The Daily Agenda: Audit records won't save us now
But fighting for public access is always worth it ... The state is set to execute someone today ... And another battle over Mexican gray wolves.
But don’t celebrate just yet. The Arizona Senate is still trying to keep hundreds of files secret.
To pry loose 1/60th of the records that Cyber Ninjas is hiding, it took a daily fine of $50,000, which has added up to more than $4 million so far, and countless stern warnings from several judges just to get claims from the company that it doesn’t have time to provide the records. Still, we may never see many audit-related documents if Senate President Karen Fann has her way.
Worse than that, the public may lose access to even more public records that have nothing to do with the audit if the conservative Arizona Supreme Court sides with Senate attorney Kory Langhofer that “legislative privilege” shields practically all things lawmakers say or do.
Legislative privilege in this sense is a legal doctrine — not a law — that allows lawmakers to keep communications and other public records secret if they are an “integral” part of the deliberative process. The idea is that lawmakers will speak more freely if they know nobody can see what they’re saying. (Why that’s encouraged, we have no idea.)
It’s also the bane of every Capitol reporter. Lawmakers employ legislative privilege broadly to exempt almost anything they want from public records. To successfully pry loose records that lawmakers deem “privileged,” you have to go to court.
As Republic columnist (and recent Agendies winner) Robert Robb explained last year, Arizona courts are still working out what exactly is covered under legislative privilege.
This could be the case that settles it. And it might not go the public’s way. Even if it does, the records themselves probably won’t sway anyone on the audit or the 2020 election.
For the past two years, every single claim of widespread fraud has been debunked, and every single court across the nation that has heard a case about widespread fraud has tossed it out. Yet an unbelievable number of people still believe the lies being promoted by hucksters like Doug Logan, Shiva Ayyadurai, Jovan Pulitzer and the rest of the fake auditors who are the subject of these public records.
Look at the popularity of conspiracy film “2000 Mules” and tell us that even a smoking gun showing the auditors were biased or inept or corrupt will change anyone’s mind.
Back when we worked at corporate newspapers and had corporate lawyers at our disposal, they frequently warned us not to pick a public records fight we might lose. Better to back off a story, they’d argue, than lose a fight that could weaken access to public records for everyone.
We always disagreed with that sentiment. Much like John McCain, we prefer to roll the dice.
While the records probably won’t make people think twice about the audit, they will hopefully reveal some of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that led to this national embarrassment. The public deserves to know how we got here and who’s feeding the bullshit.
Though the court case is a gamble, it’s a fight worth having.
We are so tired of talking about 2020. Luckily, it’s 2022 and there’s an election around the corner. We’re framing out our plans for election coverage, but we want to hear from you! Where should we focus our very limited resources come election time?
The clock runs out: Clarence Dixon, convicted of killing a college student, likely will be executed this morning in Arizona’s first execution since 2014. In the leadup to Wednesday, Dixon’s attorneys sought several legal paths to get his execution canceled or delayed, to no avail. One argument focused on expired lethal injection drugs, so the state made a new batch of drugs. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard Dixon’s case on Tuesday and decided not to block the execution. Dixon, who is Navajo, still asks about the state of affairs on the Navajo Nation and foods like frybread and mutton stew, the Navajo Times’ Donovan Quintero writes. And in the Washington Post, opinion writer Fernanda Santos juxtaposes Dixon’s forthcoming execution with conservative stances on abortion in the state.
Eleven lawyers need more money: The lawyers who toppled Prop. 208 in the courts want to get their $1 million in legal fees back, but the campaign that ran the proposition has very little money left, Capitol Media Services’ Howie Fischer reports. A judge will decide whether they get their fees rewarded and whether taxpayers could be on the hook for paying any of them.
Smears to go around: Noel Campbell dropped out of the race for Arizona Senate in Legislative District 1 in what could have been a return to the Legislature for the former lawmaker who faced domestic violence accusations in 2020, the Republic’s Ray Stern reports. Campbell attributed his withdrawal to attacks and smears on him and his family, and opponent Steve Zipperman said Campbell had smeared him.
No good deed: A Phoenix PhD student studying heat and community health allowed a homeless couple to stay on her porch to have a safe place. They put up a tarp for shade, and Liza Kurtz, the student living in the house, got a citation from the City of Phoenix for having a tarp. After the citation, the city is now helping the couple access services.
It’s one lime, what could it cost? $10?: Restaurants in Arizona face higher food and labor costs as inflation continues, and some are passing those increased costs on to customers or finding ways to cut costs through technology like automation and robots, Republic food reporter Priscilla Totiyapungprasert reports. A box of limes, she notes, increased in price from $40 to $100 in a year, which could be related to the cartel takeover of Mexico’s lime industry. (Totiyapungprasert announced yesterday she’s leaving the Republic for El Paso.)
We’re trying to keep up with rising costs in Phoenix, the hotbed of inflation, while keeping our newsletter humming. To contribute to our lime fund, become a paid subscriber for $8 per month.
