Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 2, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Journalists Roundtable


  • Donít miss HORIZONís weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the weekís top stories.
Guests:
  • Howard Fischer - Capitol Media Services
Category: Journalists Roundtable

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Michael Grant:
It's Friday June 2, 2006. In the headlines this week, former President Bill Clinton making a stop in Phoenix Thursday to help raise money for U.S. Senate candidate Jim Pederson. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon upset with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for cutting the city's antiterrorism funding. And, with less than thirty days to go before the start of a new fiscal year, state lawmakers still working on a budget plan. That's next on Horizon.

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Michael Grant:
Good evening. I'm Michael Grant. This is the Journalists' Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Mike Sunnucks of the "Business Journal," Howie Fischer of "Capitol Media Services" and Chip Scutari of the "Arizona Republic." Former president Bill Clinton appeared at the Arizona Biltmore last night for a fundraiser to help democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jim Pederson. Producer Larry Lemons reports on the event.

Larry Lemmons:
Here's the money photo op. U.S. Candidate Jim Pederson borrowing a little of the old Clinton magic. A reminder from the past, to not forget the future. Representative Ed Pastor and governor Janet Napolitano warmed up the crowd of about 500. The event raised about half a million to the election of Jim Pederson to the Senate seat currently being held by Jon Kyl.

Jim Pederson:
Jon has been back there for 20 years and he's become part of the Washington elite. He caters to the well heeled and the well connected and votes with the administration 97\% of the time. Now, Roberta and I have been married for 34-years and Roberta and I don't agree 97\% of the time.

Larry Lemmons:
Former president Clinton attacked republican use of the term "values voters."

Bill Clinton:
There was a brilliant article two days ago in "The Washington Post" by the conservative columnist George will with whom I almost always disagree. But Will wrote a great column and he told the truth. He said we are all values voters. If we weren't values voters, Pederson and I would be Republicans. Because the president and the republican congress has shoved five tax cuts at us, running this country into debt and putting us in the position where every single day-- I want you to think about this, this is their values-- every single day to cover my tax cut and his-- I'll explain this because I was flat broke until I got out of the White House. Every single day to cover my tax cut and his and pay for our men and women in the uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan and everywhere else, here's what they do. Now, this is serious. Here's what they do. I want you to know how they do it. The United States goes hat in hand every morning and borrows the money from China, from Saudi Arabia, from Japan, from South Korea, and from the United Kingdom. Almost all of our borrowing comes from there. Every morning the government borrows money from them to give Bill Clinton a tax cut and pay for our men and women in uniform.

Larry Lemmons:
It was clear the president was a hit with his partisan crowd and Clinton is impressed by Pederson showing in recent polls.

Bill Clinton:
All the surveys show he is 37 points behind when he started, he's under 10 points behind now. And look. He's the kind of person that we all want in the Senate. He's a businessperson, he understands budgets, he understands the need to make a profit and he understands social responsibility and how to reconcile the two. I just think he's got the kind of qualities that we need more of in Washington.

Jim Pederson:
President Clinton, we've had several conversations about this race. In fact, I went to him when I was thinking about running for the U.S. Senate. He recognizes the opportunity in Arizona. He won this state in 1996. First time a democrat has done that since Harry Truman. So he knows the opportunity. He thinks we can win this race. So do I.

Larry Lemmons:
And to ensure that outcome, president Clinton says he's willing to return to Arizona any time he's invited.

Michael Grant:
Yeah. Mike, you were also there. We have any idea how much money was raised?

Mike Sunnucks:
They put up about 500,000. There were about 500 people there and brought in 500,000 for Pederson's campaign. The republicans point out that when Bush came, he raised 1.6 million for Kyl. But Clinton's comments kind of show the national strategy for the democrats. They went after him on tax cuts as the footage showed and kind of the ethical questions he talked about crony capitalism, some of the Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff stuff. He didn't talk about security, which was interesting, which democrats have been on the defensive. Kerry spent the whole presidential campaign talking about tough on security. Clinton didn't talk about that.

Michael Grant:
Well the cronyism thing is sort of an announced national approach by the Democratic Party.

