Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 20, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists’ Roundtable


  • Local reporters review the week's top stories
Guests:
  • Casey Newton - Arizona Republic
  • Mary K Reinhart - Arizona Guardian
  • Dennis Welch - Arizona Guardian
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are -- Mary K. Reinhart of "The Arizona Guardian," Dennis Welch of "The Arizona Guardian," and Casey Newton of "The Arizona Republic." Last month's prison escape from a private facility in Kingman was the worst the state has seen in 30 years; that according to the director of the Arizona Department of Corrections. The incident has a lot of fingers pointing in a lot of directions. Mary Kay, what happened, and the response. Especially the political response.

Mary K. Reinhart:
The political response was rapid and non-stop. The candidate for governor, Terry Goddard came out strongly, as days went by and the fellow still on the loose with his fiance slash first cousin was not being caught and the longer it went on and we had one couple, they're accused with having something to do with their death. If anything else had happened before their capture, it might have become a political liability for our sitting governor. As luck would have it -- these folks were apprehended. And serendipitously, the Department of Corrections put "a thundershower and quite damming report, I think, on the private prison for-profit contractor running the Kingman facility.

Dennis Welch:
You talk about the political fallout, it was fortunate all that have happened on one day, you get this big one day -- it's a one-day story, instead of getting a bad report and the next day you have more inmates escape and you have a story about what wept wrong and that minimized that.

Casey Newton:
You're going to see Democrats do all they can to Denver it into a story over the longer term. They've said that private prisons can't be trusted and use staff members that don't have the training or experience needed to oversee violent criminals. Now we find out on the day these people escape from the prison in Kingman, the security had 9 false alarms. It got to the point where the staff members weren't paying attention to the alarms going off. This was what the Democrats have been warning about and Republicans saying you're playing chicken little.

Mary K Reinhart:
If you read the report it's a gift to the Democrats because as Casey says, it brings up the very issues they've been concerned about. Training, you know, the green folks, it was -- they were hard-pressed to find guards that had been there more than a year. The training was inadequate and the Department of Corrections has already moved nearly 150 prisoner, the place had been expanded in April to include more medium security prisoners and doesn't appear it had been retrofitted or prepared for that move.

Ted Simons:
The report, the culture of complacency and harsh words, the governor says she still believes in private prisons. Does that hurt her?

Dennis Welch:
I don't think it's going to hurt her a whole lot, to be honest with you. I don't see the public outrage. The democrats are going to do everything they can to make this a big issue. We've seen them try to connect some of her top political people to lobbyists for the private prison companies like her spokesman, a former lobe gist and chief political counselor, chuck Kaufman, and in the long run, I don't see that as being a big issue.

Casey Newton:
Here's the talking point. The Republicans in the legislature have been spent the past years trying to privatize everything they can. And they've been saying private prisons can do this better and cheaper. And now the Democrats have a argument, that no, they can't. The publicly run prisons are doing a better job and making sure they don't escape. This is a consequence of doing it on the cheap, is what they'll argue.

Mary K. Reinhart:
I mean there's some work done that said where we used to be saving, maybe five or six bucks. Now we're down to $2.50. If it's less safe and not saving us that much money. The state has privatized to the teeth as it is. That was the road they went down in 2009. They rescinded the legislation because nobody wanted to take the contracts.

Ted Simons:
Terry Goddard, his quote, the public is at risk in a climate of permissiveness toward private prisons. Obviously a shout the governor and legislators. I hate to say does -- does he take advantage of this?

Dennis Welch:
He's going to try and do everything he can to make this a talking point on the issues. She's the one that supports the government on the cheap stuff that led to this security lapse at these prisons. So yeah, he's going to do everything he can.

Casey Newton:
If Goddard needs an issue, polls shows him down in the polls. To get him take a look at his record, he hasn't found it yet. But on this issue, he was able to get headlines and get his name in the paper and present himself as another option.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about the Goddard campaign. There was a economic plan released what have relearned?

