Tuesday, June 30, 2015

WATCH: McSally On CNN Re: Terrorism: "Enjoy Your Holiday, Don't Live In Fear, But Let's Be Vigilant"

Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-CD2) was on CNN this afternoon, discussing the threats of July 4th terror attacks and the differences between Al Qaeda and ISIS.  Her bottom line: "Enjoy your holiday, don't live in fear, but let's be vigilant."



McSally chairs the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications.  This is (at least) her 2nd appearance on CNN within the past two weeks.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

READ: Supreme Court Thwarts Arizona Legislature In Redistricting Case

The U.S. Supreme Court denied the Arizona Legislature in its bid to overturn the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission formed by voters 20 years ago.

In a 5-4 decision, the Justices found that Arizona voters can set up the redistricting commission.

 

Also in Supreme Court news about Arizona-related cases on this last day of the term, the Justices declined to consider ex-Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi's appeal of his conviction on bribery and insurance fraud.  And, the Court also declined to hear the Kansas/Arizona appeal that the states had a constitutional right to impose their own requirements on federally-mandated voter registration forms. 

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Friday, June 26, 2015

READ, VIEW (NSFW?): Sheriff Arpaio, Rev. Maupin Complain About Poster Portraying Them As Entwined "Nude" "Political Monsters"; "Vulgar, Racially Insensitive, Homophobic"

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Phoenix Rev. Jarrett Maupin have received a lot of attention recently for their joint efforts. Today, they filed a complaint with the city of Phoenix that one reaction of "nude artwork" goes too far and is "vulgar, racially insensitive, homophobic and generally offensive."

At risk of being complained about, Arizona's Politics is going to publish this display. By clicking "Read More", you are certifying that you are old enough to view a non-explicit cartoon likeness of two local politicians.

Arizona's Politics - along with the rest of the media - received a copy of Rev. Maupin's "complaint" to the Phoenix Human Relations Commission, along with a picture of the "nude artwork" this afternoon....from the Sheriff's Office's communications staff.*

It claims that the "display" is being propped up against various pieces of city of Phoenix property (light poles, bus stop, street lights, etc), and that the city should do something about it.

We could continue to quote from Maupin's letter, but let's let you read the entire missive for yourself (before looking at the nude display, if you are mature enough).




Maupin and Arpaio received national attention this month when the former asked the latter to provide protection to Phoenix-area Black churches in the wake of the Charleston, SC massacre.  They also received their share of derision, including from both the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix New Times.

This mocking no doubt inspired the anonymous artist.

And that no doubt inspired the Reverend and the Sheriff to claim to be "victim(s)" of the life-size editorial cartoon.  (This is especially impressive given that two of today's lead stories are the Supreme Court's same sex marriage ruling and President Obama's eulogy in Charleston.)

Again, please make sure that you are old enough and mature enough to view the "nude artwork" below the jump. However, if you would like to complain about this article, please address Howard Kurtz, c/o Fox News; this would be guaranteed to keep his head spinning for weeks to come (and might get me an interview slot).

* Because the Sheriff used County employees and resources to broadcast this complaint, Arizona's Politics is considering him to be endorsing/signing on to the Reverend's complaint.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Arizona Redistricting Case Makes It To Supreme Court's Final "Significant Seven"

Arizona's important independent redistricting case is now one of the final "Significant Seven" opinions left for the U.S. Supreme Court to hand down in this 2014-15 season.

The nine Justices finish deciding cases from the October term by the end of June (or, occasionally, the beginning of July), and some of the most difficult and significant cases end up being the last ones left.  This year, the Arizona Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission still remains, along with the ACA ("Obamacare") subsidies, same sex marriage, and four other cases.

Former Supreme Court clerks have noted that opinions are often getting proofread, circulated, changed, etc. on difficult cases until shortly before being announced.  ar

The Supreme Court does not announce in advance which opinions they are releasing on any given day, and word never seems to leak out.  And, because they do not allow live broadcasts from their court, this leaves interested parties anxiously watching sites like SCOTUSblog and news sources for word.

