Friday, April 24, 2015

Reach New Heights: Lobbying Firm Hits Jackpot, Gila River Indian Community Gets National Attention For $1M 1Q15 Spend

Go to Gila River Casinos website and you're greeted with two slides: "Reach New Heights", and "A River of Benefits."  Those are especially appropriate if you're Gila Rivers' lobbyists, who were paid an even $1,000,000 in the 1st quarter.

Gila River Indian Community's lobbying bill attracted national attention today when Politico noted that the lobbying disclosure statement for the 1st quarter of this year reached "a new record for a lobbying contract that’s well-known on K Street for the hundreds of thousands it brings to Akin Gump every quarter."

Akin Gump is a major national lobbying and law firm, and it has represented GRIC on Capitol Hill since at least 2006.  Although Politico notes that the amount Akin Gump received from GRIC this past quarter was $980,000, the $20,000 paid by GRIC subsidiary Gila River Telecommunications brings it to seven figures.

While many lobbying disclosure reports list specific bills or lobbying activities that were worked on, here is the broad description provided by Akin Gump:

"Congressional appropriations for irrigation project (BOR), health care facilities construction (IHS) and tribal programs (BIA); monitoring for legislation affecting Native American tribes; tribal tax exempt bonding authority; arbitration legislation; lease review authority legislation; land purchase valuation legislation; law enforcement issues; trust claim settlement; restrictions on off-reservation gaming; environmental restrictions on Navajo Generation station; H.R. 308/S. 152; negotiation of congressional settlement of tribal trust accounting claim and drafting legislation."

Of course, the smallest reference - to "H.R. 308/S.152" - is probably what generated the largest portion of those lobbying fees.  Those are the bills from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Trent Franks (R-CD2) opposing the casino being built by the Tohono O'odham in Glendale.  Despite Akin Gump's best efforts to push the measure, both bills are languishing in their respective chambers.

For point of comparison, the Tohono O'odham split $410,000 among four lobbying firms in the same period.

(Arizona's Politics has requested comment and will update as warranted.)




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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Russian Uranium Mining Co. At Center In Clinton Controversy Selling Its Interest In Arizona Uranium

The Russians are leaving! By the end of June, Russia's ownership of Arizona uranium mining rights should be sold.

The Russian atomic energy agency is currently in the process of selling its ownership in a proposed uranium mine in northern Arizona. The New York Times today published* an explosive article laying out possible connections between Russia's expansion into the U.S. mining industry and contributions made to the charitable foundation led by former President Bill Clinton and current Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. (The headline of the article is "Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation as Russians Pressed for Control of Uranium Company.")

The article details how the Clinton Foundation received millions of dollars from Canadian mining financiers as they were selling a majority interest of their U.S. uranium mining interests to the Russians. The sale thus required approvals from multiple agencies in the federal government, at a time when Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State.

The proposed Wate Pipe mine just south of the Grand Canyon is a joint venture between Uranium One - a private company wholly owned by Russia's Rosatom - and publicly-traded Vane Minerals**. Last year, Anfield Resources announced that it was "thrilled" to buy Uranium One's interest, in a deal that was supposed to close by the end of March; earlier this month, the negotiations period was extended until June 30. (The Arizona pipe was just one of several uranium assets included in the deals; the others are in Utah and South Dakota.)

According to Arizona State Geologist Lee Allison, the mine is eventually expected to produce about 550 tons of uranium oxide. It would be located on state trust lands, just outside the Hualapai Tribe's lands, and the high grade of the uranium there has been touted by the owners.

It appears that if the deal is completed, Russian-owned Uranium One will only have one uranium mining asset left in the United States, in Wyoming.



*on its website

** Vane Minerals announced in January that it was selling its interest in the Wate Pipe mine to publicly-traded Energy Fuels Inc.