Casey Newton:
The cornerstone of his economic plan -- surprise, surprise -- small business. It's nothing new. A lot of politicians use. What Terry is proposing is to do tax -- for small businesses and startups to help them through the first two, three years when they start up which is the toughest time for any business starting. And other than that, he's got plans for public works, retrofitting the state buildings with the green environmentally safe and more efficient types of technologies and stuff like that. But the main thing is what he can do to help small businesses.

Mary K Reinhart:
And he's got the ever-lovely close tax loopholes too.

Dennis Welch:
A lot of stuff, he wasn't specific. What loopholes? He hasn't presented a balanced budget plan and right now, it's a talking point.

Mary K. Reinhart:
The level playing field and not playing favorites with biz and not closing loopholes that have a humanitarian impact. But taking it to businesses that aren't going to like it too much. So this has been talked about forever. Whether or not it's doable is a completely different story.

Casey Newton:
The question for me is whether this is going to resonate. There was tough timing for him yesterday on this issue. You had everything coming out about the prisons and that sucked up the media oxygen in the room. Just a couple weeks ago, he put out a education plan. There hasn't been a lot of talk about that since. Seems like the economic plan could be headed in the same direction.

Dennis Welch:
But that's his fault. He chose to come out and put the plan out, knowing well in advance that the prison stuff, at least the report was going to come out that day. He knew he would have to compete with that. I don't understand that. He makes these types of decisions. I mean, a little bit off the topic, he launched a TV commercials this week. In a week where he's going to be competing with everybody else running in the primaries, lost in the white noise. I don't know why he continues to make these choices. He should have waited to next week to release it next Thursday, hey, it's the general election, let's get real and talk about the jobs and the economy.

Ted Simons:
But to do it four days before primary election, even without the prison stuff, seemed like odd timing, he challenged Governor Brewer to a debate. Six different topic, the governor who has to appear in one debate which will be right here. On "Horizon."

Casey Newton:
I have to say, the way it was presented came across as a little bit disingenuous. Some of the locations liked design to maximize the damage to the Brewer campaign. We're going to talk about prison security at Kingman and I have a hard time believing that the Goddard campaign put that plan together thinking Jan would say yes.


Dennis Welch:
Obviously, the challenger, it's a classic move by them. They try to challenge the incumbents to debates and about by and large, they usually decline. Because they have so much to lose. And Terry wants to get in a room and show everybody how much smarter he is than her.

Casey Newton:
And we're seeing the start of is Jan dodging the debate. It hasn't ever gotten any campaign any traction. I haven't seen it.

Ted Simons:
When you talk about it, when they have to debate, which by the way, is on "Horizon." [Laughter] It's her race it lose. And if it's your race it lose, the less said the better.

Mary K. Reinhart:
Why would you want to sit down six times when you only have to sit down one time? She can call up the "The New York Times" and get herself in the paper any time she wants, pretty much. There's no upside for her to do this. But clearly, he had to make the offer.

Ted Simons:
On the other hand, is the fact that many would say -- a lot of folks have the perception she's not the best at speak off the cuff. And then do people say maybe she is dodging because they don't have confidence in her speaking off the cuff?

Dennis Welch:
I don't see this resonating with voters. Well, she's not debating. There's going to be plenty of information and commercials and Jan Brewer out there. We've already got enough of Jan Brewer in the last couple months.


Casey Newton:
And she may find she benefits from low expectation in the debate. Terry wants six debates and if he only gets one shot, and doesn't hit it out of the park, it's going to be viewed as a loss for him.

Mary K Reinhart:
I don't know that the voters really care if she says did or done.

Dennis Welch:
A lot of voters don't care how she uses the English language. All they know is she signed 1070.

Ted Simons:
Speaking of 1070, no tweaks now they're going to leave it alone until the appeals process runs out.

Casey Newton:
That's what they said. They're giving up chances to get immigration into the headlines again. At this point, there wasn't a need to have anything tweaked.

Ted Simons:
And the governor trying to alter aspects of the law that the judge wasn't happy with. Just wait it off.

Dennis Welch:
Maybe put it off, it's run its course and lost a little bit of momentum, but it ain't the last you'll hear of it




Casey Newton:
do lawmakers really wasn't to acknowledge there's anything wrong with the bill? It seems they want to fight it out and run against the Obama administration.

