Thursday, February 15, 2018

BREAKING/READ: Pima C.C. Audit Shows Purchasing Irregularities, Failure To Properly Verify Citizenship Of Aid Recipients

The Arizona Auditor General's Office this afternoon released findings showing that the Pima County Community College District failed to adequately verify citizenship of federal aid recipients. The audit also found that purchasing procedure irregularities may have allowed the college to circumvent competitive purchasing.

In its official response - below, as part of the audit report - the PCCC District is not disputing any of the audit findings and lists the corrective actions that it is taking with each of them.

For the fiscal year ended June 30, 2017, the District distributed approximately $1M in aid through the federal Upward Bound and Educational Opportunity Centers programs. The Upward Bound program was the larger of the two, and the district is required to actively verify citizenship. Instead, the recipients were permitted to self-certify that they were eligible. A random check of four recipients showed that they were, in fact, citizens. However, the district acknowledged that they were not able to verify citizenship for most of the random checks in the EOC program. The district indicates that it has taken corrective action starting this semester.

As for purchasing, the Auditor General's office found a number of troubling irregularities. Purchase orders were not approved prior to buying and receiving goods, as required; instead, the pre-approvals were "backdated". At least one "purchase was split into two separate transactions to avoid competitive purchasing", blanket purchase orders were unmonitored and did not require authorizations, and some purchases exceeding $1,000 were wrongly approved for payment.

The district indicates that it plans to have the Board of Governors pass new purchasing guidelines by the end of June.

There are some indications that this state audit may not be the only inspections of the federal monies. Arizona's Politics has reached out to the Auditor General and the PCCC District for more information, and will update as warranted.



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Tempe attorney Paul Weich contributed this report.

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Friday, February 9, 2018

PERSONAL REFLECTION: The Tempe COMMUNITY Says Goodbye To Two Shining Stars In Two Days

Community. The Tempe and East Valley Community. Bettering the Tempe and East Valley Community.

That was the common theme in the two funerals I attended in the last two days, for two very different people. And, there is much to learn and be inspired by from the services and that common theme.

On this blog/passion project, I focus on the political community and the communities that our elected officials are very visible and important leaders of. Neither of these individuals were part of the political community.

However, both were important community-builders and community-protectors in their different ways.

Alan Blau was a long-time Tempe accountant who helped individuals and small businesses in Tempe grow and grow the roots of an inter-connected community. He and his wife and his children have been key builders of the Tempe/East Valley Jewish community.

Alan's son, Aaron, emphasized that "community" - or, "Kehillah", the Hebrew word for it - was a key value that his father promoted and passed on. And, the overflow community of people at a Thursday afternoon service at Temple Emanuel affirmed that.

Tempe Fire Captain Kyle Brayer is being laid to rest today after being shot and killed this past weekend. Although he was only 34, my friend's words about his son also emphasized the community-building and community-protecting that Kyle had done the past
10 years. Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Chief Greg Ruiz's words emphasized that.

He had only been a Tempe Firefighter for the past 10 years, after serving as a U.S. Marine in Iraq. And, he had not lived in Tempe before that. But, in addition to his duties protecting the community as a firefighter, he took on mentoring, teaching and other tasks that further strengthened the Tempe community. And, he was fiercely Tempe First, insisting that his family spend every possible dining and entertainment dollar in Tempe.

Alan Blau and Kyle Brayer were very different people. But, that is how a community is built. With many very different people who are not in it (just) for themselves. They are in it to protect, to build, to strengthen the rest of the community.

I have known Alan and his family from years of board work, preschool and sharing at community events. I only knew Kyle from the updates I received from his proud Pops over several years (the hockey and the Marines chapters).  But I - and, more importantly, our community - will miss them both greatly.

Fortunately, they both helped build and strengthen the community... and inspire many others to continue that work in our very different ways.

--Paul Weich

Donations to honor the life and community-protecting and community-building of Kyle Brayer can be made to Tempe Firefighters Charities, and to honor the community-building and community-strengthening of Alan Blau, to the East Valley Jewish Community Center or Temple Emanuel of Tempe.




