Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 13, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Journalists’ Roundtable

  |   Video
  • Journalists’ Roundtable
Guests:
  • Mary Jo Pitzl - The Arizona Republic
  • Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services
  • Mike Sunnucks - The Business Journal
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Joining me tonight are Mary Jo Pitzl of "The Arizona Republic," Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services, and Mike Sunnucks of "The Business Journal." Big stuff this week regarding sheriff Joe Arpaio, former county attorney Andrew Thomas and the current interim county attorney Rick Romley. Grand jury documents unleashed. Let's start with that. How rare is that?

Mary Jo Pitzl:
Quite rare. Yesterday, county attorney Rick Romley called a press conference and put out for all to see, grand jury documents from a grand jury that Andy Thomas was running as he was county attorney as he sought indictments against county officials for a couple charges. The construction of the new court tower and having their offices swept for bugs. He released them and said, see, even the grand jury decided there is nothing here, and we all know, the grand jury is basically just hearing the one side of the argument.

Howard Fischer:
What's significant, after the grand jury refused to return an indict indictment you still have Arpaio and Thomas and allies talking about the crimes committed and Andrew Thomas trying to get another county attorney to take up the investigation of it. Failing to tell that county attorney, I didn't get, couldn't get an indictment. And, of course, Andy Thomas, I asked them to drop the case. The really unfortunate thing, there may be something here. There may be corruption. There may be some inner dealing but he has tainted this so badly that no one will believe him even if there is, in fact, evidence that let's say, Mary rose is, in fact, getting a kickback.



Ted Simons:
What do you make of this? It sounds as though the grand jury is impaneled, the county prosecutors are not going to do it, the special prosecutors and the grand jury say they're not going to do this and yet they keep doing this.

Mike Sunnucks:
There's the narrative that 0 Tom Horne tries to build. So Rick Romley wrote another chapter and how it impacts the primary, we'll have to see. That's the narrative -- the Thomas folks say some were pulled back because of court rulings and appeal that the folks under investigation made. It's complicated for the average voter to figure out. It looks like more in-fighting between Romley and the county board and Thomas.

Ted Simons:
Is it that complicated? When a grand jury says an end of inquiry and that means this is a pretty bad case -- end of inquiry, it seems clear.

Mary Jo Sitzl:
I think that's the whole purpose of Romley's press conference, to send out a simple message, which does obscure some of the more complicated ins and outs of this long saga. But he sought indictments and couldn't get them. Shots on goal. Kept trying --

Mike Sunnucks:
Some of these case, the grand juries were ready to indict and then judges appealed and it got held up. The end product is what Romley is saying is correct. The grand jury decided not to indict and didn't. But through the process, like Mary Jo said, it got complicated. Not black and white as everybody is trying to make it.

Howard Fischer:
Let's get back to the question of the primary here. We know that the primaries the extremes of both parties vote. The question is these law and order conservative, normally would be Joe Arpaio and Andy Thomas fan, at what point even for them, the potential for abuse, do we want an attorney general who goes after people along after the evidence is not there? And a lot of these folks who are very concerned about abuse of power. The people who don't want to carry national I.D. cards and the government coming into your house and taking your guns and then to have a prosecutor willing to go above and beyond what even his own grand jury says, I think that's going to cause concern.

Mike Sunnucks:
A contrast is Arpaio's -- 1070 has been the bellwether issue. Whether it remains that way through the primary and general, we'll have to say. But the ads are constant and accusing Romley and Horne of being soft.

Mary Jo Sitzl:
How much of a game changer yesterday's press conference remains to be seen. Returns have been slow, according to the Maricopa County, which is where it counts. Who knows if this will influence a lot of ballots marked over the next 10 days.

Mike Sunnucks:
And also, this came out August 12th. Who is here right now? Who is really here in town paying attention? The media loved, the TV folks.

Mary Jo Sitzl:
School is starting and that brings people back to town. Whether they're tuning in is another issue.

Howard Fischer:
Even if they're not focused on the details, the two or three minutes of TV paid attention to these issues and seeing Rick there. He's good at this. This has got to stop. This abuse of power has to stop.