Mike Sunnucks:
And going after them on Abramoff, on the valley plane disclosure, some of the corporate scandals and republican ties to that. Of course they'll bring up big oil and those types of things also.

Howard Fischer:
He would have been much better off sticking to issues closer to home here. The audience was Arizonans; some of that he may have weakness himself. Immigration. There was a question as to when he was president he slowed the deployment of border patrol. But even to the extent we saw all the Pederson ads about the fact they adopted a Medicare drug plan, that we don't negotiate with the suppliers, therefore it's cheaper to go across the border.

Mike Sunnucks:
And Clinton brought that up last night. That was one of his talking points.

Howard Fischer:
But you need this kind of important issue that's going to make-- these kind of footages on the news rather than the kind of long, involved things. Do we borrow money from the South Koreans every morning, I'm sorry it doesn't wash.

Mike Sunnucks:
I think it comes down to kind of management and fiscal responsibility. I think that will be a key issue for the democrats. The republicans are on these big deficits-- mismanagements of Katrina, obviously the mismanagement of Iraq. I think it kind of all fits into a nice net for the democrats to cast at them.

Chip Scutari:
Did you sense a big buzz in the room for Pederson's candidacy? Sometimes you can tell when you're covering a campaign if it's gaining steam--

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah, I think it's a little more excitement for it. They see some momentum there nationally and statewide. There's been some polls recently, showed a little bit closer, not down 20, maybe down 7, maybe down 10. I think there's a little more optimism that hey, this might be our year on the democratic side.

Chip Scutari:
I think the interesting thing about the Pederson-Kyl race is it's going to have a kind of cascading or spillover effect on other races. They're going to suck up so much TV time with their multimillion-dollar war chest that a guy like Len Munsil, Republican who perhaps might be the nominee for governor, is going to have a tough time getting out his name ID while Kyl and Pederson have all this air time and just dominating the market. So I think it'll have a big spillover effect on the rest of the races.

Mike Sunnucks:
One thing that Howie said that Republicans are trying to bring up what Bill Clinton did while he was president on the border and maybe he didn't do enough resources there. But this is before 9/11. And George Bush and Jon Kyl and the Republicans have really run on security. And they've not moved on the border in kind of a post 9/11 world. I think it's apples and oranges there.

Michael Grant:
Is the raging' Cajun going to help out Harry Mitchell against J.D. Hayworth?

Chip Scutari:
I think so. I think James Carvil whether a republican, democrat, conservative or liberal is a very entertaining, very intelligent guy. His Louisiana accent, he kind of looks goofy on TV, but everyone knows he's a very smart, savvy campaign consultant. He was Clinton's campaign consultant in '92 when he kind of shocked George Bush Sr. I think it will provide some buzz momentum for Harry Mitchell who's running against congressman J.D. Hayworth in another contestant race that will probably get some national attention. I was just surprised that it was 100-dollar a plate. That's a good start for Harry Mitchell. From all we see from the polls that race could be maybe than what most pundits thought a year ago.

Mike Sunnucks:
The Democrats had an opportunity there. Kind of a god barometer to see if they bring the national folks in against Hayworth. They would love to knock him off.

Michael Grant:
In the meantime, Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon, this is a technical term, kind of honked off at the Homeland Security on cutting Phoenix's share of the security budget?

Mike Sunnucks:
Yeah, the Bush administration announced home security grants to the big cities this week. Phoenix got 3.9 million. That was a lot less than cities smaller than us. Omaha, Milwaukee, Louisville, Columbus, Ohio. We got about as much as Toledo. We're one of the larger cities, one of the larger metro areas. We have Palo Verde, which is the largest nuclear plant, Luke Air Force Base and we're near the border. He wants to meet with Bush personally and try to get him to up the money.

Michael Grant:
Howie, I'm always pulling for the home team, so take this in the spirit in which it's intended. There have been a lot of recent stories of-- and I'm sure it's not indigenous to the state of Arizona, but a whole lot of that money being spent on what would be some pretty questionable objectives. You think that's impacting this at all?

