The Daily Agenda: Even grifters gotta make a living
There's a new Big Lie born every day ... Writing news about newspaper writers ... And Paul Boyer strikes again.
Tuesday’s presentation of the “blockbuster” findings about ballot harvesting from True The Vote resulted in the predictable.
Citing the film, Republican state Rep. Neal Carter tried to force a vote on a resolution to decertify the election in Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties (which wouldn’t be possible, even with a legislative resolution). Republican leadership cut him short and adjourned for the day1.
The Republic declared the presentation “long on claims and short on evidence.” The Associated Press said the group used “a tiny kernel of truth” — that there have been a handful of proven cases of ballot harvesting since lawmakers outlawed the practice in 2016 — “to help bolster its conspiracy theory.”
Meanwhile, The Gateway Pundit was already moving on to the next big thing, which the filmmakers promised will be “10 times bigger than ‘(2,000) Mules’” and “the most explosive issue that you’ve ever come in contact with related to elections in the United States” and that will finally provide “irrefutable evidence” of something.
For the last two years, we’ve lived this same cycle over and over again: Outrageous claims from Trump partisans turn into hearings or investigations or audits. Each one fails to turn up evidence to back the outrageous claims. But by that time, there’s a new outrageous claim.
The Big Lie is an ever-evolving conspiracy. The right-wing internet is already naming the next iteration of it: #Ripcord.
The barrage of dubious claims started long before the election and has continued long past the Arizona Senate’s audit.
At one point, it was that Democrats in Pima County held a meeting to conspire to “inject” 35,000 Democratic ballots in voting machines (and that they had been doing it for years to rig votes for judges, of all people). That conspiracy made its way from an anonymous and super-suspect letter to Donald Trump’s lips and suddenly also included ballot injections in Maricopa County. Needless to say, we’re still waiting for the injection logs or whatever.
Then it was the weird math Trump drew from an “expert mathematician” that claimed that the only way Biden could have won Arizona is if 130% of Arizona Democrats voted for him, ignoring the obvious — he lost support from Republicans and independents. That one wasn’t so much debunked as laughed off.
Then it was the Dominion machines and internet connectivity and erasing data in Maricopa County, #Sharpiegate, Bamboo ballots, shredded ballots, foreign ballots, millions non-citizen voters, “ghost voters” at phantom addresses and “magically appearing ballots.”
Even the Cyber Ninjas couldn’t prove a single one of those claims. But it didn’t matter. Trump just repeated them until new ones came along.
The endless cycle is intentional: It’s designed to cast doubt on the validity of our elections by throwing out half-truths and innuendo, which succeeds because people don’t know a lot about how our elections work and they want to believe their guy won, even when he didn’t. The claims don’t stand up to even basic scrutiny, but they erode people’s trust in the process.
And, of course, they serve as fundraising opportunities for the sea of bad actors who’ve now made their names in election denialism.
Instead of spending your money on the latest conspiracy theory, throw a few bucks a month toward independent local journalism. It’s only $8 month or $80 a year to support two journalists who would be a lot more financially stable if they knew how to grift.
They’re asking nicely: More Arizona cities are putting their drought plans into action. The City of Phoenix declared a Stage 1 Water Alert and activated its drought preparedness plan yesterday. The stage will include “an intensive public education and information program” to ask residents to voluntarily use less water. Tempe moved into Stage Zero of its plan, which is actually its first step, so that’s a confusing descriptor. Stage Zero involves further monitoring of watersheds and starting to use more reclaimed water. If you’re a Tempe resident, you’ll likely hear more from the city encouraging you to conserve water voluntarily. And if you for some reason don’t care about the lack of water for your plants, toilets or showers (how gross for you), you should also know that our water scarcity affects the state’s burgeoning wine industry, which needs a reliable supply to continue their operations.
Small-time crooks: Guillermina Fuentes, a former San Luis mayor and Democratic operative in the area, was charged under Arizona’s 2016 law that bans ballot harvesting, and charges against her allege she collected people’s ballots and in some cases filled out other people’s ballots in the 2020 primary election, the Associated Press’ Bob Christie reports. The investigation into Fuentes began immediately after someone submitted video of Fuentes with the ballots to the Yuma County Sheriff, though records obtained by Christie showed less than a dozen ballots were affected. It’s the first instance of someone being charged for ballot harvesting under the 2016 law. Fuentes pleaded not guilty. And if you’re suddenly hearing a lot more about Yuma County, check out this story from the Republic’s Ray Stern about search warrants and political expeditions in a county where Trump won in 2020, where local authorities are investigating 16 instances of potential voter fraud (which weren’t spurred by a certain documentary making the rounds at the statehouse).
You can always vote by mail: Elections officials expect more voters to vote in person this year than in 2020, both because of how the pandemic affected in-person voting in 2020 and because people are more concerned about mail voting now, Votebeat’s Jen Fifield reports. Maricopa County is opening more in-person locations for voting for the primary election, though the county is struggling to recruit enough poll workers, so they bumped up the pay rates for the temporary positions. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs defended against the AZGOP’s anti-early voting lawsuit, saying it would wreak havoc at the last minute on this year’s elections.