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

McSally Campaign Reports Boosting Campaign Cash On Hand To $800K+, Raising $640K In 1Q15

New Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) is reporting having raised more than $640,000 in less than 3 months in office, to go towards her re-election next year.  Her cash on hand is now more than $800,000.*

As noted in our previous article, McSally had $266,000 net cash on hand on December 31, 2014, while the Representative she narrowly defeated, Ron Barber, showed a net campaign chest of $383,000.

The strong reported showing comes one day before Barber is scheduled to appear on the Zona Politics TV program to announce whether he will seek to regain his Congressional seat.  The actual report is due on April 15.

For comparison purposes, Barber raised half that amount ($297,213) in the first quarter of his (only full) term in Congress, and McSally outraised him in nearly every quarter of their 2014 rematch.


* On December 31, 2014, her cash on hand was reduced by $98,500 in outstanding debts/loans; until the official report is filed, we will not know whether the $800,000+ is net of that $98,500, or if they are still outstanding.

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Will There Be Round 3? Fmr. Rep. Ron Barber Makes Announcement Sunday Morning; McSally Participates In GOP Establishment's "Patriot Day I (2015)"

(UPDATE, 5:00pm: Updated to include campaign fundraising numbers.)

Will there be a third classic battle between current Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) and Ron Barber (Dem.), the Representative she defeated last year on her second try?  Barber, 69, is announcing his decision tomorrow, on (the similarly-named) Zona Politics program on Channel 9.

Echoing the two hard-fought campaigns between Jim McNulty and Jim Kolbe 30 years earlier, Barber and McSally battled to near-draws in 2012 and 2014.  In the former, Barber was aided by the Democrat at the top of the ticket, and in the latter, McSally received a boost from the national trend.

Tomorrow also happens to be the day that Hillary Clinton is announcing her candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2016.  (The former Secretary of State is two years younger than Barber; of course, Barber has not been a political figure for three decades, either.)

Interestingly, while the vanquished Congressman was consistently outraised and outspent by McSally, Barber had more net campaign cash on hand at the end of 2014.  Barber and McSally have to file reports later this week, but the 2014 year-end reports show Barber with net cash on hand of $383,000 and McSally with $266,000.

Meanwhile, McSally's campaign fundraising is already gearing up for a re-election campaign.  She recently added a new Joint Fundraising Committee to her long list of group fundraisers.  "Patriots Day I 2015" is the newest effort.  It will benefit 10 1st and 2nd term Republican Representatives from around the country.

The Patriots Day JFCs have, in the past, been large efforts my House Speaker John Boehner's organizations.  The most recent one (in 2013) saw The Freedom Project, Friends of Boehner and New Pioneers PAC chipping in $85,000, $42,000, and $55,000, respectively. The first two are part of the Speaker's stable, and the third seems to be a favored vehicle of Republican billionaire Paul Singer. (Singer was a major fundraiser for McSally last year.)



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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Republican Senators' Committee (NRSC) STEPS UP Repeated and Blatant Tweeted Lie About Obama, Israel's Nuclear Capability; Cites "The Hill" As News Source (NEWS ANALYSIS/FACT CHECK)

(UPDATE, 4/16/15, 2:00pm: The NRSC continues to run tweets spreading the article that is littered with falsehoods.  Interestingly, new documents that actually were declassified shed more light on Israel's nuclear program, and are the subject of a fascinating article on Politico.  Arizona's Politics is seeking more information on how those documents came to be declassified and released.)


The NRSC has doubled down on its Twitter campaign to spread blatant lies about the Obama Administrations actions towards Israel.  NRSC Chair Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Arizona's two U.S. Senators - John McCain and Jeff Flake - have remained silent after the falsehoods were brought to their attention.

After a full week of more than twice-daily tweets blasting the President for "leaking" a "classified memo on Israel's nuclear program", the NRSC latched on to an opinion piece on TheHill.com claiming that the release "breached (an)...agreement" between the nations.