Ted Simons:
Answer me this. You've had goodness knows how many months of this now. Accusations and bribery and all sorts of conspiracy and accusations. Nothing has come of it -- we're still waiting for the first -- when does the public say, what is going on here? Maybe there's not something right here.

Howard Fischer:
That's the point. There may be something there. Prosecutors have such broad powers in terms of subpoenas, of documents of individuals, compelling testimony and if after all of that, he could not make the case, even assuming the judges ruled against him on technical stuff. People will say, wait a second, what is this all about? Is this just Andy Thomas trying to build a name for himself?

Mary Jo Sitzl:
When will people make a reckoning on this? We have an election coming up in about 10 days and if Thomas survives the primary, then he has the general election which is a broader group of people. It will be interesting to see how it affects Romley's bid to be elected county attorney in his own right. Is this going to be -- will it be a pox on both their houses. Help one and hurt the other?

Mike Sunnucks:
I think it will show how the tea party and -- runs the Republican party now. Five years ago, you would have seen it hurt someone. But the party's moved so far to the ideological hot button issues that the ads of Arpaio are going to be on all the time that Rick Romley is soft on immigration.

Ted Simons:
When Thomas calls Rick Romley a liar bought and sold by the board, it's going to -- I'm going to vote for the guy because -- Republican voter, I'm going to vote for the guy because he's more conservative?

Mary Jo Sitzl:
Perhaps. We are always told that people want to hear what someone is for, for the what they're against. We also know from history that negative ads work and to the extent that the messages from yesterday might reinforce voters' beliefs they already hold, that might help Thomas.

Howard Fischer:
The other interesting thing, hook, nothing is going to happen with the FBI and Department of Justice in the next 10 days. As Tom Horne's been saying, given there were new documents turned over to the FBI. Rick Romley turned a bunch over. And the board of supervisors said they're going to subpoena documents that Joe won't give to the Department of Justice. We could have interesting charges against Joe and against Andy Thomas, between now and November. Now, do he Republican voters think I want to have a candidate who might not legally be able to serve. I don't know.

Mike Sunnucks:
They go with the tea party folks and the most conservative. You saw it in Nevada and in other primaries.

Ted Simons:
You're not seeing in the McCain-Hayworth race. You're not seeing is there.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think J.D. is so damaged and the Huckster infomercial ads and McCain has a built in I'm a veteran and POW and that appeals to the older folks. But you're seeing it in other state where is somebody like Andrew Thomas wins the primaries no matter what.

Ted Simons:
When Rick Romley says -- his quote -- the citizens of Maricopa County should be outraged over there, the -- outraged over this, are they?

Howard Fischer:
I think there's a certain numbness that's taken place because we've seen where the courts slapped down. You abused your base. That the guy is a dictator. It may be running numb. Here's the other interesting thing that may be a factor. We're seeing that in Maricopa County, in terms of the A.G.'s race, there's a few other counties that vote on this. If they're -- I'll be interested to see how Maricopa County people vote.

Mike Sunnucks:
In the past years, you've seen the Republican race where is they've been bitter and nasty and Terry Goddard has been able to step in and win races. I don't know if they're strong enough with the organization to be able to do that this time. An indictment would be a game changer. But in past years, Napolitano stepped in and won the A.G.'s race and I don't know if the DEMs are like that right now.

Ted Simons:
Let's keep it moving. We've got a young Ben Quayle and Vernon parker getting into it and again, this is another one of these, you've got a couple of people going after each other and sounds like they're knocking each other out of the race and another candidate sneaking up from the outside.

Howard Fischer:
Steve Moak is sitting back and saying, you know, these guys are going at it. I've got Pam Gorman showing her with an automatic weapon. A pretty good shot and Vernon parker claiming to be holier than thou. And Ben Quayle has become the subject of jay Leno jokes about him and his dad.

Mary Jo Sitzl:
It makes MOAK look like the adult in the room. The charges against Ben Quayle, interesting reading. That he helped to found or maybe not found but supported and contributed to the dirty Scottsdale website under a pseudo name drawn straight from boogie nights. We love to write about it but it's rather juvenile.

Ted Simons:
Did he handle it well?

Mary Jo Sitzl:
No.