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UPDATE: Club For Growth Wants You To Know: We Like Steve Montenegro AND Debbie Lesko And Are NOT Choosing Sides

Apprehension immediately followed Arizona's Politics' article yesterday that noted that the mega-conservative group Club for Growth had bankrolled an independent expenditure campaign touting former state Sen. Steve Montenegro and opposing former state Sen. Debbie Lesko in this month's special primary election to replace resigned-Rep. Trent Franks in #AZ08.

Rachael Slobodien, the communications director for the Club for Growth, wants readers to know that CfG actually likes both of the candidates (in a crowded GOP field) and that the robocall and mailer are not coming directly from the CfG PAC.
"Club for Growth PAC has not endorsed in the AZ-08 Congressional race. Furthermore, Club for Growth PAC has not engaged in this race at all and reports suggesting otherwise are false. Steve Montenegro and Debbie Lesko both possess strong conservative credentials and would make great additions to Congress."
CfG took exception to the implication that they had taken sides. It is correct that CfG has not endorsed a candidate. What they cannot refute is that:
1. The Club for Growth Action is "a political arm of Club for Growth.
2. CfG Action is the sole and original funder ($230,000) of National Horizon in this election cycle.
3. National Horizon is opposing Lesko and touting Montenegro.

Arizona's Politics fully explained and supported its headline in the article, and its tweet in a comment minutes later. "Bankrolling" is the operative word, and it was used correctly. In the current political world, where money can get washed through multiple spin cycles to obscure its origins, it is important to report when that original funder is speaking through a once-removed conduit.

That is what Arizona's Politics has attempted to do throughout its #50ShadesOfDarkMoney reports, and what it will continue to do. And, we will continue to present relevant responses to those reports and to provide even-handed and responsible coverage.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

BREAKING: Club For Growth Goes After Lesko In #AZ08 Special Election, With Trent Franks Robocall and a Mailer

(Feb. 9, 1:45pm: Arizona's Politics has published an update of this article, to reflect Club for Growth's responses. Club for Growth has not endorsed a candidate in the GOP primary to replace Franks, although National Horizon is currently funded solely by CfG's political arm. The article below has not been changed. Their statement, and an article on the issues raised can be found here.)

The mega-conservative group Club For Growth is bankrolling a new campaign to tout Steve Montenegro in this month's Republican primary to replace the resigned Trent Franks. First element to draw attention? A robocall recorded by Franks touting his former employee.

Next up? A mailer which should be hitting Republican mailboxes within the next day or two, attacking primary opponent Debbie Lesko and touting Montenegro.

The independent expenditure group National Horizon is nominally responsible for the call and the mailer. But, National Horizon has received all of its $230,000 from the Club for Growth Action Fund. In a disclosure filed today with the Federal Election Commission, National Horizon indicates it spent $27,173 on the Tuesday mailer.

The 1 1/2 minute robocall from a slow-talking Franks does not mention Lesko or any of the other Republican candidates, but says that Montenegro "is being falsely and outrageously attacked". Franks goes on to profusely praise Montenegro's courage.

Arizona's Politics has not yet received a copy of the mailer, but Lesko spokesperson Barrett Marson indicates it focuses on border security and "lies" about Lesko's position.

Lesko and Montenegro both resigned their seats in the Arizona State Senate to try to replace Franks.  The special election primary is on February 27, with the general election on April 24.

(General request to Arizona's Politics' readers: If you receive a political mailer or become aware of a radio or TV ad, please send pictures or links to info@ArizonasPolitics.com. You can indicate whether you wish to be acknowledged or remain anonymous.)


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Friday, February 2, 2018

BREAKING: APS Re-Starting Its Big Money Campaign: Gives $150,000 To Support Ducey, Brnovich

APS (aka Arizona Public Service) has already donated at least $150,000 to support the re-election campaigns of Governor Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich

Perhaps gearing up for a repeat of its political performance in 2014, Pinnacle West Capital Corporation - APS' parent company - gave $100,000 to the Republican Governors Association and $50,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association in the 2nd half of 2017. (The complete filings are below.)

