Thursday, June 4, 2015

UPDATE: Ballard Spahr Law Firm Responds To Arizona's Politics' Article About Fmr. Gov. Brewer's New Consulting Gig

Yesterday, Arizona's Politics published an article about former Governor Jan Brewer's new gig with national law firm Ballard Spahr, and the $3.3M in legal business the firm's new Phoenix office did with the State after Brewer's General Counsel jumped from the Governor's Office to Ballard Spahr in 2011.  We asked* Ballard Spahr's Joe Kanefield and/or Scott Smith for reaction to the article, and promised that we "would be happy to either run a followup or to supplement the article with your comments and/or relevant data."

Mr. Kanefield did respond.  As he raises a valid point (and some not-as-valid points), we are publishing his email in full here. (Our reply is below it.)
Mitch, we appreciate the opportunity to respond to your blog post. We wish you had given us that opportunity before you published the article, and then you would not have made such serious errors of fact. The post falsely states that Governor Brewer "directed $3.3M To Law Firm That Now Hires Her." That statement is provably false. While the firm has represented Governor Brewer in the past, the bulk of the fees the firm received for Arizona government matters over the past four years came from public entitiesindependent of the Governor's Office, including the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission and the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission. In addition, it's only fair to note that Ballard Spahr was among several firms that provided outside counsel to the Governor's Office during Governor Brewer's last term, including Snell & Wilmer, Fennemore Craig and Gammage & Burnham. Moreover, as The Arizona Republic article correctly noted, Governor Brewer is a consultant to the firm, not an employee. While we cannot understand why you published the article without speaking with us first, we respectfully request that you correct or retract the statements immediately.
Arizona's Politics does agree with Mr. Kanefield that the one word "directed" is misused there.  While any direction may be fairly implied** by the circumstances and the timeline laid out in the article, there is no "smoking gun" to indicate that Gov. Brewer personally directed all of the state agencies and commissions to begin sending outside legal work to Ballard Spahr.  Arizona's Politics did not use the term in the article itself, and has removed it from the headline.***

Mr. Kanefield also states that "it's only fair to note that Ballard Spahr was among several firms...." The article does not imply anything to the contrary, and focuses on overall legal services to the State of Arizona - as detailed on the State's website.  For the article, Arizona's Politics reviewed the legal billings of all firms that received more than $100,000 from Arizona taxpayers in a fiscal year.  Only one law firm received more than Ballard Spahr.

The large law firms mentioned by Kanefield were - surprisingly - not even close to receiving the approximately $3.3M taken in by Ballard Spahr between July 2011 and January 2015.  Removing the $3.3M which Snell & Wilmer received from the Governor's legal defense fund for SB1070****, those three major firms combined received less than Ballard Spahr (approx $2,4M).  And, at most, those three combined received half of what Ballard Spahr did from the Governor's Office.*****

Mr. Kanefield's attempt to cloud the issue by comparing Ballard Spahr to the very limited amount of legal work given to everyone else is ill-taken.

However, we appreciate Mr. Kanefield's response, and have removed the word "directed" from the headline, and adjusted the language to reflect the "consultant" status.  The article was - and, is - accurate and newsworthy, and will stand.

* The request for reaction was made shortly after publication.  The Kanefield quotes in the Republic article and the State's legal billing numbers speak for themselves, and the article was on deadline.
** Mr. Kanefield's examples of state commissions retaining Ballard Spahr do not make the word "directed" "provably false."  
***Social media references to the term will be changed; however, reposts and retweets may remain.
****The legal defense fund was from voluntary contributions (without limits), not taxpayers' money.
*****If you remove the monies received by Gammage & Burnham for the first months after Kanefield went to Ballard Spahr, and the monies Snell & Wilmer received after Brewer left office, the "big three" combined received approximately $75,000 from the Governor's Office, while Ballard Spahr received approximately $292,000.  Ballard Spahr currently has approximately 30 attorneys in Arizona (website), while the others have more than 400 attorneys (Republic, websites). (No other outside attorneys worked for the Governor's Office.)

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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