Mike Sunnucks:
It caught him off guard and he wasn't truthful at the beginning and tried to deflect it by the Obama is the worst president ever. And probably appeals to the Republicans because they probably agree with the assessment. I think the campaigns go after Moak and I think you'll see the other campaigns go after him and try to get the media to look into his background also.

Howard Fischer:
I appreciate Mary Jo saying the turnout is light in terms of early ballots. You know, people have been voting now for two weeks and it used to be in the old days, things would build up to September 5th or November 2nd and you could watch the pace of news. You've got folks who have mailed stuff back, saying, can I get that back.

Mike Sunnucks:
Well, I talked to a consultant and said he could win this with 6,000 votes. Maybe in that district. Howie, said, someone with 15% could actually win this. You've got Quayle with name I.D. and he's got an ad where a lot of Republicans agree and like to see somebody in the Republican party going after the president like that.

Mary Jo Sitzl:
The same ad opened up to a lot of parody because the outrage that he professes is delivered in a deer in the headlights monotone and it's like -- there's no sincerity factor to the viewer.

Mike Sunnucks:
The primary voters, a little different than maybe the folks on youtube that are parodying it.

Ted Simons:
Let's keep it moving. We had a special session. What -- what exactly was approved by lawmakers on this special session?

Mary Jo Sitzl:
They sent one more question to the ballot so voters have one more thing to think about on November 2nd and this would ensure that -- it changes nothing unless congress passes the employee free choice act which governs how union organizing happens in workplaces. There are fears there might be a lame duck session of congress come fall and the Republicans at the statehouse say we can't wait. We want to make sure that when it comes to union organizing, people can always vote on a secret ballot as opposed to being able to pass a petition around and form a union.

Howard Fischer:
Mary Jo is right. This is all contingent on the card check system. She points out, if we're in a group and want to organize and you get signatures and then have a secret election. The unions want to be able to say, Ted, get 51% of folks with the cards and then instantly you've a union. If someone from the union is looking over your shoulder, you might not be able to express your true viewpoints. I think they're spending $200,000 or $300,000 on this thing, the fact is even if it passes, if congress has a lame duck session and passes card check, the Democrats last hurrah before the Republicans take over. Federal law will preempt it.

Ted Simons:
Are we bumping noses with preemption yet again?

Mary Jo Sitzl:
They'll try and fight it at the ballot and say, watch out, there'll be a lawsuit because it’s a preemption issue.

Mike Sunnucks:
This is a favor that Republicans are doing for business groups and the chambers of commerce. They don't want to see more unionization in the state and the Democrats are trying to play the narrative, why are you doing this? We have all of these problems -- mortgages and jobs -- and here you're calling them back to session for something like this. It's the guns in the bars. Why are you doing the ideological special favors thing.

Mary Jo Sitzl:
Most of the opposition expressed to this came from outside, from the labor unions themselves. The Democrats, rather than talk to the merits of the bill at hand, used the occasion of the special session to say why are we worried about something like this when we have -- oh, a prisoner escaped. Prisoners on the loose. When we have all of these budget deficits and sitting there waiting for them when they come back to work in January.

Mike Sunnicks:
This happens in the middle of August. Nobody is paying attention.

Howard Fischer:
They are paying attention. Prison escape and national news.

Ted Simons:
Let move along. The special session sounds like a solution in search of a problem.

Howard Fischer:
Of course it is. Look, they -- the folks who pushed this, actually had gotten the legislature to put it on the ballot last year but not quite so honest about it. The measure originally was prop 108, says you're going to have secret ballots in union elections and public elections. Well, DUH! We already have secret ballots in public elections and this was put on there to get extra votes and had nothing to do with the issue. They're separate subjects. That's why they have to fix it in the special session.

Mary Jo Sitzl:
It did open up a forum to talk about the prison escape which is drawing national attention. There's still one the escapees on the lamb who has an accomplice and they're becoming the Bonnie and Clyde of the 21st century, apparently. And what's interesting, Democrats stood up and said we need -- to understand how this happened. It took them about a week realizing there'd be an escape. And that includes gubernatorial candidate Terry Goddard but we've got Republicans as well, saying the public deserves an explanation. Senator Gould, whose district houses -- is where the prison is located said he hasn't heard a thing from the department of corrections and he's a little on the outs with the administration but he says we need hearings and senator Russell Pearce seconded the motion, so to speak.


