Wednesday, June 26, 2019

"QUESTIONABLE ETHICS": Rep. Gosar Attacks Special Counsel Chief On Discredited IRS/McCain/Tea Party Line, Then Backs Off (WATCH)

Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar attacked the head of the Office of Special Counsel for his "questionable ethics" in a hearing today, using a discredited theory that the late Senator John McCain wanted to punish Tea Party groups. When confronted by the witness, Gosar tried to back away.

Confused? That is understandable. This video from today's House Oversight Committee will clarify. And, here are the basics.

The witness is Henry Kerner. He is chief of the Office of Special Counsel, and was testifying about his recommendation that White House Special Advisor Kellyanne Conway be removed from her job for repeated Hatch Act violations. Earlier in his career, Kerner worked for the late-Arizona Senator John McCain.

In that capacity, Kerner met with the IRS in 2013, before the controversy about whether the IRS was targeting the applications of Tea Party organizations burst into the public sphere. Gosar today accused Kerner of recommending that the IRS "harassing non-profit groups until they are unable to continue operating."

"You yourself have a history of questionable ethics," stated Gosar. Kerner used the transcript of that meeting to show that the discussion was about "sham groups" and that there was no mention of conservative or Tea Party groups.

"I would NEVER target conservative groups. I'm here because of the Tea Party victory...in 2010." (Republican former Rep. Darrell Issa hired Kerner for the same Oversight Committee he was testifying in front of today.) "It's just a smear."

Gosar then tried to weave in McCain's enmity towards the Tea Party, to demonstrate that the attack on Kerner makes sense. Kerner explained that McCain was furious that the IRS may have targeted conservative groups and instructed Kerner to go "all out" to show that such behavior from the IRS would be unacceptable.

In full retreat, Gosar responded with "I just wanted to clear it up." He moved on.

(Article has been corrected to fix Special Counsel's name. An unfortunate misspelling, indeed.)



Ironically-related article from earlier this month: "The Ghost of Holiday Bonuses Past: FEC Follows-Up On Rep. Gosar's Questionable Staff Bonuses"


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COMPARE AND CONTRAST: Senate and House Bills To Spend $4.5-4.6B On Southern Border; Senate Routes $145M Thru Military, House Adds $615M To Aid C. American Nations

Here are both the House-passed and Senate-passed versions of a $4.6B spending package for the crisis on the southern border. The House approved it yesterday on a party-line vote.

However, that would now appear to be dead on arrival, as the Senate voted today in an overwhelmingly bi-partisan fashion to substitute the Senate's package for a vote. The Senate passed their version, and that will head back over to the House. Arizona's Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally both voted "aye". (Last night, Arizona's four Republican Representatives voted "nay" on the House version.)

Arizona's Politics has compared the money parts of the two versions, and can point out some of the key similarities and differences. (We have not (yet) compared the "guard rails" that were reportedly placed on the spending by the House bill.)

1) DIFFERENCE: The House version would make $615M in assistance available to the three Central American nations responsible for most of the asylum seekers (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) and to other nations in the area. The Senate version does not mention this.
2) DIFFERENCE: The Senate version routes $145M of the funds through the Army, Army National Guard, Air Force and Marines. The amounts are listed as "Operations and Maintenance." It is not clear whether this is done as a result of earlier budget transfers from the Administration's earlier emergency declaration. The House version does not reference the military.
3) SIMILARITY: Both provide $155M to the U.S. Marshalls for prisoners in custody. Both provide monies for the "Legal Orientation Program". (House=$15M, Senate=$10M).
4) DIFFERENCE: The Senate adds $55M for immigration judges, facilities and supplies.
5) SIMILARITY: The House allocated $1.2B to Customs and Border Protection; the Senate $1.0B. The Senate budgets $112M for "consumables and medical care" for the minors (House = $92M). The Senate's has $708M for migrant care and processing facilities and $35M for transportation.
6) SIMILARITY: Both have $85M for CBP facilities.
7) DIFFERENCE: The House provides twice as much to FEMA ($60M vs $30M), while the Senate bill gives nearly twice as much to ICE ($209M vs $128M).
8) SIMILARITY: Both propose spending $2.9B through the Department of Health and Human Services for "Refugee and Entrant Assistance".