Howard Fischer:
Well, leaving aside that we need Homeland Security money for q-tips and things like that, yes. These are very important things. Look. All of this money here, Omaha, Nebraska, Louisville, Kentucky, a good percentage of this stuff has been wasted. I mean it was a wonderful idea post 9/11 to look around and say, we're not prepared. But there hasn't been the oversight. The same problem exists in terms of this formula for diving it. You know, what do you decide? Should New York City get more because it's a) on a coast, b) is a target or can we assume n city can take care of itself and doesn't have the same needs as let's say Omaha, Nebraska.

Michael Grant:
New York is always complaining about its allocation of funds as well. Chip.

Chip Scutari:
Yes.

Michael Grant:
Let's see. The Republican Party filed a clean elections complaint against governor Napolitano. The Democratic Party has filed a clean elections complaint against Len Munsil. I sense nuclear parity here.

Chip Scutari:
Do you sense a pattern here?

Michael Grant:
Yes.

Chip Scutari:
Unfortunately I think this is an avalanche of complaints especially in the governor's race against whoever the Republican nominee is, against Janet Napolitano this fall. Last week the republicans thought they made some hay by filing a complaint against Napolitano. That actually the commission will look into about her launching her fancy website the day she announced her candidacy, saying that maybe she didn't have her public funding yet, you know, did she skirt the law. And now the democrats are coming back saying Len Munsil who's probably emerging as the republican favorite, that he didn't put on his website who paid for it. You're supposed to say paid for by blah blah blah.

Howard Fischer:
And that's the funny part. We're talking seven words here, and not the seven George Carlin says we can't say on television. Paid for bleep, bleep and bleep. Paid for by Len Munsil for governor. Those seven words were not on the website that said "Len Munsil for governor." You'd have to be an idiot not to recognize this is Len Munsil's website.

Mike Sunnucks:
Well I think the democrats should not bring up Len Munsil's name at all. Janet is way up in the polls, high approval ratings.

Chip Scutari:
If you're Len Munsil's campaign you have to love this kind of earned media. 450,000-dollars to spend in the primary election which is really peanuts. So hey, bring it on.

Michael Grant:
Chip, it does raise, though, an interesting issue. Because we've been seeing this play out every election cycle. More and more the campaigns are becoming this kind of stuff as opposed to talking about issues and those kinds of things. It's who can get the most clean elections commission complaints.

Chip Scutari:
That's why there are many complaints about this clean election-funding scheme. Is it about complaints, how you do your books, cash versus accrual. Instead of just raising money the old-fashioned way, getting out your issues, stumping. In some ways it's a bit unfortunate if this is going to be a pattern for the 2006 election. As skeptical reporters we love to see a good old battle.

Howard Fischer:
Raising money the old-fashioned way we know that meant going to the special interests and having them do stuff for you sometimes under the table. The funny thing is, this particular violation is not under clean elections law it goes to the regular election code if you put out any material -- if I put out a piece of paper, without "paid for" it's a violation. Chip's right. Starting in 1986 we had the limits on contributions. We set up all of these things. Because each of these -- we're going to fix the system. We're going to get the money out of politics. Each time you set up a more convoluted rule. It's like the using 70,000-dollar of constituent communication money to send out a letter to only high advocacy voters saying hey 'm a great person but it's not with campaign money. All a part of the game.

Michael Grant:
Only a month to go before the start of the new fiscal year for the state of Arizona. The governor and legislature not able to agree on a state budget. However, they gave preliminary approval to a budget proposal. How does Barry Goldwater fit in this?

Harry:
He's been dead a few years but we were pulling out his ghost last night at the capitol. Among the little things that get put in at the last minute -- we won't call them pork -- was 529,000-dollar to go from the state ASU to the Arizona historical foundation to help preserve Barry Goldwater's papers. There is a legitimate need there. The papers were not properly preserved. They're literally turning to dust. This money will help digitize it. Ron Gould, who fancies himself as conservative as Barry Goldwater, said, "Barry wouldn't want this. We are going to honor Barry's memory. "Well, I called Judy Eisenhower. She was his aid for 30 years. Judy's first comment after hearing what Ron Gould, why can't he just grow up? I said, well, that's nice of you. But what would Barry want? And Judy said, let me answer it this way. A decade ago when the voters of Phoenix defeated the last light rail transit system Barry's quote was, "what are those people? Crazy?" Barry did recognize there are rules on funding for stuff. But I love it when everybody is trying to go ahead and discern what their icon will want, Ron Reagan or Barry Goldwater, people unavailable for comment.