The Justice who authors the majority opinion has the opportunity to make a statement and/or read from the opinion. (Dissenting justices can then do likewise.) The Court did announce that they are adding another day of releasing opinions, this coming Thursday. (Next Monday will be a regularly-scheduled opportunity to hand down rulings.)

The Arizona redistricting case was one of the final argued.  Former U.S. Solicitors General Paul Clement and Seth Waxman presented the case to the Supreme Court for the Arizona Legislature and Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, respectively.

As noted on Arizona's Politics, the latter represented the AIRC pro bono, saving Arizona taxpayers a few hundred thousand dollars.  Even so, this one case alone has cost more than $850,000, and the state has footed more than $3.65M in outside legal bills for the attacks on the AIRC and the redistricting maps that it approved.


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Friday, June 19, 2015

UPDATE: Arizona Taxpayers' Bill For Post-Redistricting Legal Battles Greater Than $3.65M, Even With Fmr U.S. Solicitor General Waiving Fees (Pro Bono)

Arizona's taxpayers have paid five law firms more than $3.65 Million for post-redistricting legal battles.

Wednesday, Arizona's Politics reported on the legal costs incurred by Arizona taxpayers because of the partisan battle over the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission - that article noted the costs - to the taxpayers - had "exceeded $3.4 Million." The AIRC has now provided breakouts of legal fees it has paid over the past four years, and it turns out that the legal bill is now at $3,649,239.

The article had relied upon the records provided by Arizona Open Books, as the most reliable source of unbiased information about state expenditures.  Even so, that site has limitations - such as, the inability to distinguish between legal fees paid for one case or another - and the article listed them.

There were many good responses to the article, but the most helpful came from the AIRC itself.  After discussing the numbers and the current statuses of the cases with Ray Bladine, the AIRC's Executive Director*, I received spreadsheet data breaking down the $5.3M total spent on outside counsel in the past four years.

To come up with our revised post-redistricting, partisan litigation number of $3.65M+, we removed the $1.2M in "General" legal fees, the $578K incurred in fighting then-Attorney General Tom Horne's challenge of the AIRC's open meetings, and the $182K expended to fight then-Governor Jan Brewer's action for removal.  We then added the $360K paid by the Arizona Legislature to local law firm Davis Miles and U.S. Supreme Court expert Paul Clement, as part of the case that Arizona (and several other states) are anxiously awaiting a decision from the Justices (within the next couple of weeks).

There are presently three live cases against the AIRC, all from either Republican lawmakers, or Republican-philic interests.  Surprisingly, the AIRC has spent THE LEAST in outside legal expenses on the Arizona Legislature v. AIRC case about to be decided by the Supreme Court.

This is partly because it is a Constitutional challenge that did not require much time-intensive (costly) discovery, and partly because the U.S. Supreme Court expert Seth Waxman surprisingly agreed to represent the Redistricting Commission pro bono.  That saved Arizona taxpayers somewhere between $300-500,000.***

Again, what is NOT included or currently calculable is the amount taxpayers have paid for Assistant AG's and other Arizona-employed attorneys (at the Legislature, the Secretary of State's Office, the Governor's Office, etc.) while they have been working on these cases.  We have also not included those challenges that were mounted by the AG or the Governor

Here are the three live cases, their statuses, and the amounts spent on legal fees:
1) Arizona Legislature v. AIRC: $558,092 spent by Defendant, at least $359,938 spent by Plaintiff. The U.S. Supreme Court will issue its ruling within the next couple of weeks. It will either uphold the Arizona voters' decision to give redistricting responsibility to the independent commission (appointed by the legislature), or it will give redistricting back to the lawmakers.

2) Harris v. AIRC: The AIRC has spent $1,734,603 in legal fees. The U.S. Supreme Court has received an appeal by the Plaintiffs, but has not decided whether to accept the case yet. It is very possible that the Justices are waiting to hand down the other AIRC opinion, in order to avoid accepting a case that they might be about to moot. The Plaintiffs are Republican-backed (including money from the well-known Koch Brothers network), and are seeking to overturn the AIRC's state legislative maps.

3) Leach v. AIRC: The AIRC has spent just shy of $1M ($996,606) on this case.  The Plaintiffs are a mix of Republican legislators and supporters, who are challenging the Commission's procedures.  A great deal of discovery took place in this case before the parties and the Court (Maricopa County Superior) agreed last year to put the case on hold pending a decision or decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court.