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Thursday, June 20, 2019

BREAKING: Appeal Filed On Non-Decision To Force Earlier Special Election For Arizona's Senate Seat

(Originally published at "AZ Law")

An appeal was filed tonight in the constitutional challenge to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey's ability to control the late Senator John McCain's seat until November 2020. There has not been a decision by Judge Diane Humetewa, but plaintiffs call it an "effective denial" of their challenge.

Oral arguments were held on April 12, and was taken under advisement at that time. Today's appeal notice follows an unusual round of letters and responses filed last week, as the plaintiffs have grown impatient.


AZ Law and Arizona's Politics have previously reported on the constitutional challenge to the Arizona vacancy law. At that point, Sen. Jon Kyl was serving at the Governor's request. Kyl then resigned, permitting Ducey to appoint Martha McSally to the seat until a special election would be held in 2020 to fill the last two years. Sen. McCain passed away on August 25, 2018.

. . .
(For the rest of this article and the linked documents, please visit our new sister site, ArizonasLaw.org. "AZ Law" is a new program broadcast on the non-profit Sun Sounds of Arizona, servicing Arizonans who cannot read or hold printed material due to a disability.)

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"Give Me a Break - This Place Has Enough Creepy Old Men!" --McSally (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

"Give Me a Break - This Place Has Enough Creepy Old Men!" --McSally
(aka No Country For Creepy Old Men)
1:50pm: "Give me a break. This place has enough creepy old men!" That is the priceless reaction from Arizona Senator Martha McSally when asked today about former Sheriff Roy Moore announcing that he would again run for the U.S. Senate seat from Alabama. Her quote is in a Politico article about Republicans "vowing to crush" the GOP candidae.

Senator McSally has not yet listed the creepy old men already in the Senate. Arizona's Politics will update as warranted.

OFF-TOPIC: 4 Tickets Available For Tomorrow's Dbacks Game Vs. Giants
1:10pm: We'll be down south visiting family tomorrow and can't make the game. If you're interested in our (great) season seats, at cost, please text Paul at 602 908 9132.

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Thursday, June 13, 2019

UPDATE: Gosar Committee Now Says Congressional Staff WORKED Last 3 Weeks of Campaign, Did NOT Simply Receive Holiday Bonuses

Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar responded immediately to the FEC's letter seeking more information about his holiday bonuses for his Congressional staff. However, that response may raise further concerns about House Ethics rules violations and/or campaign finance reporting.

The campaign committee filed an amended report yesterday. It now says that most of his Congressional staff were actually paid out of the campaign committee's checkbook for doing "administrative services." (amended report published below)

(Read: 1. "Rep. Gosar Pays $44k To Congressional Staff For "Campaign Bonuses"; May Have Violated Ethics Rules and/or Campaign Finance Laws"
2. "The Ghost of Holiday Bonuses Past: FEC Follows-Up On Rep. Gosar's Questionable Staff Bonuses")

This may raise further questions from authorities. The amended report now contradicts the committee's second amended post-general report, as to the purpose of the holiday disbursements. Both reports now do indicate that the monies were first owed to the Congressional staff during the post-general election period - which actually includes a few weeks before election day (October 18- November 26); could the Congressional staff members actually have performed $44,000 worth of "administrative services" during that period in a not-very-intense general election campaign. (Gosar won with more than 68% of the CD4 vote.)

The questions and concerns raised by experts in Arizona's Politics' first article exposing the bonuses still remain, as well. Having Congressional staff perform campaign tasks is permissible; however, the House Ethics Committee recommends that accurate records be maintained and that they perform the work on their own time and without office resources.

If $44,000 worth of campaign work was not performed by the staff members, election laws and House Ethics rules were violated. If the work was done and properly documented, then any inquiries by the FEC or the House Ethics Committee would clear the actions. However, the Congressman's office has declined to respond to repeated requests for a statement and/or documentation.

Two weeks after the first article, the FEC informed the Gosar campaign that the "bonus" explanations were "incorrectly reported". Responding generally yesterday, the FEC said yesterday that "administrative services" is also not descriptive enough to explain the purpose of a disbursement.




* Although the FEC has made it public that it is examining the bonuses/administrative services, it is not clear whether there has been a complaint or referral to either the House Ethics Committee or the Office of Congressional Ethics (that initiated the ethics investigation into Rep. David Schweikert (R-CD6)).

