Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 8, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists Roundtable


  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Dennis Welch - East Valley Tribune
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons
>> Tonight on Horizon, the senate race brings up some heavy allegations against lawmaker Russell Pearce. The sheriff says he's planning another crime suppression sweep. And we'll look at the polls to see where presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama stand. That's next on Horizon.

Announcer
>> Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons
>> Hello and welcome to Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. Joining me, Dennis Welch of the "East Valley Tribune," Matt Benson of "The Arizona Republic," and Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. Domestic violence allegations involving Russell Pearce. Dennis, we've got some mailings here. 20 plus, close to 30-year allegations. Break it down for us.

Dennis Welch
>> Well, the first one is we have a pair of mailers that went out this week. Coincidentally it's the beginning of mail-in ballots are going out and these kinds of things. The first mailer came out this week was detailing a 30-year-old domestic violence allegation made by his current wife back in 1980, I believe it was, the beginning of 1980 when she filed for divorce saying he's prone to have a violent temper and he has indeed shoved and slap her around a little bit. The secretary mailer that went out, I believe it was today -- second mailer -- links Russell Pearce and a relationship he has with a guy who is suspected or known to be a Nazi. So that kind of makes that connection there and it kind of accuses Russell Pearce of running with a fascist, Nazi crowd.

Howard Fischer
>> And these are two very different allegations. The fact is that Russell and Luanne are together. Did she perhaps make some statements to her attorney 28 years ago when she suddenly said "I've had enough" that the attorney may or may not have quoted accurately or maybe even inflated a bit about he's "possessed of a violent temper." They reconciled. I don't know what happened 28 years ago. Luanne says, you know, I may have said it, I may not have said it. I don't know. I think Russell got some sympathy from the first one in terms of what happened 28 years ago in the marriage. This one is a different character. Russell says "look, I was at a rally, an anti-immigration rally. I was there. J.T. Ready was there. I've known him. I didn't realize he'd gone over the edge in terms of being a Neo Nazi." now, the problem is Russell's crowd, Russell's issues tend to attract a certain type. And Russell has not really done a great job of distancing himself from these people and saying publicly, "I don't want you here because you take my cause." and this mailer I think is more of a problem.

Matthew Benson
>> Don't forget, it was a year or two, 18 months, two years ago that Russell Pearce also forwarded on an e-mail that had some white supremacist and anti-Semitic sayings within it. Of course he came out and said this came from a friend. I had no idea it was in there. He said he cut links with that friend. But it all plays in. And it sort of -- it paints a very unflattering picture.

Dennis Welch
>> All in all I think it was a really bad week for Russell. I mean, anytime in the same week you have to deny allegations that you are a Nazi and a wife beater, not real good for you leading up into an election.

Ted Simons
>> Who is behind this particular campaign?

Howard Fischer
>> Well, this is actually put together by Nathan Sprawl who is a political consultant, long time republican operative, his own little bit of political history, too, we've talked about in the show. Nathan's argument is that the soul of the republican party is at stake to the extent that Russell has become a party leader and that he's kind of cowed everyone else in the legislature to follow him on some of the anti-immigrant stuff, on some of the other tack stuff he is moving the party toward the John Birch wing. He's gotten a lot of other people to help support him. One of the people sort of forced out of the closet here is Jason Levick. Jason's interest is he owns all the -- pizza parlor franchise.

Ted Simons
>> Grandson of Carl Jr., I think.

Howard Fischer
>> So his issue comes down to Russell's role in terms of the employer sanctions law, where Russell shoved through what is perhaps the most strict employer sanction law in the country. You can be put out of business for two violations. And so he'd like to see the party get rid of Russell also.

Ted Simons
>> I want to get back to that aspect of it. I guess the legislature, matt, is there a concern among the G.O.P., the caucus and just the members down there that the party is moving too far to the right? You've got some pretty heavy hitters who are saying it's getting too far out there.

Matthew Benson
>> Certainly there's a concern among some members who don't want to vote on some of these Russell bills. They don't want to be put out there publicly. They did prefer frankly that legislature move onto some other things and not focus so predominantly on immigration. But immigration is what all of this is about it. Was a year ago in the wake of the new employer sanctions law that wake-up Arizona came out, the business coalition group, and said "we're coming after some of the architects of this bill in 2008". And here they are and they're coming after the main guy, Russell Pearce.