The RGA and the RAGA are required to disclose contributors* on a quarterly or semi-annual basis, and filed their year-end reports just under the deadline on Wednesday.  APS is getting an early start on their re-election support. As Arizona's Politics reported extensively on in 2014, the APS contributions did not come until the two months before the general election.

APS contributed $425,000 to RAGA, which ended up spending more than $3.0M in television advertising shredding Brnovich's Democratic opponent, Felecia Rotellini.  APS donated $50,000 to the RGA two weeks before election day, as that organization was winding up its $6.1M campaign to help elect Ducey. (For perspective, RGA raised $25.6M in the last 6 months of 2017, RAGA raised $8.5M. Their Democratic counterparts raised $16.0M and $3.7M, respectively.)

(APS also contributed $560,000 to the pro-McCain SuperPAC - Arizona Grassroots Action - in 2016.)
Courtesy of Arizona Republic

Not coincidentally, the Arizona Republic just published a picture of Governor Ducey deep in conversation at the Phoenix Open... in the RGA's suite.

Of course, in addition to the nearly 1/2 million that APS contributed in 2014 to these party-centric organizations - APS does not donate to their Democratic counterpart organizations, by the way - the state's largest utility also apparently spent large amounts of money donating to anonymous/dark money groups working on Corporation Commission and Secretary of State races. They also may have supported dark money groups active in the gubernatorial contest.

For their profligate spending, APS and most of the Corporation Commission is currently involved in a court battle with Commissioner Robert Burns. Burns is trying to force APS to disclose all of its political contributions in the 2014 campaign. (A Motion to Dismiss Burns' most recent case is currently awaiting Judge Daniel Kiley's decision.)

APS' robust and early start supporting their favored candidates in 2018 may just raise the level of urgency to Commissioner Burns' attempted inquiry.







*RAGA also receives considerable money from organizations that do not disclose their original contributors, so they are a somewhat dark money group. After an extensive analysis, Arizona's Politics scored RAGA at a 35 on its $#50ShadesOfDarkMoney spectrum.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORT: Big Spending Showdowns Shaping Up For Senate, Swing Districts (READ REPORTS)

Expected big-spending showdowns for Arizona's key Congressional seats are shaping up, per reports filed in the last few days.  Today is the deadline for Congressional candidates* to file their campaign finance reports for the end of 2017.

In the Senate race, only Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) has filed (what is officially her last report as a House candidate, and she has $1.8M in the bank. The likely Democratic nominee is Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-CD9) and she had $4.2M cash on hand as of September 30. Republican candidates Kelli Ward ($285k on hand as of 9/30/17) and Joe Arpaio are also well-known names with the ability to raise lots of monies.

Sinema is vacating her competitive legislative district, and each party has one potential replacement who has quickly stockpiled cash. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) raised $600,000 in just a few weeks, and has $514k cash on hand. Steve Ferrara (R) has easily out-paced other primary candidates; he raised $141k in the 4th quarter - $538k overall - and still has $449k in the bank.

McSally is leaving her extremely competitive southern Arizona district, and Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO Lea Marquez Peterson (R) raised $208,065 in the last three weeks of December. Combined with a $10,000 candidate loan, she has $210,078 cash on hand as of December 31. She received a lot of maxed-out (primary and general) contributions from reliable Republican funders.

On the Democratic side, Former Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick raised $400k in the quarter ($738k total) and has cash on hand of $464k.  Matt Heinz is next (so far). He raised $81,000 in the 4th quarter to bring his total contributions to $344k. Cash on hand: $193k.  Mary Matiella has raised $144k total ($51k in 4q) and has $47,701 in the bank. Former legislator Bruce Wheeler is in 4th place.

Links to all of the candidates' filings are listed here. We did not include filings that show no money raised. (If your favorite candidate is missing, please email us with the date of filing.)