None of these allegations are correct.  Even after Arizona's Politics emailed the spokesmen for the three Senators with evidence of what really happened, the NRSC continued to repeat the false tweets. After an opinion piece on The Hill today, the NRSC revised its "article" to include the new falsehood.  Senators McCain, Flake and Wicker remained quiet.

The story began in earnest last month, in a lawsuit against the U.S. government seeking information about how Israel may have taken nuclear material from the U.S in the 1960's.  The group specifically sought a 1987 UNCLASSIFIED assessment about the status of nuclear technology in Israel and NATO nations.

The Obama Administration and/or the Defense Department stalled the response to the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request, until the group (Institute for Research: Middle East Policy, or "IR-MEP") filed an action in U.S. District Court.  After some minor attempts to delay by the DOJ - during which it became apparent that there was no grounds to not turn over the document - the Court ORDERED the assessment be handed over.  (The governement redacted all material pertaining to other nations because the FOIA request only sought information about Israel.)

The Reagan-era document is clearly marked as "Unclassified."  It does confirm what was and is widely known - although it has never been officially confirmed - that Israel had advanced research facilities and implied nuclear weapon capabilities.  (Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.)

On March 25, immediately after the conservative Israel National News reported that the U.S. had "declassified" and "published" the report, conservative powerhouse Breitbart exaggerated it by claiming in its headline and lead sentence that the report had been "TOP-SECRET".  It also embellished by (falsely) claiming the assessment's sections on NATO countries was "kept...classified."

The NRSC used the Breitbart article as the foundation for its own article the next day - adding the opinion that it was part of retaliation for Israelie Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking to the U.S. Congress, and immediately began tweeting  inflammatory headlines like "Inexcusable: Obama Administration leaks classified memo on Israel's nuclear program."

Between the 26th and 28th, the NRSC sent out eight such tweets to its 64,700 followers.  On the 28th, the Jerusalem Post delivered what should have been the final nail in the Breitbart/NRSC's story:  the Obama Administration had notified Israel of the FOIA request and had asked for its input. The Israeli goverrnment did not object to releasing the unclassified assessment.

The NRSC continued to tweet the now-doubly-demonstrably-false accusations, twice per day, with each tweet being re-tweeted to additional readers.  On March 31, Arizona's Politics asked the Senators why the NRSC would persist with false rhetoric that could be damaging to relations between the allies. (We also replied to many of the tweets, urging readers to consider the correct information.)

The false report continues to be tweeted out twice per day.

Today, Herbert London published an opinion piece on TheHill.com, reiterating most of the initial Breitbart inaccuracies and focusing on the fact that it "breached" an agreement between the U.S. and Israel.

The NRSC re-wrote its article and held out the column as a factual "report", and adjusted its tweets accordingly. "Inexcusable: Obama Admin. breaks agreement, leaks classified memo on Israel's nuclear program."

The NRSC raises mightily from the Republican Senators, and is a quasi-official organization for them and by them.  It is far different for the NRSC to parrot knowingly-false attacks than for a talk show host or Breitbart to do so.  Senators have the power to remove and/or correct the falsehoods, and to take the tweets out of the "heavy rotation"; not doing so gives the attacks on the U.S.-Israel relationship their imprimatur.


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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sheriff Arpaio Admits Civil Contempt; Raising Settlement Funds By Raising ISIS Alert?

On the same day the Maricopa County Sheriff and his Chief Deputy admitted to a federal judge that they are guilty of civil contempt for violating Court orders, and pledging at least $100,000 in personal funds, Joe Arpaio sent out a fundraising email asking whether supporters believe that ISIS terrorists are coming across the U.S.-Mexico border.

The jaw-dropping admission of contempt this afternoon is broken and well-covered by the Phoenix New Times.

The email hit supporters' inboxes this morning, with the subject line: "FLASH POLL: ISIS IN AMERICA?" The full email is reproduced below the jump.