Dennis Welch
>> And I don't think -- an important point here you can't overlook is a lot of Russell's power came from the fact, too, that he was head of the appropriations committee over in the house. Anything with money, it went through his committee. He's running for senate. He's termed out of the house. I think by going over to the senate he's going to lose a lot of that power. So to say this is about the soul of the party that he's forcing and moving everybody out this way, it's going to be less next year if he gets into the senate.

Howard Fischer
>> But he knows how to use us. You know, it's a symbiotic relationship between the press and the people we cover. We need them to get our names on the front page, they need us to get their name out there. And to the extent that he's figured out the hot button issues, the things that are going to get the stories on the front page, the things that are going for be on the 5:00, 6:00, 10:00 news, he knows how to do that. And he's dragged along some other folks who don't dare say no.

Ted Simons
>> Okay. Taken in whole and in toto here, does this -- is this the kind of situation that could backfire against those going after -- it's hard to say could backfire against a guy that's an accused wife beater and Nazi but could it backfire?

Howard Fischer
>> First of all, there's one more mailer I think coming next week. This goes back to his time as the head of the motor vehicle division. Did he do a favor for a friend or not. I think that's esoteric. Can it backfire? I think the first one can. This one is trickier. Russell is now put on the defensive in the "yes, I know the guy." But he needs to be clear. He needs to clearly distance himself. The other thing that becomes interesting in this mix is a peculiarity of the clean elections law. -- he's already maxed out because of what Kevin Gibbons is spending. So that means that this group, this Mesa Deserves Better, just to keep spending and he cannot match them. So that puts him in the whole.

Ted Simons
>> Indeed. The question remains, though, could this backfire on those doing all the spending?

Matthew Benson
>> I don't think so. For one thing the ads that are coming out that are the most striking, the ads that got furthest, Kevin Gibbons has had some ads as a candidate but they don't go nearly as far as these independent expenditure ads. Who are they going to take it out on? Nathan Sprawl? I guess he's a political consultant, unelected, the voters don't know him. There's no one to take it out on. That's the reason these kind of ads, the swift boat and veteran kind of ads, that's the reason they're effective because they can say virtually everything and there's no culpability.

Ted Simons
>> Against Russell Pearce in Mesa.

Dennis Welch
>> He's had problems already in the past. He was the lowest vote getter in the republican primary last time. Almost got beaten by a democrat in the general election. This certainly isn't going to help him. I think can only hurt him. So yeah, I don't think it's going to backfire against them at all.

Howard Fischer
>> It does raise the question, your point, assume us he survives the primary, have they given the seat over to a democrat? Have they softened them up sufficiently?
Dennis Welch
>> In that district?

Howard Fischer
>> This has happened before in terms of Jeff Grosscost getting kicked out -- it doesn't matter if Adolf Hitler's name is on the republican line they will vote that. Other people say, wait a second. Particularly with 25\% of voters being independents in this state.

Dennis Welch
>> And in the presidential election where there's going to be a heavy turnout out there and different from previous elections I think.

Ted Simons
>> Lets talk about Joe Arpaio here and move on regarding public opinions and such behavior research center, 54\% saying that the sheriff is doing a good or excellent job. Dennis, any politician would that kind of approval rating. But for Arpaio that's a significant drop.

Dennis Welch
>> Oh, yeah, you're right. Any politician would kill for that kind of stuff. But here's a guy that the thing, "Rocky Mountain News" service out there had pulled this guy, 70\% approval ratings in the past. And to slip down to 54\%, yeah, that's a big deal for him. And he'll tell you, anybody he talks to he'll say polls don't matter to me is what he'll tell you. But boy, they are really working real hard to try to kill these types of stories.

Howard Fischer
>> And of course, the problem is that Dan Sabin, he's not coming up. These people are moving into the undecided category. Look, Joe has become a character of himself. And there are times I think he's on TV that lead to this decline. You know, the issues of at what point has he gone over the edge. Dan Sabin has not been able to articulate effectively some reason why he should be replacing Arpaio. And that's the gap that's occurring there. Look. There are enough people who are starting to get dissatisfied with Arpaio, people saying that crime rates are up, the response times are down. But Dan has not -- not presented a sufficient case to this point.

Ted Simons
>> Is the caricature catching up to Arpaio?