McSally S: http://bit.ly/2noXfea
O'Halleran: http://bit.ly/2Fx7LXs
Steve Smith CD1 R: http://bit.ly/2DS416y
Shedd CD1 R: http://bit.ly/2ErwzAD
Cavanaugh CD1 R: http://bit.ly/2BHXFAH
Marquez Peterson CD2 R: http://bit.ly/2nvuhIV
Kirkpatrick CD2 D: http://bit.ly/2rRxesM
Matiella CD2 D: http://bit.ly/2nqbcbT
Wheeler CD2 D: http://bit.ly/2E1oDIG
Heinz CD2 D: http://bit.ly/2E36jik
Sherry CD2 D: http://bit.ly/2DSZsoc
Grijalva CD3: http://bit.ly/2GA1dZB
Arellano CD3 R: http://bit.ly/2Fye252
Greene CD5 D: http://bit.ly/2DQnQaj
Schweikert CD6: http://bit.ly/2EsKqGR
Heather Ross CD6 D: http://bit.ly/2DR2idJ
Anita Malik: CD6 D: http://bit.ly/2DSBWb9
Allen CD8 R: http://bit.ly/2DTucpn
Franks CD8: http://bit.ly/2rZKhIK
Lesko CD8: http://bit.ly/2nvnQFL
Lien CD8 R: http://bit.ly/2rTMNQx
Ferrara CD9 R: http://bit.ly/2DO53Ai
Seth Leibsohn CD9 R: http://bit.ly/2DT5gm0
Greg Stanton CD9 D: http://bit.ly/2EwCAwh

* Candidates running in the Special Election to fill the vacant seat in CD8 have until February 15 to file their reports. Calendar for Special CD8: http://bit.ly/2DQP2tn

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Arizona House Delegation Splits On Measure To End Government Shutdown...Not Along Party Lines

Arizona's eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives were evenly split this afternoon on the measure to end the government shutdown. However, the split was not along party lines.

The House voted 266-150 to re-fund the government for the next two weeks. The Senate approved it earlier today by an 81-18 vote.

Only 6 House Republicans voted against the measure (221-6). Two of them are from Arizona. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-CD4) and Andy Biggs (R-CD5) voted no because they opposed any temporary funding measure.

The Democratic side was more closely divided.  45 Democrats voted in favor, 144 were opposed. From Arizona, Reps. Tom O'Halleran (D-CD1) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-CD9) voted "aye". The other two Democrats - Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-CD3) and Ruben Gallego (D-CD7) voted against it because they did not believe that the Senate Democrats had reached a good deal with the Republicans to obtain protection for DACA recipients.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

WATCH: CODE WORD ALERT: Mark Steyn On Fox News Decries "Cultural Transformation" That Makes Arizona's Future Part Of Mexico (COMMENTARY)

(Arizona's Politics is an independent, non-partisan political news blog. When we engage in analysis or commentary, we attempt to label it as such. This article may be classified as "commentary".)
"Arizona's future is as an Hispanic society," said conservative talker Mark Steyn last night on Fox News. Citing an unsupported claim that "a majority of the grade school children are now Hispanic," Steyn claims that, "in effect", Arizona is now part of Mexico.

When Arizona's Politics came across his quote in a tweet from Fox News, we immediately searched for the full video, hoping that the context would show it to be a little less... uhhh... racist. No such luck, the video added the "cultural transformation" angle to his comments. (He analogized Arizona's future to Sweden's own cultural transformation into a Muslim country.)

(video will open in new window; Arizona comments start at 3:50)
First, Steyn makes an unsupported claim that "a majority" of grade school students in Arizona are Hispanic. Arizona's Politics searched for any figures that would back him up on that. The closest was a 2016 article by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, which went through state data to conclude that 44% of all students (not just grade school) were Hispanic. We asked AZCIR - a worthy non-profit, by the way - to help update that data. They did, and found out that 45.9% of students in Grades 3-8 are Hispanic. (We have reached out to Mr. Steyn for additional information and comments, and will supplement as necessary.)

Second and more importantly, Steyn's seemingly-uneducated - Arizona has always had a culture with large elements of Hispanic and Native American, and part was purchased from Mexico - and definitely-European-centric remarks can only fan the flames of fear and divisiveness.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson's reaction to the pronouncement that anyone who does not support the hardest of hard-line immigration stances is guilty of permitting Mexico to take over one of the 50 United States was not reassuring. He gave typical Carlson responses of "bewildering" and "it's real".

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