(Tempe attorney Paul Weich contributed to this article. Mr. Weich practices election law, but has not represented any parties in the redistricting cases.)

*Bladine reports that he and the AIRC are still open pending court decision(s), albeit with a skeletal staff and part time hours.
**Nearly all of the "general" legal fees were incurred in FY12, which is when the final maps were still being worked on.
***It also could legitimately make you wonder about the $304,884 paid by the Republican legislators to Clement, and whether they could have saved taxpayers that money by seeking out an attorney that felt the same constitutional/ideological urgency that they did.


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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Arizona's Redistricting Legal Battles Cost Taxpayers (Much) More Than $3.4M (So Far)

UPDATE, 6/19: A new article that includes updated (higher) figures, more detail, and confirmation that former U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman reprsented the AIRC pro bono is located here.

(Correction: The Arizona Republic reported that the Arizona Legislature has retained a firm to prepare for the possibility of new maps, and not the Secretary of State's office. The text has been corrected.)

As Arizona waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue its ruling on the state's Independent Redistricting Commission, the legal bills paid by Arizona taxpayers has exceeded $3.4 Million.  The legal tab for the Supreme Court briefs and oral arguments alone will likely be more than $500,000.

Arizona's Politics has scoured the state's books to tally the legal fees paid by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission ("AIRC") and the State Legislature since the Republican-controlled House and Senate - and Republican-backed individuals filed dual challenges to the AIRC and the redistricting maps created by the AIRC in 2012.

The Legislature spent $304,884 to hire former U.S. Solicitor Paul Clement to handle the Supreme Court portion of the case.*

(Arizona's Politics had a difficult time ascertaining the fee earlier this year; Arizona Open Books - Arizona's Official Transparency Site - did not post the payment until April 17.  That was nearly one year after Clement first filed on behalf of the state and six weeks after he argued the case in front of the nation's highest court.  Neither the House nor the Senate - which split the fee 50/50 - responded to requests for clarification, and the Democratic caucus was unable to figure out the details.)

The Legislature also retained the local law firm of Davis Miles to help with the legal action in both the District Court and the Supreme Court.  Davis Miles received about $55,000.  The lawmakers and the aligned Secretary of State's Office also utilized state attorneys from both the Attorney General's Office and both Houses; Arizona's Politics is unable to calculate the value of those attorney's hours.

The AIRC did not have the benefit of "in house counsel", and instead have paid the law firms of Ballard Spahr and Osborn Maledon a total of $3,078,641 since June 2012.  The AIRC also retained a former U.S. Solicitor General to represent it in the Supreme Court.  However, the fees paid Seth Waxman's firm of Wilmer Cutler has not yet been posted on Arizona's website.  (It should be in the same ballpark as Clement's $304,000 fee; reports indicate Waxman's hourly rate is $950/hour.**)

The Supreme Court's decision in the Legislature's constitutional challenge to the Arizona-voter-approved setup of the Independent Redistricting Commission could come as soon as tomorrow, and certainly by the end of the month.  The Arizona Republic has reported that the Legislature has already paid out money to begin the redistricting process if the Court rules in the Legislature's favor and reinstates the old Legislative-controlled redistricting process.

The Supreme Court has not yet decided if it will hear the other Republican-based challenge to the state legislative districts.  That decision should come by the end of the month, as well.

*Arizona paid Clement $400,000 to represent it before the Supreme Court to defend anti-illegal immigration SB1070. That was paid from contributions to a state fund.

**Thanks to SCOTUSblog for providing that link to Arizona's Politics.

₁ Corrected from "Secretary of State". (Thanks to Eric Spencer from the Secretary of State's office for catching that error.)

(Tempe attorney Paul Weich contributed to this article. Mr. Weich practices election law, but has not represented any parties in the redistricting cases.)
Former Solicitors General Paul Clement (left) and Seth Waxman


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WATCH: Rep. McSally Urges Military To Step Up Bombing ISIS, Take Greater Risks Re: Civilian Casualties

Arizona Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) today urged the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to step up aerial attacks on the Islamic State, even if it puts civilians at greater risk.