Howard Fischer
>> I think so. It's sort of like Dolly Parton being the best female impersonator. Joe is the best Joe Arpaio impersonator. He's impersonating himself. He really is. To the extent that it's the most outrageous and worse things, speak of himself in the third person, the sheriff does this and that sort of gruff attitude and they can't tell the sheriff what to do. He's become a caricature.

Dennis Welch
>> I think some of this decline, 54\% approval rating, I think some could be attributed to -- you hear a lot of in politics. But Arpaio fatigue. I mean, this guy's been in power for 16 years. You know, and even in the media you see press releases from this guy two or three times a day. Pink underwear, this, that, everything else. I think some of it is attributed to the fatigue.

Matthew Benson
>> All he's got to do is be re-elected. He doesn't have to win by 40 points. If he gets re-elected he'll be back in his perch for another term.

Dennis Welch
>> This is a county that's so skewed towards republicans. It's a pretty safe bet he's going to get re-elected.

Ted Simons
>> Go further on that. Does an endorsement from Joe Arpaio with these kinds of numbers falling, granted they're still good but falling, what does that mean about an Arpaio endorsement?

Dennis Welch
>> I don't think it helps or hurts anymore. As Howie was saying, he's a caricature of himself. It doesn't really matter. The same poll that was taken also said Phil Gordon is still enormously popular in Phoenix. You would think if he had a lot of pull and a lot of juice with voters and influence with them and whatnot, this fight, this very public fight they've been having would drag Phil Gordon down.

Howard Fischer
>> Coming down to the point of the radio endorsement of Susan Bittersmith, when you have a primary with that many people in it where 18\% of the total can end up taking it, I don't know. If it gets certain people out in the congressional race, does it turn certain people off that wouldn't otherwise vote for Susan? I don't know. But in a primary with that many congressional candidates running for the republican nomination, an Arpaio endorsement may help. People who are trying to separate out the different republicans.

Ted Simons
>> As Dennis mentioned he's almost an island unto himself. It really may not make a difference whether he goes for you or against you.

Howard Fischer
>> I think in a crowded primary it might make a small difference. Again, given the number of candidates there, two points is two points.

Ted Simons
>> You mentioned Phil Gordon and Arpaio and their dispute and their spat and the whole nine yards. Howie, are we still on op-ed face off between the two. Who won?

Howard Fischer
>> Oh, I don't think -- well, Joe will tell you he won, Phil will tell you he won. The republic circulation department will say they won since it was in their paper. There is no winning in this. They're talking on two different levels. They're not even using the same crime statistics when they do this. Phil is talk about trying to get reporters from Washington to come here ala Don Bowles investigation.

Ted Simons
>> Are reporters crawling all over town?

Howard Fischer
>> I haven't noticed them here. But maybe they're working undercover. Very secret. Joe is talking about we're doing the people's will. They're talking at two different levels. They're not even addressing the same issues. So I mean, face-off, it was more of a joint appearance, I think.

Matthew Benson
>> And meanwhile, this is the spat between those two is the biggest thing going in their worlds right now. But a lot of voters are paying attention to other stuff. It's summer vacation, a lot of the political world is paying attention to a presidential election. A little bigger deal than this sort of --

Dennis Welch
>> I was wondering, we talked about whether things would backfire against the group going after Russell. But if this backfires against both the sheriff and the mayor, if this continues for any length of time, if it continues for awhile, people are going to get real tired of this.

Howard Fischer
>> Although, now I'm looking way ahead to the 2010 race to the extent that Phil Gordon is trying to raise his profile outside of Phoenix, that may provide him the base he needs. Because right now his most likely foe is Terry Goddard who has a state profile. Phil is trying to prove a Phoenix mayor can become governor. It didn't work for Terry or Paul Johnson.

Dennis Welch
>> It hasn't worked for terry yet.

Ted Simons
>> Let's get to this -- in sticking with Arpaio now he's got the ACLU going against Arpaio. We'll talk a little bit later about whether or not that's a good thing or bad thing for Arpaio. But the fact is they're looking for contempt of court regarding abortion and access to medical procedures.