Mary K Reinhart:
A couple of them why should we go -- we like the bill the way it is. I'm surprised that the momentum went out of the issue. I thought something would happen. A motion filed that would keep it in the headlines.
Ted Simons:
Dean Martin having problems with clean elections regarding what he did before he decided not do it anymore, which is run for governor.

Dennis Welch:
Put this in context, he was running as a clean elections candidate. He launched the campaign in January and did not qualify for $700,000 in public money until about 11 days until he dropped his campaign and in that 11 days, he spent over 130, $140,000 in public money, on campaign consultants and managers. You're not supposed to back-pay according to the rules of clean elections for work they did prior. So there's -- people are looking at that and saying, well, what is this money for? Is this an appropriate way to handle public monies?

Ted Simons:
Does this hurt him later on in future political ambitions or forgotten six months from now?

Casey Newton:
I think it depends if the investigation turns anything up. It seems you could easily spend that much money just to find out you didn't have the support to keep going, right? You do a little bit of polling and hire high-powered consultants and absolutely, he can show up again in two years, four years, and run for congress.


Dennis Welch:
What the clean elections people will look at, whether they were paying what they call fair market value. I call half a dozen political consultants in the valley and it appears that some of the rates was well above what normal rates are paid. There was a $45,000 disbursement to his campaign manage for basically 11 takes of work. The average campaign consultant is going to take about $10,000 to $15,000 per month and that's somebody with experience. Nobody heard of this campaign manager he had. Nobody heard of her before.

Ted Simons:
Is there a timetable for the investigation?

Dennis Welch:
No, not right now. They take their time with stuff like this and they'll can busy right now with the campaigns heating up and everything.

Ted Simons:
Casey, another concern regarding Doug Ducey and the cold stone creamery business.

Casey Newton:
He left the company in 2007 but was CEO during its rise and if you go through and look at corporation commission records what you'll find annual reports for cold stone and some of the other business entities associated with it were filing annual reports late. Sometimes as little as 10 days, sometimes eight months. What does it mean? You don't file the annual report for long enough, you lose the right to do business. If you talk to the people at cold stone, they say this is something that was given to paralegals to do and not hitting the desk of the CEO. At the same time, I think there's a heightened level of scrutiny on his business practices because he's touting them as the main qualification for being the manager of the state's money.




Dennis Welch:
And Casey has written stories about the tax problems in the past. Filing the taxes late. You're see egg trend emerging with Mr. Ducey, some of his paperwork, being lackadaisical. And it's a question in the voters minds. You're pushing paper --

Mary K Reinhart:
Is this the kind of thing that resonates with voters? He spent a boatload of money, probably three times what the nearest competitor spent. Does the average voter go to the polls -- A, no, and, B, really care that much?

Casey Newton:
It gives his opponents an ability to craft a media narrative like the one that Dennis suggested. This guy doesn't pay attention to detail and can't be trusted and when was the last time we had a state treasurer's race that had a opening for an unknown to come along and beat the drum and say you can't trust this guy.

Ted Simons:
This is a general election issue more than a primary election issue?

Mary K Reinhart:
I think so.

Ted Simons:
We have John McCain endorsing Rick Romley. Is there internal polling, external polling?

Dennis Welch:
Word on the street -- [Laughter] -- is Bill Montgomery probably has a good shot at winning this thing. It's counter-intuitive. Everybody thought Romley would come through and cruise to victory. And it's not looking that way. And the John McCain endorsement. Among Republican in Maricopa County, I don't know if that help or hurts Romley.

Mary K Reinhart:
And it might actually hurt, low turnout -- we were talking about this -- this is going to be the base, you know the far right and that's the bill Montgomery crowd, I think.

Ted Simons:
And the fact that right now, you're getting the endorsement from John McCain which would be a heavy endorsement, does that signify there's trouble Romley side?

Casey Newton:
I think Romley campaign could be in trouble. Again, we haven't seen any real polling on the subject, but historically, we know that more conservative candidates have tended to do well if that particular primary for county attorney. I think if bill Montgomery wins on Tuesday, none of us will say that's a surprise.