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Fox News Town Hall With Julian Castro Today In Tempe (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

Fox News Town Hall With Julian Castro Today In Tempe
1:25pm: TODAY: If you're attending the @JulianCastro / @FoxNews Town Hall at the Tempe Center for the Arts this afternoon, PLEASE let us know (DMs or emails OK)!



Arizona's Senators Vote Against Blocking $3B Of Arms Sales To Bahrain and Qatar
10:30a.m.: Arizona's Senators joined most Republicans today in blocking two resolutions to block $3B in announced arms sales to Bahrain and Qatar. The resolutions failed, 43-56 and 42-57, respectively.


Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) joined seven other Democrats in voting against the measures. The resolutions were proposed by Republican Senator Rand Paul (KY), and he was joined by a few GOP Senators in moving to block the Administration's arms sales amid concerns about Saudi Arabia and its allies, and the ongoing war in Yemen.

Neither Sinema nor Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) has yet made any public comments on today's votes.

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Monday, June 10, 2019

WATCH: John Dean Tells Rep. Andy Biggs To Take His Complaint To Arizona Regents; Three AZ Reps At Mueller Report Hearing

Convicted Watergate figure John Dean suggested that Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs "take it up with the (Arizona) Regents if you have these kinds of problems with me". The challenge came after Biggs spent most of his allotted time blasting Dean as an "incredible, biased" witness at today's House Judiciary Committee hearing on "Lessons From the Mueller Report."


Biggs (R-CD5) was not the only Republican to attack the former White House Counsel's credentials, but he did put the most gusto and spent the most time on it. In fact, Biggs called the hearing a "farce" and did not allow any of the panel of witnesses to speak during his allotted five minutes; Chairman Jerrold Nadler then permitted Dean to respond to the attacks on his character.

After defending his actions during the Nixon era, Dean noted that ASU had appointed him to be the "Barry Goldwater Chair of American Institutions" in 2015 (for one year). As C-Span showed Biggs listening stone-faced, Dean told him "I guarantee you I tried to educate those students on the facts. So you might want to take it up with the (Arizona) Regents if you have these kinds of problems with me."

Reps. Debbie Lesko (R-CD8) and Greg Stanton (D-CD9) also had their chances to state their thoughts and question the witnesses; however, neither was as dramatic.



www.c-span.org/video/?c4801887/rep-biggs-jud-comm-re-mueller-report
www.c-span.org/video/?c4801883/rep-lesko-jud-comm-hrg-mueller-report
www.c-span.org/video/?c4801884/rep-stanton-jud-comm-mueller-report
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Friday, June 7, 2019

BREAKING: The Ghost of Holiday Bonuses Past: FEC Follows-Up On Rep. Gosar's Questionable Staff Bonuses

Two weeks ago, Arizona's Politics reported that $44,000 of holiday bonuses that Rep. Paul Gosar paid to his Congressional staff could ruin his year. Today, the Federal Election Commission ("FEC") sent a letter to the Congressman's committee, asking for more information on those - and, other - "incorrectly reported disbursements."

The article noted that paying the bonuses to his Congressional staff from his campaign committee COULD be within the rules of both the House Ethics Committee and the FEC, but that there would need to be careful documentation of the campaign work done in order to justify the bonuses. Arizona's Politics spoke with ethics experts who pointed out the possible issues for the Congressman.

(Read: Rep. Gosar Pays $44k To Congressional Staff For "Campaign Bonuses"; May Have Violated Ethics Rules and/or Campaign Finance Laws)

Although we would not yet know if the House Ethics Committee read the article, received a complaint, or is looking into any possible violations, we now know that the FEC has taken notice. A senior campaign finance analyst sent two letters on June 7 to the Gosar campaign seeking additional information.Those letters are reproduced below.

The first letter questions why the committee did not file the required 48-hour notices when reeiving sizable contributions within the last three weeks of election day. Only after the election did the campaign disclose the $16,900 in contributions from seven people, received on October 29.

The second letter is the one that states that the 10 items listing "bonus for campaign staff" and the largest bonus to his former Chief of Staff Thomas van Flein (which simply says "campaign bonus") are "incorrectly reported". (The FEC questioned a few other reimbursements and an item labeled "Tele Townhalls".