Howard Fischer
>> The Federal Appellate courts ruled a couple of years ago that you cannot deny a woman's right to abortion by refusing to transport her from the jail if she is incarcerated there against her will to get the abortion. The state doesn't pay for the abortion. It's just simply a question of transportation. What happened recently is that there was an inmate who said, "I want an abortion." she told her attorney. Her attorney was told by Jack Mcintire one of the chief deputies, why don't you see if you can get your client out on work release? Jack never volunteered that we are under this court order to provide transport. So now ACLU said -- the attorney finally figured out the court record. The woman got an abortion four weeks later. It's a more complicated procedure. Now they want a contempt citation. That's an interesting question. They didn't deny the woman transportation once she asked for it. They didn't volunteer the information, either. Now, I'm not enough of an attorney to be able to tell you, is that contempt or is that just sort of skirting the edge of it?

Ted Simons
>> Information. We're talking the operative word there is information.

Howard Fischer
>> Information. Are you required to like a Miranda warning. You have the right to an abortion and you will be transported.

Ted Simons
>> Dennis, just off the top of your head, just speaking freely, does that impact? I mean, is Arpaio here and the ACLU there? Is Arpaio upset the ACLU is going after him?

Dennis Welch
>> Anything that keeps Joe in the headlines, you're going to love it. I don't really know what could really hurt him just with one shot like that. If Joe could be seen as taking on the liberal ACLU, well, you know, that's fine with him. Yeah.

Ted Simons
>> All right. Let's move on. Matt, the self-deportation program where folks who have risked their lives, literally risked their lives many of them to get here are now being asked to go ahead and turn yourself in. That's not working?

Matthew Benson
>> Yeah. Supposedly no. I think one person took advantage of this. This is a federal program available to those folks who don't have a criminal record, they're in the country illegally, they got picked up at some point, they didn't show up to the court hearing and so basically they're on the lam. And this allows them to come in, self-deport, and that way they avoid having I.C.E. bang down their door sometime in the middle of the night.

Howard Fischer
>> And the advantage is -- you've got a carrot on this, too. They're here. They're under the radar. If this were part of some legislation where if you self-deport we will put you first in line for getting back in with a green card, then maybe you've got something. Why would they go ahead if they've been able to evade police, if they've been on a federal warrants list, why would they suddenly say, oh, you know, I suddenly feel the need to get a bus ticket to Nogales.

Ted Simons
>> But the other side says that instead of in the middle of the night, the knock on the door in the middle of the night, instead of breaking up families with no chance of getting anything in order with, no preparations, maybe even no transportation down to the border, this allows you maybe 90 days, something along those lines. That's the argument for it.



Dennis Welch
>> What are the odds that I.C.E. is going to be breaking down your door? You've got between 12 and 20 million people -- illegals living in the country. I don't know the figures off the top of my head in the state. What are the chances that I.C.E. is going to be coming to break down your door?

Matthew Benson
>> Nobody buys it. Everybody -- basically you've got 12 million people calling the U.S. Government's bluff saying "we don't believe you. We don't believe you're coming to come after us. And we'll wait you out."

Dennis Welch
>> That's why I would agree with Howie. You have to have some sort of carrot if it's going to be effective at all. Even if you provided something like that you'd still have a pretty minimal response.

Howard Fischer
>> Or a stick which comes down to your point, if in fact I.C.E. starts doing. It but they can barely keep up with the drop houses, what, they're going to go after individuals? This is a good use of their time?

Ted Simons
>> As Matt said, if you're not going to have some kind of strength behind it, I mean, they're just calling the bluff.

Ted Simons
>> Okay. Howie, snowball in court, in the ninth circuit, this is a big deal in a variety of ways.

Howard Fischer
>> Yes. Because it overturns the prior ruling of a three judge panel in the ninth circuit. Here's what happened. The new owners of snow bowl want to use snow-making equipment. The fact is this is the desert. There have been years we've only had four years of skiing up there. There have been other years where we've had three months of skiing. They want snow-making equipment. The problem is that they want to use treated effluent from flagstaff. The Navajos, Hopi, White Mountain, Apache basically said this is one of our four sacred peaks. If you put treated effluent up there, this holy mountain is no longer pure. What happened today is that the ninth circuit said, "Yes, there is a federal law that says government action that infringed on the right of religious freedom can be restrained." now remember, this is on forest service land which is why the government comes into it. But they said, "Nobody is restricting how the Navajo, Hopi practice their religion. Nobody is saying they can't practice their religion. We're just saying they access to Snow Bowl but there will be treated effluent there. Now, this got a really interesting dissent from Bill Fletcher, a judge in the ninth circuit. He said you're just blowing them off because they're Indians. Let's put it in terms you'll understand. They're saying you'll go up and practice your religion on the mountain, there'll be treated effluent there. What if it's a case where the government said you can continue to use your baptisms but you'll have to use treated effluent. It's a little different when you look at it that way.


