The Daily Agenda: The audit, in longform
Thank God for cowboys ... Back in Bob Robb's day, they deliberated ... And was that an endorsement of crack?
“Rusty is a cowboy.”
That was the main takeaway from the first installment of the Republic’s new five-part series about the audit.
Rusty, of course, is Rusty Bowers, the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives and a lifelong conservative who stood up to Donald Trump, who Bowers supported, when Trump tried to subvert democracy and overthrow the duly elected president of the United States.
The article, by an all-star cast of Republic reporters, producers, photographers and editors, delved deeply into Bowers’ calls with the former president, including previously private conversations in which Bowers told the president, in no uncertain terms, that he would not break the law or his constitutional oath for Trump.
And the spine Bowers showed stands in stark contrast to Senate President Karen Fann, who the Republic painted as a people-pleaser who was too scared of losing her position as president to stand up to the radicals in her own caucus.
The story also shed light on the behind-the-scenes machinations of Trump’s efforts to pressure Arizona Republicans, including Gov. Doug Ducey, into going along with his ploy to overturn the election. There are other fun tidbits, like the frantic text from U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema to Secretary of State Katie Hobbs demanding she delay the March 2020 presidential preference election because of COVID-19 (Hobbs’ response: “Who is this?”). And then there’s Trump calling Ducey to lean on Cindy McCain to not endorse Joe Biden over the guy who continued mocking her late husband long after his death. (Ducey apparently did not.)
It’s Pulitzer season, and the Republic’s series is what we in the business call awards-bait, identifiable by the small details about Bowers’ tight, cursive writing in his leather-bound journal, text overlaid on video, an audiobook version, profile pictures of politicians staring off into the distance and paragraphs like this.
Over four months, The Republic examined a trove of text messages, emails and court records, many made public after suing the state for access. Reporters spoke to decision-makers, consultants, staff, contractors, campaign aides and others tied to the review of the presidential and U.S. Senate races. Some talked on the record about their experiences, while others spoke on the condition they not be identified in order to speak candidly about private conversations.
There’s more to come, but the first piece serves as a great primer for those who haven’t been following every twist and turn of the audit, and an Easter egg hunt for those who have been masochistically glued to every audit update for the last year.
He’s really not better than this: U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar got formally censured yesterday by Democrats and two Republican colleagues in the House over a violent anime video he posted. As we noted yesterday, censures are rare, and the last time one happened was in 2010. Gosar continually refused to acknowledge any harm from the video, compared his censure to the Charlie Hebdo attack and later reposted a meme of himself wearing sunglasses and a bling chain while smoking a fat doobie. He also retweeted, then unretweeted, the video again. As a sidenote, U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs speaks Japanese and lived in Japan.
A related correction: Yesterday, we erroneously said no Arizona Democrats sponsored the resolution to censure Gosar; Reps. Raul Grijalva and Ruben Gallego were co-sponsors of the resolution. Unfortunately, we can’t correct an email once it’s sent to your inbox.
Not an insurrectionist, just was at an insurrection: The QAnon shaman, Jake Angeli/Jacob Chansley, was sentenced to 41 months in prison for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, of which he became a notable public face. The Arizonan has spent 11 months in a federal prison already, the Republic’s Richard Ruelas reports, which will come off the 41 months of his full sentence. Angeli rejected the term “insurrectionist” and said he was a “good man who broke the law.”
Stanton’s opening shot in the governor’s race?: The Republic’s Stacey Barchenger surveyed Arizona’s congressional delegation about Dem gubernatorial frontrunner(?) Katie Hobbs’ refusal to talk to reporters about Talonya Adams. They fell squarely into three camps: those who said Hobbs should address the issue (Reps. Greg Stanton and Raul Grijalva), those who said something that condemned discrimination but didn’t mention Hobbs (Reps. Ruben Gallego, Ann Kirkpatrick and Sen. Mark Kelly) and those who wouldn’t say anything at all (Rep. Tom O’Halleran and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema).
The school board is the new legislature: Valley voters rejected school bond requests at the ballot this month at a higher rate than in years past, the Republic’s Yana Kunichoff reports. Increased politicization of school boards, critical race theory as a flashpoint and low turnout could play a role in why.