Like Scott’s Tots but legit: Ten years ago, the Arizona-based Rosztoczy Foundation told more than 80 third graders in Avondale that their college would be paid for once they got there if they met certain academic goals. Now, the foundation told another group of third graders at a different Valley elementary school the same thing, helping students and parents dream big, the Washington Post reports. The foundation plans to continue funding college for third graders in other schools.
Unintended side effect of water disaster: After a second body washed up in Lake Mead as waters reached their lowest historical point, the role the mob and organized crime played in Vegas history resurfaced, too, the Associated Press reports.
Just saw a Carvana hiring billboard this weekend: Local business success story Carvana unceremoniously fired 2,500 of its more than 20,000 workers on Tuesday via a company-wide email.
Lawmakers, they’re just like us: Arizona Rep. Walt Blackman, who’s running for the GOP nomination in Congressional District 2, has a history of personal financial problems like bad checks, car repossession and unpaid debts, the Republic’s Ronald J. Hansen writes. Blackman said his struggles with money are part of why he thinks he’ll be a good representative. Meanwhile, in Congressional District 4, GOP candidates debated who could share the most conspiracy theories on air.
Everyone will see each other in court: While police decided a digital dossier of Scottsdale parents wasn’t criminal, it’s still in the courts because of civil lawsuits filed among players in the hot-button issue, the Republic’s Endina Fontanez and Carrie Watters report. We need a flow chart to understand who’s suing who over what on this one.
It’s no Hulk Hogan sex tape: U.S. Senate GOP primary candidate Blake Masters continues to call for Arizona Mirror reporter Dillon Rosenblatt to be fired (don’t count on it) and threaten a lawsuit over Rosenblatt’s piece1 detailing Masters’ opposition Griswold v. Connecticut, the case that granted the right to contraceptives. Meanwhile, Arizona Daily Star columnist Tim Steller dissects the implications of Masters’ fine-line position of wanting to ban the right to contraceptives, but not contraceptives themselves.
“So while Masters would oppose a contraception ban, the revocation of Griswold and potential limitation of contraception methods would also tend to support his vision for a society where married adults have children younger and stem the fertility crisis,” Steller writes.
An audit that’s probably warranted: The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors wants the state to audit the county assessor’s office because its former assessor pled guilty to a scheme to change property assessments in exchange for kickbacks, the Nogales International’s Angela Gervasi reports.
The Airbnb next door: One area of Scottsdale is overrun with short-term rentals, and residents say they’re contending with trash, drunken run-ins and errant golf balls, the Scottsdale Progress’ J. Graber reports. The homeowners in Peaceful Valley want to see more action from the city.
He likes beer: Gov. Doug Ducey appeared on the aptly named podcast “Light Beer and Dark Money” with Chris Clements (former beer wholesaler CEO) and Sean Noble (the dark money man), where the men discussed regulations and Arizona’s economy and reviewed Ducey’s eight years helming the state.
It’s no Agendie, but we’re proud of them nonetheless: The Washington Post’s Jan. 6 coverage won a Pulitzer Prize for public service. Arizona’s own Jeremy Duda contributed to their massive reportage about that day and beyond, and Arizona-based photographer Caitlin O’Hara was a contributing photographer on the project. Duda nabbed one of the more memorable quotes:
“Short of bloodshed, I don’t know of any way to fix what we currently have going on,” Wade Damms, a 47-year-old from Snowflake, told Duda in September. “I’d take part in it,” he continued. “I’d just need someone else to be the leader.”
A bill signed by Gov. Doug Ducey this week prevents the state from restricting someone from killing a Mexican gray wolf if the wolf is “actively threatening or attacking a person, livestock or domestic animal.”
House Bill 2181, sponsored by Republican Rep. David Cook, prevents the Arizona Game and Fish Commission from making such rules, thus making it so the state will follow U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules on taking wolves.
Opponents of the bill have said it is confusing and noted that the state commission hasn’t tried to further restrict people here, the Republic’s Lindsey Botts reported in March. The bill is the latest in a yearslong battle over the endangered wolves’ reintroduction in the state.
Arizona Republican Party chair Kelli Ward will release an NFT collection next week. Images promoting the collection depict her as the Statue of Liberty, holding a ballot in one hand and a copy of her book in another.
A Twitter account called @KelliWardNFT calls on followers to “get your piece of history with an America First NFT brought to you by an America First warrior!”
What’s an NFT? It’s a non-fungible token, the latest tech gimmick. Those words probably don’t help you understand them, though, so we’ll refer you to this explainer. Basically it’s online art collecting, but the art is usually bad, though some see them as an investment vehicle, while others recognize them as a grift.
The Mirror has since updated the piece with an “editor’s note” explaining the piece “incorrectly characterized other media reports as saying that Masters had ‘praised’ Nazi leader Hermann Goering” and offering additional background about Masters’ use of theNazi leader’s quote.