Ted Simons
>> This has political implications in c.d. 1 because the lawyer, the attorney arguing for the tribes and thus losing-

Howard Fischer
>>Is Howard Shanker. And Howard actually if you go to his website you will see among his accomplishments his early court decision which said they cannot build up there.

Ted Simons
>> How much has this hurt him?

Howard Fischer
>> I think it's sort of like Arpaio. I think any publicity. Look, the Navajos, the Hopi who support him will continue to support him whether or not he's won or loss. I think getting his name in the paper couldn't hurt the fact there's a high profile primary up there.

Ted Simons
>> Does this end this? Will there be more skiing at Snow Bowl next year?

Howard Fischer
>> I believe that Shanker will seek review before the U.S. Supreme court. This is a really interesting law, this religious preservation freedom act. The congress has said, you have to use the least restricted means of interfering with people's rights to religion. The U.S. Supreme court has kind of set some guidelines, but they may decide to take this case and decide exactly where that line comes in, where government action interferes with your right to practice religion.

Ted Simons
>> Let's move on. Matt real quickly here, speaker's talking special session perhaps on vouchers for disabled and foster kids. That program that got slashed in the budget. How likely are we going to see a special session?

Matthew Benson
>> Very unlikely. The governor hasn't said one way or the other officially. All indications, basically the house speaker Jim Weiers has offered up $5 million from his own house fund to pay for the program for another year. And it doesn't look like this is going to happen.

Howard Fischer
>> Well, one of the interesting things, this is part of a 2006 deal. The governor doesn't like vouchers, the use of public money for private parochial schools agreed to the small program for this group because she then got full funding for full day kindergarten. Now all of a sudden the funding disappears for this program partly because of a legal question, the court of appeals said it's not legal. The Supreme Court said you can keep funding. It she's still got her full day kindergarten. The republicans didn't get their vouchers. So the question, is so tell me about this deal here, governor.



Ted Simons
>> And the real question, is as far as fallout, you got speaker Weiers on one side saying I'm helping the children. And you've got the governor on the other side saying, these are private school vouchers. The court's going to say it's not good, anyway. Who wins or loses here?

Matthew Benson
>> It's hard to see how the speaker loses here. He gets to come out on the side of the developmentally disabled and these foster kids. I don't know if the governor loses. She's not on the ballot, anyway. Basically her argument has been, if you've got 5 million bucks let's cut as well.

Howard Fischer
>> I agree with Matt. Speaker loses nothing. Even "the Arizona Republic" which has been very kind to this governor basically said, look. Let's at least fund this for one more year because there are real children involved." so from a political standpoint, Weiers has nothing to lose, you're right, Janet is not running for office but it certainly didn't help her. Makes her look cruel.

Ted Simons
>> We got less than a minute. Polls. Last week we talked about an Arizona poll, or a Maricopa county poll that showed that John McCain slipping as far as his lead over Obama here in home turf. Now we've seen a Rasmussen poll for the state and McCain is up by 16 points. What gives?

Dennis Welch
>> The continuing story of the polls. You just can't trust them especially at this point where nobody is really paying attention. Matt brought that up. Paying attention to other things. Vacations, baseball, whatever. Let's see what they say next month.

Ted Simons
>> Real quickly here. Is Arizona at play for the presidential race?

Dennis Welch
>> No.

Matthew Benson
>> No.

Howard Fischer
>> No.

Ted Simons
>> All right. That's it. Thanks so much for joining us.

Ted Simons
>> We'll keep that in mind. Monday on Horizon we begin a four-part series focusing on small town challenges. Payson has to deal with the issues of water. The city planners have taken a sustainable approach and guaranteed their residents what they hope will be a permanent water supply.

>> Tuesday, Frank Neville with the Thunderbird School of Global Management talks about the potential political and economic impact on Beijing, site of the 2008 Olympics. Wednesday, we'll discuss the possibility of changing or replacing the AIMS test. Thursday, a look at the proposed amusement park in Eloy, Arizona. Friday, we'll be back with another edition of the journalists' roundtable.

>> Coming up next on now, a look at Pakistan. A troubled and troubling ally. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great weekend.

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