Anyone want a hockey team?: The Arizona Coyotes’ plan to relocate to Tempe from Glendale got a double dose of cold water yesterday, as the team’s financial picture got a low score from Tempe staff, the Republic’s Sam Kmack reports (welcome to the Valley, Sam!). And in a Republic op-ed, four former Phoenix mayors said the proposed entertainment district, which includes apartments, would violate an agreement between the two cities and put residents in a Sky Harbor flight path. The Tempe City Council is set to vote today on whether to open up negotiations with the team.
That It’s Always Sunny meme: You just might see a new kind of vigilante in Arizona this election cycle, as Arizona Sen. Kelly Townsend thanked the “vigilantes out there that want to camp out at these drop boxes” using hidden cameras or snagging your license plate numbers.
One mule isn’t as catchy: And the Washington Post’s Philip Bump further pokes holes in “2000 Mules,” saying True the Vote’s legislative circus at the Arizona Capitol this week served to weaken the movie’s case about the strength of its data and analysis. The movie’s claims are so stretched that even debunking them sounds silly:
“Fact checks pointing out that the people included in the film ‘2000 Mules’ were not actually mules were flawed because only one of the people shown in the film actually met Phillips’s ‘mule’ standard anyway,” Bump writes.
Get yourself a free lock: The Phoenix New Times rounds up all the Republican lawmakers in Arizona who want teachers to be armed in classrooms in hopes of fending off school shootings. Meanwhile, Pima County is giving away gun locks to thousands of residents at libraries and public health clinics, paid for by a federal grant.
Today in news about newspapers: Republic media columnist Bill Goodykoontz is not thrilled that the Arizona Republican Party considers him a “journalistic terrorist.” The Republic’s editorial board is shaking things up, though it’s not clear how or what the new strategy looks like aside from cutting opinions to three days per week in print. And Republic reporter Richard Ruelas got editors to sign off on a piece about murdered journalist Don Bolles where the only news hook is that the final chunk of Phoenix Greyhound Park, which closed in 2009, was torn down about four months ago.2
“The grandstand, which promised patrons fine dining with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the racing action, was taken down by excavators that hacked away at it, leaving behind heaps of concrete and glass. It is not known what happened to any of the building’s secrets,” Ruelas wrote.
Innocent until executed: Arizona death row prisoner Barry Lee Jones’ case and potential innocence shows the shortcomings of the U.S. Supreme Court’s “illogical and profoundly cynical ruling” in a recent Arizona case, Shinn v. Ramirez, Washington Post columnist Radley Balko argues.
The partiers next door: Homeowners in the Las Sendas community in Mesa say short-term rentals have moved in and disrupted the neighborhood’s peace, throwing parties and using neighborhood amenities. Now, the community’s homeowners association is trying to amend its rules to set a minimum stay for renters of 31 days in hopes of cracking down on the short-termers, the Mesa Tribune’s Mark Moran reports.
Nothing boring about a baby: The number of babies born in Arizona last year actually increased, in contrast to the previous six years of birth declines, which one expert said was probably because of “just pure boredom,” Cronkite News’ Neetish Basnet reports.
Squirrel!: If you’re one of the more than 6,000 Flagstaff residents who lost power on Tuesday, you can blame an “unfortunate squirrel” who has since perished after an unauthorized adventure into some electrical equipment.
Arizona Republican Sen. Paul Boyer says he’ll vote against a bill that passed the House last week that would limit discussions of race and ethnicity in classrooms, dooming the bill to fail in the Arizona Senate, the Arizona Mirror’s Dillon Rosenblatt reports.
Boyer, who is leaving the Legislature after this year and clearly has stopped caring what his colleagues think about him, disagrees with the bill’s provisions to fine or yank certification from teachers if they violated the ban.
As we noted earlier this week, the revived Senate Bill 1412, dubbed an anti-critical race theory bill, limits instruction on any topics that could lead to judging someone on the basis of their race or ethnicity, not just in K-12 schools, but in higher education courses for teachers and for guest speakers in classrooms.
Boyer’s opposition — and the inability of lawmakers to stack the budget with non-budget items after the Arizona Supreme Court knocked down several budget provisions last year, including a similar anti-CRT provision — should spell the end of this bill this session, though we never count our chickens before sine die.
You heard it here a long time ago.
A video of Arizona Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick donning dreadlocks in an offensive rasta parody made the rounds online again yesterday, eventually landing in the Republic’s opinion section, where columnist EJ Montini asked whether this is how a justice should act.
Astute Agenda readers will note that we were several months ahead of the curve: We put this video in our Feb. 22 edition.
Correction: Yesterday’s email wrongly declared lawmakers had adjourned for the week. We misheard. The House and Senate met yesterday, making it a two-day workweek. The Legislature is adjourned until Monday.