Thursday, October 3, 2013

WATCH: Channel 12 Report: "Sweetheart Deal For Gov. Brewer Fundraiser?"

Channel 12's tireless reporter Brahm Resnik tonight broadcast a comprehensive package (embedded below) asking "Sweetheart Deal For Gov. Brewer Fundraiser?"  Leading off the 6pm newscast, he explored the privatization of Arizona's highway rest areas and the political contributions of the Tennessee company that proposed (and won) the public-private partnership ("P3").
(click on picture to play video in a separate window - embedded video was disabled due to annoying auto-start)

The unusual timing of the ICA's ("Infrastructure Corporation of America's") contributions and fundraising assistance for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer - which came the same week that Arizona put the contract out for bids - has been reported in Arizona's Politics.  Channel 12 has now advanced the story on a number of fronts (in order of appearance in the 3:17 package):

1) Speaking with people using the rest areas while passing through Arizona, Resnik explored the effects of selling advertising and sponsorships, and changing the natural appearances of the rest areas.

2)  Interviewing Gail Lewis, ADOT's Director of P3 Initiatives and International Affairs, explaining that ICA will not be able to put in restaurant facilities, and that the money received will go into the state's highway fund and will benefit everybody.  (Lewis said that the contract guarantees $100,000/year.  However, that is a 10-year average return and only reaches that guarantee level in year 5 of the 5-year contract; ADOT can renew the contract for years 6-10 without re-bidding it.  Arizona only receives $25,000 guaranteed in this first year, for example.)

3)  Resnik seques from the state benefits to the benefits that Governor Brewer received from ICA this past February.  He posed the tough question to the Governor ("Do you think that leaves the impression that Arizona's a pay-to-play state, where to do business you have to give to the Governor in order to get business here?"), and she gives a non-answer that is not backed up by available facts.

Governor Brewer: "I did go to Tennessee, and I did a fundraiser with Marsha Blackburn (a Republican Congressperson from TN), back there for the Republican party.  And, at the same time, we had a fundraiser for my Jan PAC, and it was a great big success, and I was proud to be there, and I would like to go back to raise more."

Arizona's Politics has reviewed Rep. Blackburn's FEC filings for that period, her website/Facebook/Twitter feeds, the Tennessee GOP's FEC filing, and its website/Facebook/Twitter feeds, and found absolutely no mentions or evidence of a great big, successful fundraiser with Governor Brewer.  Of course, this does not mean that a joint fundraiser did not occur;  however, the Governor does acknowledge that she was there to collect funds for her own Super PAC - which she can control and spend on various campaign-related for her efforts or on behalf of other candidates.

4)  Resnik goes back to Lewis to ask about the ICA contributions and fundraising assistance, and notes that she "appeared visibly upset" by the question.  And, if you compare her voice and facial expressions to her earlier answer, you can see just how accurate Resnik's statement is.  Given that this is ADOT's first major P3 project to come to fruition, Lewis seems upset that its propriety may be under a "pay to play" cloud.

5)  Resnik received a statement from ICA (reproduced to the right, click to expand), that also appears to be factually misleading.  Before running our initial report, Arizona's Politics had reviewed disclosure filings to see if ICA had made any other contributions that needed to be reported to the FEC, as well as searching a state money database.

The contribution to Gov. Brewer was ICA's only discovered political donation; seven ICA higher-ups did each donate $1,000 to unsuccessful candidates for Governor/Lieutenant Governor in Kentucky in 2011, and one donated to the current Tennessee Governor.  ICA's lack of political contributions and lobbyist hirings makes the arrangement with Governor Brewer all the more striking.

(Link to video, in separate window.)

We welcome your comments about this post. Or, if you have something unrelated on your mind, please e-mail to info-at-arizonaspolitics-dot-com or call 602-799-7025. Thanks.

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