Dennis Welch:
And he's been heard about 1070 and the fact that he's gotten a lot of money from Democrats and his campaign has hurt him among the core voters that are going to come out in the primary.

Ted Simons:
Last question. Could, if Montgomery win, could Rick Romley run as an independent?

Dennnis Welch:
I don't know what the legalities of that are. I -- that would be interesting if he did run as a independent or a write-in.


Mary K Reinhart:
That would be the only race, other than that, there's no democrat, so it'd be over if he doesn't.

Casey Newton:
Democrats have placed all of their hopes on Romley. I think you would expect to find higher support.

Ted Simons:
We had an interesting letter, Carl Kunasek -- Andy. Who can explain this letter? Is it still relatively new?

Mary K Reinhart:
Yesterday's date. To fellow Arizonans and details a lengthy conversation that he -- Andy Kunasek said occurred between himself and the prosecutors in the case that we just heard about last week from Rick Romley that went to the grand jury and they threw it away. What Andy Kunasek said, they told him, look, we can make this go away if you let us pick, socially, the next county attorney.

Ted Simons:
Yes.

Mary K Reinhart:
That's pretty --

Ted Simons:
Well, the words that Kunasek used were vile and criminal abuse of office. This is serious stuff. Not fooling around.



Dennis Welch:
No, but it's nothing new when you look at the history between these folks and the board. We've heard this language for quite while and this is another chapter.

Casey Newton:
And that's what makes the story hard. Theres so much hyperbole. It's going to take time whether the department of justice or anyone does anything. Wee know they're investigating. Is it ever going to turn into an indictment.

Dennis Welch:
That's the question I have. At some point, you have to indict or drop the investigation and give this guy a chance to clear his name.

Mary K Reinhart:
That's probably what Andy Kunasek -- it sounds like what happened to him.

Dennis Welch:
A lot of people think it's unfair for Arpaio to do -- and Thomas do to do these investigations. Give them a day in court to clear their name or drop the investigation.

Mary K Reinhart:
It doesn't appear to be a smoking gun but there's so many guns -- an arsenal.

Ted Simons:
Firing squad. [Laughter]


Ted Simons:
A quick preview of the primary. Someone mentioned there was a slow return on early ballots. What does it tell you?

Dennis Welch:
It tells me there's not a lot of interest in the race. I think because the main race is McCain and the governor's race. I don't think there's a lot of excitement. The 33% return on early ballots mid week, 47% as of yesterday. It could be good for the more conservative candidates and the Republican primaries and liberal candidates and democratic primaries because those of the people who tend to turn out.

Casey Newton:
And I think voters don't know about these candidates. So many were running with clean elections money and didn't have a lot of money to get on the airwaves and when you poll on name identification, even for races like attorney general, you find voters saying we don't know who they are.

Dennis Welch:
The primary -- they're moving it up. A few weeks, so I think that's got everybody not paying as much attention.

Mary K Reinhart:
People are coming back from vacation. Just got their kids in school. I had somebody in a restaurant say did the election already happen?

Ted Simons:
Negative campaigning was a factor, do you think people are starting to get bludgeoned out there?

Mary K Reinhart:
I don't think it's anything -- it feels nastier but maybe that's because we're in the thick of it.

Casey Newton:
I talked with a political scientist and he said that negative campaigning doesn't do anything for the person doing it but reduces the favorable ratings to the person you're having the negative ad against.

Ted Simons:
So basically, a pox on all of your houses and we're going to take it that direction?

Dennis Welch:
Yeah, yeah. I think the main race has already been decided and that drama has been taken out. McCain or Hayworth, they're not going to want to come out --

Mary K Reinhart:
We saw registration number, independents are about a third. And the parties haven't given them a reason to come out on Tuesday. They've got an uneventful campaign going on, why turn out?

Casey Newton:
Many independents don't know they're allowed to vote in the primaries.

Ted Simons:
A lot of folks question -- I think the question everyone gets, what do I do? How do I do it? And apparently the information still needs to get out there. Great conversation, we'll have a recap coming up next week. Should be fun.


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