The Daily Agenda: The audit still ripples
All news is not created equal ... Joe Hart's swan song ... and, yeah, $75 billion, with a B
More than a month after Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Mark Brnovich was tasked with investigating claims from the Arizona Senate’s audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County, we finally have some news about how that’s going.
The AG’s Office sat down with former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, who is running for secretary of state, to ask about a variety of audit claims, the Republic reported. Fontes promptly tweeted that it was clearly “a political stunt intended to benefit Brnovich’s 2022 Senate race by inflaming the delusions of conspiracy theorists.”
And it seems the investigation is just getting started.
ABC15’s Garrett Archer tweeted that a source saw audit liaison Ken Bennett walking into the AG’s Office yesterday.
Maybe Brnovich will ask about the auditors’ ongoing refusal to turn over public records, which has reached a fever-pitch as court filings flew late last week, but we doubt it.
We mentioned last week the sweet irony of Cyber Ninjas telling Senate President Karen Fann to pound sand when she asked Cyber Ninjas for the records that the court is demanding of the Senate.
Since then, top ninja Doug Logan expanded on his go pound sand response, writing a letter saying he has no idea how many records he has, but they’re his and not Fann’s or the courts’ or the public’s.
Then, on Thursday, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge warned that while he can’t set a deadline due to an ongoing Appeals Court issue, he’s practically itching to hold the Cyber Ninjas in contempt of court for refusing to release the records. “The Ninjas are playing with fire,” the judge wrote.
Of course, this is all Fann’s fault. Besides outright stating that the Cyber Ninjas would not be subject to public records requests (wrong!), the contract the Senate drafted was full of loopholes and laughably weak language that basically only required them to try to audit the election, the Republic noted yesterday.
"The contract was nebulous. The finish line was fuzzy here," Steve Rosenfeld, a national elections researcher who writes about voting systems, told the Republic. "So you have to ask, are we talking about election administration or disinformation?"
And finally, auditors conned people out of roughly 50% more money than was previously known. The latest total is nearly $9 million, with $5 million of that going to salaries. The audit claimed only about $7 million in revenue. No wonder they’re fundraising so hard!
Legislata, a nonpartisan political software company, recently analyzed who members of the Arizona Legislature follow on Twitter, and the results show deep polarization.
As you might expect, Republicans follow Republicans and Democrats follow Democrats.
That polarization is also reflected in the media accounts lawmakers followed. The report noted that more than half of Republicans follow Tucker Carlson, but only 11 percent follow the Washington Post — as if those two sources of information are of the same quality.
The data included a breakdown showing a partisanship score for each account’s legislative followers, and every single local reporter had more Democratic lawmakers following them than Republicans.
The only local news source that was favored by Republicans was Fox 10. A few local conservative commentators had partisan follower scores that favored Republicans, including Republic columnist Robert Robb and KTAR’s Mike Broomhead.
But besides Fox News national, the vast majority of news sources that Republican lawmakers favor are not traditional news sources at all — they’re quasi-news organizations like the Chamber Business News, a few Republican politics blogs, and commentators like Sean Hannity and Ben Shapiro.
FWIW, Hank is the 48th most-followed account by lawmakers, and eighth-most followed reporter — not bad for someone who hasn’t tweeted regularly since live-tweeting was cool. (Rachel was in 210th place and does not give a fuck.)
If you’re part of the Arizona politics Twitterati, go check if you made the list.
Subscribe for just $7 per month and you can log off Twitter forever — we’ll tell you if you miss anything important.
Retire before the voters retire you: Senate President Karen Fann won’t run for re-election in 2022, she announced yesterday. Her statement didn’t answer the only question you’d have about this, which is why she’s leaving.
We’ll see all of you in court: The Battle of the BRBs goes back to court today, with the hearing over the Arizona Legislature’s budget-packing starting at the Arizona Supreme Court this morning. If you recall, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled that the K-12 budget bill, which included all sorts of non-monetary policy, violated the Arizona Constitution. We’ve written a bunch about this, and this case has the potential to upend the budget-making process entirely.
Gonna be a weird legislative session: Kelly Townsend, a conspiracy tornado and Arizona senator, will chair the Senate Government Committee, after the former chair, Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, prevented some of her more controversial election bills from passing last session. Townsend plans to “get solid election reform passed,” with election bills coming through this committee, she said. Sen. Sonny Borrelli, another Stop the Stealer, will vice chair the committee.