Chip Scutari:
Barry might not want to call it pork but the smell of bacon was coming from the senate chambers. With this new kind of unofficial requirement they have now where in the senate and the house you need 16 senate votes, and house 316789 so it's a kind of GOP-only budget. Which sounds good and it sounds firm on principal. But what it's doing is driving up the cost of budget because two or three members especially in the senate, where there's 18 republicans, two or three members can hold the budget hostage. So we saw last night these last-minute pork additions, so to speak. Senator Jack Harper, they kind of bought his vote so to speak or critics saying that, 17 million-dollar for extension of Joe Max road. 5 million for arts endowment fund. On down the line.

Mike Sunnucks:`
Learning from congressional Republicans.

Michael Grant:
Local version of earmarks.

Mike Sunnucks:`
This is the state of John McCain and Jeff Flake.

Chip Scutari:
And Jack Harper and Mr. Gould held a press conference in early may where they held two pigs and similar symbolizing the governor's bloated budget of tax and spend and here is Mr. Harper getting the 70 million-dollar pork on its own.

Howard Fischer:
Jack kissed the pig. He had just complained about the pork in their own house and senate budget. Interesting. Another thing going on. ASU trying to expand the old polytechnic campus. You have maybe 50,000 kids who want to go through there and you could have a situation where they meeting in barracks and such. And so the original budget said we need 103 million for the new buildings. Well, we can't spend it all. So tell you what. We'll give them permission to borrow the 103 and give them 7.5 million for debt service. The lobbyists for the U of A and NAU showed up. Wait a second. If they get 7.5 million for capital we want that, too. Well, what are you building? We don't know yet.

Michael Grant:
We'll figure that out.

Mike Sunnucks:
We'll find something out.

Michael Grant:
Another medical school.

Howard Fischer:
Yes.

Michael Grant:
Incidentally, how's the budget going to be received on the house end?

Howard Fischer:
On the house? Well, there are several big problems. The Barry Goldwater thing not withstanding. The biggest two are the university funding because the house budget only has the money for poly tech and it takes 20 million for capital and divides it on a proportional basis based on students among the university. ASU gets 53\%, u of a gets about 30 some\% and NAU gets 13. The other big problem is the tax package. Both of them essentially cut income taxes by 10\%. The house goes over two years and the senate over one year. The senate totally eliminates the 43\% property tax, the house takes it down by two-thirds. Here's the problem. The house doesn't want to buy off of the senate's new numbers that we have enough money to fully cut taxes this year. There's a simple reason why. If there's 200 million extra laying around here's Janet saying, hey, about all those programs you didn't fund, I have some things you can do with. It they're very afraid to admit there's an extra 200 million in the budget.

Chip Scutari:
The house and senate really their leadership is not getting along. I mean, I've never seen it as tense or as kind of bitter between the house and senate. That plays a huge part. You don't see that in a lot of the stories because we can't get into. It but speaker Weiers and senate president Ken Bennett aren't getting along swimmingly.

Mike Sunnucks:`
They had a big blowup recently.

Chip Scutari:
Now house guys are hemming and hawing about the bloated senate budget which they now have to deal with. It will be interesting to see what happens this week.

Mike Sunnucks:`
Very disjointed, typical disjointed republican caucus. It will be hot and tired and she'll win.

Michael Grant:
It was interesting. Howie alluded to it this week. Most of the focus on the tax side of the thing had been on the income tax side of. It but this week pretty impressive business groups really put the property tax cuts back in place.

Mike Sunnucks:`
The realtors are all pushing for a reduction or elimination of this county ed rate. The state collects it, send it off to the localities to spend on education. It's what, 43 cents per thousand. It really benefits big business and businesses a little more than homeowners but it's for both. Janet did not include that in her latest tax proposal. She had a 5\% income tax cut. And they sent her and Weiers and Bennett pushing for that arguing that will offer more economic benefit.

Howard Fischer:
One of the interesting things becomes if you're a homeowner because -- when businesses pay essentially 2.5 times more than homeowners. If you have about
150,000-dollar home. Eliminating this tax saves you something like 36-dollars a year.