McSally questioned Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Ash Carter during an Armed Services Committee hearing, and then took to CNN to step up her attacks on what she calls the "incoherent strategy" to defeat ISIS.

(Click on picture above for video. Will open in new window.)

McSally wanted to know how many U.S. strike sorties were ending with the pilot not firing on their target, because of the fear of civilian casualties.  She quoted retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula*, and noted that the fastest way to end ISIS' crimes against humanity is to step up bombing. "While unintended casualties of war are regrettable, they pale in comparison to the savage acts being carried out by the Islamic State. It allows the certainty of Islamic State's crimes against humanity."

Gen. Dempsey would not give specifics in open testimony, but said concern about civilian casualties "is not the limiting factor." He also said he "couldn't disagree more with the retired General."

McSally is a retired USAF Colonel, and flew A-10's over Iraq in the first Gulf War.

ADD, 12:20pm: Rep. McSally's office has now posted the video from her post-committee hearing interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.  She emphasizes the points that she was making during her questioning.


*Lt. Gen. Deptula wrote a column in the Washington Post two weeks ago espousing giving U.S. pilots more leeway to fire on targets in Iraq.  He was debarred this past winter from conducting business with the Pentagon.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

WATCH: McCain Fights Amendment To Deal With Sexual Assaults In Military; Dies 50-49, Rubio Only Absent Senator (READ amendment)

Arizona Senator John McCain (R-AZ) passionately inveighed against a measure to change the way that intra-military sexual assaults are handled.  The Gillibrand (D-NY) amendment received 50
votes (and 49 votes opposed), but required at least 60 votes to be attached to the National Defense Authorization Act.

McCain (and others) criticized the proposal to establish an independent justice system for sexual assault charges, removing it from the current chain of command.

McCain said that "What her proposal is is rejected by literally every member of the military that I know that has years of experience.  We cannot remove the commanding officers from the chain of command, and that's what the Senator Gillibrand's amendment and effort has been, to remove the commanding officer from responsibility. And, I will steadfastly oppose it!"



The amendment was defeated when it failed to obtain the 60 votes necessary.  McCain and Flake both voted against it.  Ten Democratic Senators opposed it, and 14 Republicans supported it.  Senator - and Presidential candidate - Marco Rubio was the only non-voting Senator.

Here is the text of the (defeated) amendment:



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Monday, June 15, 2015

Arizona Supreme Court Hires Former Congressman John Shadegg As Lobbyist

The Arizona Supreme Court took the unprecedented step this month of hiring former Congressman John Shadegg to lobby for it at the federal level. The Court is hoping to lay the groundwork to be able to intercept federal tax refunds from state criminals.

The contract with the Arizona Supreme Court is the first time (per the federal lobbying database) that the Court has hired a lobbyist, and the first time Shadegg has lobbied for a State of Arizona entity.

Shadegg notes on his registration form that he will be lobbying for the Supreme Court regarding "issues relating to the interception of court ordered restitution, fines and fees."  Arizona does not currently have the right to intercept federal tax refunds from convicted criminals in order to fulfill restitution orders.

Arizona Supreme Court Communications Director Heather Murphy tells Arizona's Politics that Shadegg has been hired on "a very limited basis, for an amount of less than $10,000."  She notes that previous attempts to gain this important tool to collect restitution orders for victims have not made it far, possibly "due to inertia".

Murphy is not aware if other states have attempted or are attempting to do likewise. A search of the lobbyist database did not turn up any other states' Supreme Courts.

Shadegg represented Arizona in the House of Representatives from 1995 to 2011, and became a lobbyist with the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson two years later.  The Republican also lobbies for Facebook, Basis Schools and the Las Vegas Sands Corporation (Sheldon Adelson), although his two most lucrative lobbying contracts are presently for the National Association of Convenience Stores and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers.

The lobbyist registration is required for attempting to influence either the Executive Branch or the Legislative Branch.  (Arizona's Judicial Branch is NOT attempting to influence the federal Judicial Branch.)

Arizona's Politics discovered the lobbying registration today and has asked the Court and former Rep. Shadegg for additional details on the lobbying, and will update as warranted.


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