Howard Fischer:
This gets back not perennial issue about private prisons. Republicans see this as lower costs. You don't have to pay union wages because corrections offices are unionized. They see this as private companies pay taxes and, therefore, it's a good idea. This happened to be a private prison run under the Department of Corrections rules. But now there's a deeper issue. We have like 2700 people serving time for murder. More than half are in medium security facilities and 170 are in minimum security facilities and that gets to the question of who is to blame for that. I don't think people focused on that before.

Ted Simons:
Please go ahead because it seems to me a lot of folks were surprised this was a medium -- but folks convicted of murder were in medium security prisons for years.

Howard Fischer:
And what's fascinating is the democrats are saying why isn't Jan Brewer doing something? Why did she allow this private prison and really comic escape where you have the accomplice throwing wire cutters over the fence.

Ted Simons:
It's a bad movie script. You roll up your car and throw over wire cutters and they escape and the alarm goes off. What's going on here?

Mary Jo Sitzl:
That's what a lot of lawmakers are asking and the governor has been silent on this. She assures there's a security review done of this prison and all private prisons that's not been released and nobody knows what it concluded.

Mike Sunnucks:
these classifications were made before she was governor so she can't get all the blame. But imagine if Terry Goddard was governor how the Republicans would be screaming.

Ted Simons:
Private prisons seem to be the issue and that's something that is near and dear to the Republicans.

Howard Fischer:
You can make the issue -- what you want. The Democrats it's private prisons and the Republicans it's a classification system they say goes back to Janet. Napolitano. And the last big review of the classification system was in '05 after the Lewis hostage situation. But it goes through Jane hall and --

Mary Jo Pitzl: You can talk about the classification system but there's the whole issue of the escape. The wire cutters thrown over the fence. That has nothing to do with the classification.

Mike Sunnucks: I think the Democrats and Goddard should be saying where where's the management here? Public prisons have problems too. To make it about the management, you're the governor, the one in charge, the one who is responsible. I think that's a better tack.

Howard Fischer: This has to do with 1070. Like when George Bush ran for president, whatever the question was, 9-1-1.

Mary Jo Sitzl:
Trying to draw the sting by saying he concluded a manpower problem at the private prison and that takes the fire way from the argument how the prison --

Mike Sunnucks: I don't think the voters out there care. They just want a good prison system and for somebody not to be able to escape. If I was the dems I would say, you're in charge here, Jan Brewer.

Ted Simons:
Does it impact the governor's race?



Mike Sunnucks:
If they can show there's mismanagement or somebody is asleep at wheel, yes. But private versus public, no.

Ted Simons:
What do you think?

Howard Fischer:
The primary is Jan Brewer --

Ted Simons:
We're talking general.

Howard Fischer:
In terms of the general, I don't think Terry is nimble enough to use this. As Mary Jo pointed out, it took him a week to say, oh, maybe I should be saying something here. If he tries to make it an issue, they'll try to make it about the classification system. I don't think it has an impact unless they can honestly show that the department of corrections under chuck Ryan, Jan's choice, purposely ignored problems there. Guess who is doing the investigation of the situation? The Department of Corrections.

Mary Jo SiItzl:
I think the longer -- the guy remains at large, it's going it keep the issue on the front burner. Maybe not the front, but the middle burner.

Howard Fischer:
We have a short attention span in the press.


Ted Simons:
And a short amount of time on the program. But I wanted to get to the story about hotels.


Howard Fischer:
Originally, there were a bunch of cancellations. Objecting to the governor signing the law. Groups say I don't want even to consider booking a convention here because I don't know if my folks will attend and so you can't -- the hotel planners and convention planners can't get the organizations to call them back and given conventions are planned two and three years out, this has a long tail on it, when you can't folks to say yeah, I'd like to come to Phoenix.

Mike Sunnucks:
Some tourism folks came out. But the rest of the business community they were nowhere to be found. This is going to hurt tourism at least on the meeting planning side. Why would a company risk any bad P.R. by doing this.

Howard Fischer:
For the same reason the Democrats and Republicans won't have a convention here.

Ted Simons:
Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

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