Sheriff Arpaio asks the question, but then gives his readers the answer: "You see, everyone is talking about the threat that ISIS and Islamic terrorist pose overseas, but they most certainly pose a threat at home too. Make no mistake, those that are crossing our Southern Border illegally are not just coming from Mexico. They are coming from all over the world and using our Mexican border as their opportunity to enter the United States. " (emphasis in email)

Of course, answering the simplistic poll requires giving your email address and brings you to a donation page, for his re-election campaign. On that page, he estimates he will "have to raise at least 4 million dollars to have a fighting chance."

However, as of this past November, Arpaio's re-election campaign has raised $5.5 million dollars, and he has $2.1M in the bank.*  It is unclear whether contributors' dollars would be the funds that the Sheriff might use for a civil contempt settlement; Arpaio and his supporters have also sent out emails recently for a legal defense fund which may or may not be separate from the campaign fund, and which may or may not be used for the civil contempt settlement.

KEEP THOSE CARDS AND LETTERS COMING (thru Tucson): Five Arizona Lawmakers Ask New Postmaster General To Reconsider Closing Tucson's Mail Processing Facility

There's a new USPS Postmaster General, which Arizona's lawmakers see as an opportunity to try to keep Tucson's Cherrybell mail processing center open.

In a letter today penned by Rep. Martha McSally's office and co-signed by four other Arizona Representatives - Democrats Raul Grijalva, Kyrsten Sinema and Ann Kirkpatrick, as well as Republican Trent Franks - Arizona pleads for reconsideration of the decision to leave all of Arizona with just one processing and distribution center while much smaller states "such as Vermont and New Hampshire" will continue to have two such centers.

The closure has been in the works since 2011.  New Postmaster General Megan Brennan took the leadership position on February 1, offering "a fresh start and a chance to review, and if necessary, (to) reverse prior decisions that no longer make sense."

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WATCH: Impassioned Rep. Schweikert Helps House Pass "Secret Science Reform Act" Addressing EPA Regulations; Calls ASU "Next Smartest School In the Nation" (behind MIT)

Arizona Rep. David Schweikert (R-CD6) gave the most impassioned speech of the day in favor of the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015.  The measure, chiefly addressing EPA regulations, later passed the House on a party line vote.

Calling the Democrats' debating points against the measure "intellectually vacuous........because we're not saying things that are true," Schweikert noted that the measure simply requires "public policy made by public data, public data by public policy."  (He also had to tell the Democrats that he was not calling them intellectually vacuous: "No, Madam Ranking Member!  No, you're not!")

Schweikert was the primary sponsor of this measure last year, when it passed the House but stalled in the Senate.  Though he is not the named sponsor this year, he still took to the Floor and made the case for it. (Schweikert's Deputy Chief of Staff Beau Brunson tells Arizona's Politics that he did not sponsor the measure this year because he is no longer Chair of the Environment Subcommittee.*)

The House voted 241-175** to send it to the Senate, where the new Republican majority is more likely to take it up.  However, the White House issued twin veto threats against it and the companion bill passed yesterday.

The text of the Secret Science Reform Act is as follows:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the `Secret Science Reform Act of 2015'.

SEC. 2. DATA TRANSPARENCY.

