The Daily Agenda: Always vet your staffers
And if you don't, be honest about it ... A bad day for death row inmates ... And we're bummed we didn't make the Time 100.
Two Republican candidates for Arizona attorney general made some bad hires recently — and while Andrew Gould is getting out in front of his staffer’s troubles, Abe Hamadeh isn’t returning our calls about the alleged rapist he’s been paying to work for his campaign.
But let’s start with the non-violent crimes.
Gould, a former Arizona Supreme Court justice, sent out a little-noticed press release last week announcing that his campaign had parted ways with Shiree Verdone, saying he “will not tolerate anything but the highest ethical standards from anyone on my campaign or, if elected, my Attorney General’s Staff.”
You may remember Verdone as Shiree Foster, the Chamber of Commerce employee who became a central figure in the AzScam bribery ring of the early 1990s before the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office eventually dropped the one charge of conspiracy against her.
After AzScam, she went to work for a car dealer named Armand Verdone (who she eventually married), and she rebuilt her life in politics. She’s a heavy hitter in Arizona GOP fundraising, having worked for John McCain’s 2010 re-election campaign (briefly), served as the Trump Victory co-chair in Arizona during 2016 and, most recently, working as a key campaign advisor for Gould.
But then Gould found out about an ongoing legal case against the Verdone family accusing Armand’s business of writing bad checks to an auto auction house to the tune of $1.8 million. A Superior Court judge awarded the auction house nearly $2.5 million plus attorneys fees. The ruling is on appeal. Gould brought it to Shiree’s attention and she resigned, Gould’s spokesman Phil Townsend told us last week.
“You know politics: If you don’t tell the story up front, somebody will make something more of it,” Townsend said.
Townsend is right. Because Gould was up front about it, we weren’t planning to write about Verdone. But then we stumbled on Cliff Maloney Jr., who has been working for Hamadeh.
Maloney is a political consultant and fundraiser and former leader of a libertarian youth group that has aa troubling history of allegations of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment of its female members. In April, Maloney was charged with drugging and raping a fellow student in 2013. He has worked for Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rand Paul and other hard-right politicians and candidates.
Hamadeh didn’t return calls or emails about his decision to hire Maloney. His campaign consultant, Chad Heywood, said via text they fired Maloney last week, which would be around the same time Gould fired Verdone. Heywood didn’t answer questions about why they fired Maloney, whether they vetted him or whether they knew about his reputation before the criminal charges were filed.
And the Hamadeh campaign sure didn’t send out any press release about it.
Maloney has worked for a handful of other Arizona candidates. In Legislative District 17, three Republicans hired him — Senate candidate Justine Wadsack and House candidates Rachel Jones and Cory McGarr. Only Wadsack returned our calls about Maloney, saying she hired Maloney because he runs an “America First” consulting firm but fired him in February because of the cost. She said she hadn’t heard the allegations against him.
It’s one thing for legislative candidates to not vet their employees — they have small operations with almost no staff or resources. It’s another thing for an attorney general candidate to not do a few quick Google searches that likely would have turned up some red flags.
That failure to vet employees raises questions of whether Hamadeh would ignore warning signs from employees at the Attorney General’s Office. And by attempting to sweep the Maloney problem under the rug, Hamadeh has shown a lack of transparency unbecoming of public office.
Arizona news from the high court: The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the state and against two Arizona death row inmates who argued their defense attorneys ineffectively represented them. The case, Shinn v. Ramirez, is incredibly wonky, but the 6-3 ruling essentially means two men, David Ramirez and Barry Lee Jones, are back up for execution. In the ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that “federal judges are powerless to consider such claims if the evidence was not presented to a state appellate court,” Capitol Media Services’ Howie Fischer reports. For more on Jones’ case, check out this 2017 deep-dive into the limits of the case against him and the poor defense he received.
Refund the police: Amid a budget surplus, the Phoenix Police Department will get the biggest chunk of additional funding in the city’s budget for next fiscal year, with an added $63 million headed to the department, the Republic’s Joshua Bowling reports. And the Human Services Department will see a 33% budget increase year over year, too.