Pandemic still pandemic-ing: COVID-19 cases are on the rise in what looks like the third wave for Arizona, and hospitalizations are at their highest since February, the Republic’s Stephanie Innes reports. This time, cases started increasing in the summer and it hasn’t really gotten better since. There’s a host of possible reasons why, though by now, we all know what those factors are and the various ways that Arizona isn’t doing great at mitigating them. We’ve been here before; we’ll probably be here again.
Nah, too hard: Conservative Republic columnist (and former lobbyist) Robert Robb shares some lessons from back in his day, when lawmakers used to pass budgets in a process that largely occurred out in the open, in the light of day. Appropriations subcommittees debated budget items, each chamber voted on separate budgets, then squared away the differences. Lawmakers now could try the same, Robb suggests, instead of logrolling and defying the Arizona Constitution.
“What was the magical elixir that produced a process that today’s GOP legislators seem to find elusive and unimaginable? It was a thing called ‘legislating,’ which despite their titles is an unfamiliar concept to today’s GOP lawmakers. And to a lesser degree, also to legislative Democrats,” Robb wrote.
Another great genre answers “is this legal?”: We like when a story poses a simple question and then answers it. In this case, in the wake of the dossier riling the Scottsdale Unified School District, the Republic’s Renata Clo asks, “Can Scottsdale district oust embattled Jann-Michael Greenburg from school board?” The answer is: No.
This will probably enter into a new conspiracy theory someday: Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer has a new political action committee called Pro-Democracy Republicans of Arizona to support candidates that don’t believe the 2020 election was stolen, and there’s probably at least a handful of them.
We’re all in this together: Arizona, California and Nevada are in discussions to use less water out of Lake Mead to try to prevent future crises, the Los Angeles Times’ Ian James writes. The deal would be a follow-up, and further reduction, after a similar agreement struck in 2019.
Cheaper than Arpaio: The City of Phoenix will pay a $5 million settlement over a lawsuit from the family of Muhammad Abdul Muhaymin Jr., a man who died after telling police “I can’t breathe” while officers were on top of him, the Republic’s Perry Vandell reports.
You know what else is cheaper than Arpaio? 1.4 million annual subscriptions to the Arizona Agenda. Sign up now for just $70 a year!
Welcome to the circus: The New York Times now has a correspondent living in town again because we’re big time. Jack Healy will cover our state for the Gray Lady because “Arizona is critical to understanding our country right now.”
Oh great, more billboards: This time on county freeways, per Republic reporter Jen Fifield.
We’ve mentioned a couple times that the Arizona Legislature faces a major issue with school funding once the session begins in January. The spending cap for education, approved by voters, needs to be increased, or schools face the loss of more than a billion dollars they’ve already planned to spend. This story from Howie Fischer explains the issue in more depth.
You can find the amount your school district stands to lose by searching Arizona Department of Education reports, though it’s a bit of a process.
To find the reports, go to the school finance website. Select your school district, then press “Go!” Next, click the “switch to budgets” button in the top-right corner. Then, click “reports.” Next, select 2022 from the dropdown menu and press “Go!” There, you’ll find the district’s Budget Aggregate Expenditures Report, or BUDG-ADG. The “District's at Risk Budgeted Expenditures” line tells you how much money is at stake for your schools. (Here’s Agua Fria’s report, for example.)
The lawyer who represented Jacob Chansley/Jake Angeli, the “QAnon shaman,” just cannot stop insulting his client. Albert Watkins previously referred to defendants in Jan. 6 cases as “fucking short-bus people,” among a slew of other derogatory comments about their mental abilities. Watkins called out reporters who referred to Chansley as an “insurrectionist.” “Are you going to follow the guy who’s naked, tattooed nipples, January, DC, hours outside, with horns, face paint and a fur, and say, yeah, that’s the guy I want, I’m following him? Unless you’re smoking crack. Which, you know, is not bad, on occasion,” Watkins said in a video posted on Twitter by Reuters.
The Colorado River Tea Party will hear from GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and two Arizona Corporation Commission candidates at its meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at Community Christian Church in Yuma.
There are more Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission hearings happening today, at Scottsdale Community College and the Hampton Inn Anthem at 6 p.m. For details on the meetings, click here.