Mike Sunnucks:`
Versus the big manufacturing office buildings.

Howard Fischer:
Yes. Because they not only pay on the value of the building but the equipment and everything else. You have the question if you have 200 million in tax relief, which is what this tax brings into the state, are you better off putting in for something else. Leaving aside the government doesn't think we have that much. But if you're going to put 200-member more in there you could cut the tax rate by 15\% or more.

Mike Sunnucks:`
It kind of highlights the split that the republicans had a story about, a split between the governor and businesses on this. They've been on her side on a lot of issues and she didn't push for this, they're kind of number one priority and she went for income taxes instead.

Chip Scutari:
Yeah, this is politically significant aside from the policy differences that these groups send her a letter and the legislature saying, here's what we're shooting for. They offer it to a group of commercial real estate guys. An auto dialer in about 100,000 homes saying call the governor and urge her to support property tax. And the governor was pretty peeved. So this is the kind of public disagreement with the business leaders saying here's what we want. We're holding firm. This governor had a very successful tenure with the business group so that's kind of why this story was --

Michael Grant:
I don't want to split hours here, but was she peeved or was she miffed?

Chip Scutari:
I think a little of both. At first she was miffed and then she got peeved.

Mike Sunnucks:`
it kind of shows her positioning politically. Because Len Munsil has a long ways to go to get business support. He's a social conservative. He's not real well known in the business circle business community to her own right now. If the governor ace race was a little more different she might be toward the business side on the tax issue.

Howard Fischer:
Here's the issue. A, where is the business community going to go? And b since she and Len are both running with public money -- they can run these groups and take ads against her. So the question is, where else are they going to go?

Michael Grant:
Chip, the omnibus immigration bill. I keep calling this different things.

Chip Scutari:
That's okay.

Michael Grant:
That's on the governor's desk. Been there for a couple of days. She has to take action by Tuesday. Is she going to veto the thing or not?

Chip Scutari:
She's going to veto it either Monday or Tuesday which will kind of start off next week on a sour note because it's all about -- down there now it's all about the budget stalemate and illegal immigration. She'll point out that president kind of following her lead they sending Arizona National Guard down to the border. She'll point out she doesn't like the employer sanctions and the criminal trespass provisions and kind of the whole host of other things and the republicans will probably counter by saying, okay, governor, we'll send it to the ballot. We don't know if they'll follow through on that and all the intricacies of that. So it will be another big battle down there. That's why it's looking like we'll go to June 30.

Mike Sunnucks:`
The republicans are hoping there are a lot of minutemen that are going to vote in November that are -- the one thing the governor has. She has done stuff on immigration. Before they could argue that she has but she has. She's on the bush plan, issued executive orders, asked for money. She has a plan there.

Howard Fischer:
Here's the other piece here. We've seen polls. This idea that the public is -- wants to rid the state of everybody who's here illegally. While it may exist in the minds of Russell Pearce there are a lot of folks -- 70\% of folks say, wait a second. They're here. They're doing jobs, many doing jobs that other folks don't want. If they want to put this on the ballot -- it will have to be multiple bills to have it make any sense. And they're going to assume folks will sign off on all these is also a risk to them. If these measures are defeated, put a cork in it. You can't bring it up again. There's a political risk to them putting it on the ballot.

Chip Scutari:
The other point that they haven't addressed yet is because of the initiative that was passed recently, an Eddie fans measure, you have to find the funding source. That's another thing they have to worry about before it goes to the ballot.

Michael Grant:
Just about out of time. She vetoes this thing, does she set a record?

Chip Scutari:
Yeah. She beats Bruce Babbitt's old record but she does in four years what he did in 8 or 9-years?

Howard Fischer:
8 plus years.

Chip Scutari:
She'll be the all-time veto queen of Arizona.

Howard Fischer:
She's getting repetitive motion syndrome because of this.

Mike Sunnucks:`
Doesn't she use a stamp?

Michael Grant:
Panelists we are out of time. Thank you very much for the week's wrap. And our thanks to you as well for joining us on a Friday edition of horizon. Hope you have a tremendous weekend. I'm Michael grant. Good night.

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