He hits all the bingo terms: Abraham Hamadeh, a former prosecutor with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, is running for Arizona Attorney General as a Republican. His campaign announcement video hits all the classic conservative notes, like critical race theory, immigration, vaccine mandates and the radical left, just like his primary opponent Rodney Glassman did in his announcement a few weeks ago.
Lawmaker to the rescue: Arizona Rep. Amish Shah, who is a medical doctor, helped tend to a woman with a nut allergy on a flight from D.C. to Phoenix last week, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Wayne Schutsky reports. It wasn’t Shah’s first time coming to the rescue on a flight, he said. Shah said the woman was stable when the flight was diverted to Albuquerque, though her condition after the flight was unclear.
About time: After calls from faith groups, the Chandler Unified School District condemned antisemitic comments made by a woman during the public comment period of a board meeting last week. The incident raises questions about what board members can do during increasingly hostile public comment periods, the Republic’s Paulina Pineda reports.
Bring a raincoat: Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Phoenix City Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari are going to Glasgow for the United Nations’ climate conference, a sign of the importance of local leaders in the fight against climate change, reports the Republic’s Zayna Syed.
Some light reading: Arizona gets a lot of play in the Washington Post’s extensive dive into the Jan. 6 insurrection and its aftermath (with local reporter Jeremy Duda’s help). We play particularly heavy in the aftermath, as you can imagine. And Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman got the Post video treatment to share the threats he faced leading up to the insurrection.
The clothes aren’t about the clothes: Politicians’ clothing choices, including those made by U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, are strategic and a type of storytelling, and we should be able to talk about these choices in ways that are smart and informed, author and sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom argues in the New York Times. She plans to write more about what these style choices mean in the coming weeks.
“Given the high legislative stakes, it is easy to treat Sinema’s aesthetics as unimportant. But those aesthetics are part of the way she courts, manipulates and plays with public attention as a political figure. Politicians are part of the cultural and economic elite. Their choices are always about public perception. In that context, a dress is never just a dress. It is always strategy,” McMillan Cottom writes.
While we’re on the subject: Republic columnist EJ Montini questions whether Sinema should lose her teaching job at Arizona State University, citing a petition from some students who say she isn’t following the social work code of ethics and should be terminated.
Boat safely: Arizona boaters don’t have to take a safety course to drive a boat, and one family who has been on the receiving end of unsafe boaters wants to change that, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Nathan Brown reports. They’ve found a friend in Democratic Rep. Mitzi Epstein, who plans to run a bill that would eventually require safety education for boaters.
More map thoughts: Republic columnist Laurie Roberts says the draft maps approved by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission are probably making some current members of Congress concerned after their districts changed. And the legislative districts aren’t as competitive as she hoped, though they contain more of competitive districts than there are now.
A miner to the end: Joe Hart’s swan song as state mine inspector was to sign off on a controversial reclamation plan for a mining operation in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, despite objections from Pima County and environmentalists, the Daily Star’s Tony Davis reports. Rosemont Copper’s parent company, Hudbay Minerals, owns the mine.
Nearly $75 billion came into Arizona from federal COVID-19 relief programs, the majority of which went directly to people, businesses or local governments, a new report by the Arizona Auditor General said. (To put that into perspective, the entire state budget is roughly $13 billion.) The report breaks down where the money went at a very high level (we still want all the low-level details on this stuff). And it notes a few problems with how the funding has played out here, including a lack of fraud measures at the Arizona Department of Economic Security before the increased unemployment insurance amounts went out and a late report from the Arizona Department of Administration.
None of it is funny anymore.
Just kidding. It was a dry day online. Check back tomorrow, we’ll probably laugh again then. And you can always send us funny shit you see.
It’s Election Day for many of you who have local elections on the docket. Tucson is considering a minimum wage increase, lots of school districts are seeking bonds and overrides and several cities have questions on their local ballots for you to answer. Go vote!
The Arizona School Boards Association v. the State of Arizona case over the state budget BRBs will be argued before the Arizona Supreme Court at 9:30 a.m. today. You can find video of the oral arguments here.