We would love to see an additional $63 million or even a 33% budget increase but we’ll settle for a measly $8.
The Year of Rusty continues: Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage on Sunday for his stand against his own party and refusal to deny the 2020 election results. In his speech at the award event, he cited examples of courage and praised the work of elections workers in Maricopa County. He said he remains hopeful for American progress and shared how the election denialism dovetailed with a personal crisis, the death of his daughter.
Foot in mouth: A lawsuit from Mi Familia Vota against the 2021 law that changed the Permanent Early Voting List into the Active Early Voting List and culled inactive voters might be able to proceed in the courts and argue about outsized effects on people of color in part because of comments made by Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh about the bill, Howie Fischer reports. In an interview with CNN, Kavanagh said that “we have to look at the quality of the votes,” which could be seen discriminatory, the judge said.
Trump versus the establishment: Gov. Doug Ducey and the Republican Governors Association are enacting a plan they hatched at the Biltmore last fall to financially back incumbent Republican governors in the face of Donald Trump’s “vengeance tour” against them, the Washington Post reports. The big test is tomorrow in Georgia, where Trump-backed David Perdue is challenging incumbent Brian Kemp.
“The focus is on 2022. I don’t believe we should spend one more moment talking about 2020,” Ducey told the Post.
One idea for the budget surplus: Arizona ranked ahead of just two states on per-pupil K-12 spending in 2020 and came in last place on instructional spending, a new Census report shows, Cronkite News’ Morgan Fischer reports. While Ducey’s office argued spending isn’t the only important measure, schools advocates say there’s little movement to improve Arizona’s long-underfunded schools.
Heat kills: The Phoenix New Times’ Katya Schwenk takes us inside the newly opened heat-relief shelter designed to keep people experiencing homelessness in a safer, cooler place as our temperatures take off and the potential for heat-related illnesses and deaths rises.
Vladimir Putin also made the list: Arizona’s own U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema made Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The blurb about her, written by Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, declares she is among the “primary reasons that America’s infrastructure is finally being upgraded.”
What about cloud seeding though?: Ducey’s keystone policy for the year, a massive infusion of funding into water augmentation and a new board to rule water policy in Arizona, has hit all sorts of snags at the Capitol, the Capitol Times’ Nathan Brown notes. Lawmakers aren’t giving up hope that they can implement huge investments into water just yet, though nobody is very keen on Ducey’s exact proposal.
Safety corridors no more: A state plan that created “safety corridors” ended quietly in 2020 after the program wasn’t shown to be much help, ABC15’s Megan Thompson reports. Speeding and behavior-related crashes increased in the corridors, though deadly crashes decreased a bit.
From O’Halleran to Q’Anon?: After the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the requirement that any Arizona’s congressional maps get Department of Justice preclearance, Arizona’s 2021 redistricting diluted Native American voting power in northern Arizona, leaving the state’s solidly Democratic tribal areas “with the prospect of a fringe-Republican congressional representative,” former Arizonan Evan Wyloge wrote for The Guardian.
Two GOP election bills failed on the Arizona Senate floor yesterday.
Arizona Rep. Jake Hoffman’s House Bill 2238, which would have prohibited ballot drop boxes if they weren’t monitored, failed after Sens. Paul Boyer and Michelle Ugenti-Rita (who wanted to ban all ballot drop boxes) voted against it.
And Rep. Shawnna Bolick’s HB2602, which would have only allowed early voting for emergencies (like “war, civil unrest or natural disaster”), failed after Boyer voted against it.
A perfectly timed tech glitch made it so video of Gilbert Mayor Brigette Peterson berating Councilman Laurin Hendrix wasn’t broadcast on public meeting feeds.
“Holy cow, I don’t recall the last time when that happened,” Hendrix told the Gilbert Sun News’ Cecilia Chan. “I’ve never seen it get cut before. It seems so odd that the mayor exploded and goes absolutely nuts and all of that magically doesn’t exist.”
That seems to check out as she’s the only one of the three that didn’t make a March payment to Maloney.
About Rusty Bowers receiving that award: he also had some pretty impressive company (the award was given to 5 recipients), including Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who received it in absentia.