of State, which is the top elections official.

Ted Simons: How far does that flashlight shine? What are we really seeing out of this?

Jeremy Duda: It’s hard to say. There are already a lot of questions with how well this can be enforced. Senator Reagan is trying to get to what she calls identifiable contributors. You have this daisy chain were these anonymous sounding LLPs, like People for Arizona, Arizona for a Better Future, We Love Arizona committee, whatever. And you start pumping hundreds of thousands or maybe millions from one group to the next and the next and you report it. Nobody knows where that started. The Secretary of State will have some expanded powers to start looking into them but it's hard to say whether or not that's really going to be enough.

Ted Simons: Does it sound like it's going to be enough?

Bob Christie: The citizens United case just opened the floodgates. I don't know how you do it, you can start but I don't think anybody's coming up with a solution yet to really shine a light on where the money comes from.

Mary Jo Pitzl: This bill I believe is going to get its first airing Tuesday in the elections committee that Senator Reagan chairs. Lots of things can be done to it along the way, perhaps where people see some shortcomings maybe that can be tightened up or maybe the bill just die as death of a thousand cuts.

Bob Christie: And it has some bipartisan supports. It has Democrats and Republicans who have signed on as cosponsors. We'll see after it comes out of committee, generally it's her committee so it'll come out of the committee. If it gets broad support on the floor, maybe it's got legs.

Mary Jo Pitzl: It does put the burden on the ultimate recipient of the money to say where they got the money from.
Jeremy Duda: And Senator Reagan's already planning some amendments to take out some of the provisions that were intended to enforce these shadowy committees to register with the Secretary of State's office. Some of that is already coming out over concerns over constitutionality, enforcement.

Ted Simons: I was going to say bipartisan support is there. What kind of opposition is there?

Jeremy Duda: There are a lot of people who feel like this is a First Amendment issue. Some people say that is a free speech issue. If you force these groups spending hundreds of thousands or millions against people who are already in elected office, if you force them to disclose who they are, they are subject to retaliation. That'll have a chilling effect on speech. I've talked to some Republican lawmakers who say we're really concerns about that other may just enforce ability issues. The free speech issue is where most of the opposition is going to come from.

Ted Simons: Is the Republican base, is there enough concern in the Republican base where this might not be such a benefit for a primary candidate for statewide office?

Mary Jo Pitzl: I really can't speak to that. But the assumption that is they tend to side more on no limits, you know, but they also talk about a lot of disclosure. As Bob pointed out, since citizens United and the rules on nonprofits, I mean, these folks are following the letter of the law.

Ted Simons: Yeah, again, but if you're running for statewide office, look at me, I'm trying to shine a light, in that particular field is a light necessarily a good thing?

Bob Christie: In my view and I think in a lot of people’s views, we need to know who's funding these campaigns. But it is such a long chain, as we said how do you really figure out who's spending the money?

Ted Simons: All right, we'll stop it right there, great conversation, thanks for joining us.

Ted Simons: Monday on "Arizona Horizon" we'll hear about effort an effort to increase the Roosevelt Lake’s bass population, and we’ll learn about an upcoming forum on optimal aging. That’s Monday evening 5:30 and 10 right here on “Arizona Horizon”. Tuesday the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House join to us discuss legislative issues. Wednesday it's our weekly legislative update with the "Arizona Capitol Times." Thursday revisit Arizona history in honor of the state's 102nd birth day. And Friday it's another edition of the "Journalists' Roundtable." 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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