    Section 6(b) of the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 (42 U.S.C. 4363 note) is amended to read as follows:
    `(b)(1) The Administrator shall not propose, finalize, or disseminate a covered action unless all scientific and technical information relied on to support such covered action is--
      `(A) the best available science;
      `(B) specifically identified; and
      `(C) publicly available online in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results.
    `(2) Nothing in the subsection shall be construed as--
      `(A) requiring the Administrator to disseminate scientific and technical information; or
      `(B) superseding any nondiscretionary statutory requirement.
    `(3) In this subsection--
      `(A) the term `covered action' means a risk, exposure, or hazard assessment, criteria document, standard, limitation, regulation, regulatory impact analysis, or guidance; and
      `(B) the term `scientific and technical information' includes--
      `(i) materials, data, and associated protocols necessary to understand, assess, and extend conclusions;
      `(ii) computer codes and models involved in the creation and analysis of such information;
      `(iii) recorded factual materials; and
      `(iv) detailed descriptions of how to access and use such information.
    `(4) The Administrator shall carry out this subsection in a manner that does not exceed $1,000,000 per fiscal year, to be derived from amounts otherwise authorized to be appropriated.'.
Schweikert also gave props to Arizona State University in his talk. After somewhat-facetiously acknowledging that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is "where all the really smart kids are, right," he said that ASU, the "next smartest school in the nation" should be able to take EPA studies and "bounce them up" against their research.

* In fact, Schweikert is no longer a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

** Only 4 Democrats voted "aye", and one Republican voted "nay". Arizona's delegation voted along party lines.


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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sen. McCain Takes Email Harvesting To Court, With An Assist From ESPN and the NCAA

Arizona Senator John McCain has made it to his own Final Four.  Final Two, actually, in 2008.  Now, he is using the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament (sorry, ASU women) to "challenge" supporters and potential supporters.

The email (shown below in its entirety) has the simple subject line "I Challenge YOU!", and gives people a chance to click on the picture:

The landing page asks you to input your name, email address and zip code - although it does not indicate it, only the email is "required".  You then have to use an ESPN account before you can enter your picks for the tournament, and compare them to McCain's.

Arizona tips off play on Thursday, the lone representative from the state in the field of 64 68.  As McCain, who is expected to run for reelection next year, will likely say, "Bear Down!"


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WATCH: McSally Memorializing Tucson Shooting Victim Bill Badger

Bill Badger, one of the people who helped stop Tucson mass shooting four years ago (and was himself grazed by a bullet, passed away this past week.  Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) memorialized the hero on the floor of the House today.

Here is the video:


Six people were killed on January 8, 2011, and 13 more were wounded.  Retired-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was the intended target of Jared Loughner.

After the attempted assassination and mass shooting, Badger spoke out against the raffle of a Glock by his fellow Republicans in Tucson, and in favor of measures that would help prevent weapons from being purchased by mentally ill individuals such as Loughner.


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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

UPDATED: McSally Only AZ Republicans Funding Homeland Security; Arizona's Republican Members Can't Keep House From Funding Homeland Security...

...without the provisions de-funding Obama's immigration-related executive actions.

The measure passed, 257-167, and funds DHS through September 30.



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Friday, February 27, 2015

SHUTTING DOWN: Arizona Delegation Crosses Party Lines, Votes 6-3 Against Stopgap DHS Funding Bill (AZ Senators Vote "Aye")

Congressional Republicans tried to avert a midnight shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security today by passing a three-week funding bill.  Most of Arizona's Republican Congressmembers voted with Democrats in thwarting the stopgap measure.

Earlier today, the Senate overwhelmingly stripped the anti-Obama immigration executive action riders out of the bill and passed the DHS funding through September.  The 68-31 vote included Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake (both Republicans) voting "aye".

The drama was in the House, however.  Knowing that the stripped version would not fly there, Speaker John Boehner and Republican leadership put forward the three-week stopgap, and tried to get their colleagues to vote for it.

Three of Arizona's five Republicans withstood the pressure, and helped vote it down, 203-224.  Reps. Paul Gosar (R-CD4), Matt Salmon (R-CD5) and Trent Franks (R-CD8) were among the 52 Republicans to vote "nay".

On the flip side, House Democratic leadership applied a lot of pressure on its members to also oppose the three-week can-kicking.  However, Arizona's Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-CD9) joined 11 other Democrats in voting "aye".

Barring last minute developments, the Department will shut down tonight. "Non-essential" employees will be furloughed and the majority of DHS employees who are deemed "essential" will be required to continue working without a paycheck until a funding measure is passed.


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