The FEC is giving the Gosar for Congress committee until July 11 to amend their reports "to clarify the attached descriptions."







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Thursday, June 6, 2019

ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS

3:30pm: Here was the roll call in the House this week on the disaster aid package. Arizona's Democratic Representatives all voted "aye" - the entire Democratic caucus did. Arizona's four Republicans all voted "nay", though 2 out of 3 Republicans voted in favor of the package.

Before the Memorial Day recess, Arizona Senator Martha McSally was among the 8 Senators to vote against the measure.

President Donald Trump signed the bill this afternoon, while taking credit for Puerto Rico aid being included in the measure.







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Friday, May 31, 2019

TUESDAY: Martha McSally's Telephone Town Hall - Special Guest Lindsey Graham (Details)

Arizona Senator Martha McSally is hosting a telephone townhall this coming Tuesday with special guest Sen. Lindsey Graham. The main topic will be Graham's new bill regarding immigration laws; however, the news release indicates that she will "address other issues facing the U.S. Senate". McSally states that she is the "first co-sponsor" of the measure.

The phone call will take place at 6pm, and they are urging people to pre-register by text, or to just call in at that time. (Details below.)

Graham's new bill is titled  the Secure and Protect Act of 2019, and it "seeks to address weak and outdated laws that incentivize mass illegal immigration." It was introduced two weeks ago and Sen. McSally is the only co-sponsor.

Strangely, the text of the bill is not yet available on neither Sen. Graham's website nor Congress.gov. In fact, that official website notes that the bill is titled:

"A bill to amend the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 to protect alien minors and to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to end abuse of the asylum system and establish refugee application and processing centers outside the United States, and for other purposes."
The timing is also interesting because of the different ways the two navigate their tightropes between supporting President Donald Trump and disagreeing with him or his Administration. Yesterday, while McSally called for a Congressional investigation into the situation that occurred in Japan with the USS John S. McCain, Graham's spokesperson said the Senator is simply asking the Navy for clarification. The new tariff battle with Mexico regarding immigration is likely to come up, as well.

Here are the town hall details:

McSally encourages all Arizonans to join her teletownhall by calling 855-531-1067 at 6PM on Tuesday, June 4 or by texting “SenMcSally” (oneword) to 828282 to get registered for the event.


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Friday, May 24, 2019

WATCH: Congressman/Dentist/Body Language Expert Also KNOWS Algorithms; Gosar To Experts: "I Have a Big Math Background"

Add a "science background" and "a big math background" to Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar's CV, right next to "DDS" and body language expert.

Gosar (R-CD4) received national attention last year for telling FBI agent Peter Strzok that his experience as a dentist also made him a body language expert. In another Congressional hearing this week, Gosar warned representatives from Google, Facebook and Twitter that he is "very aware of algorithms" because "I have a science background, I have a big math background."

Gosar was questioning the panel about social media biases against conservative users, in a House Oversight Committee hearing about election security. He was attempting to show that the corporations hire young, liberal people to formulate the algorithms that flag possibly-objectionable content.

The panel members were not going along with the hypothesis, and you could see that Rep. Gosar was frustrated.



Here is the entirety of Rep. Gosar's questioning of the panel.


On a more serious note, Arizona's Politics today reported on Rep. Gosar giving $44,000 in holiday bonuses to his Congressional staff out of his campaign committee's account, and how that could violate House Ethics rules and/or campaign finance laws.

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BREAKING: Rep. Gosar Pays $44k To Congressional Staff For "Campaign Bonuses"; May Have Violated Ethics Rules and/or Campaign Finance Laws

Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar may have violated House Ethics rules when he gave his Congressional staff $44,000 in holiday bonuses from his campaign committee's account last year. The rules limit the campaign work that the Congressional employees can participate in and be compensated for, and there is not yet any indication that Gosar's office and his campaign complied with those rules.

This news comes in the wake of today's front page report from the Arizona Republic's Ronald Hansen about Gosar (R-CD4) using more of his taxpayers' budget for travel than any current Representative (not in a leadership position).

While the $1.2M for travel makes the holiday bonuses look puny, the two separate issues could be related. Meredith McGehee, the Executive Director of Issue One - a bipartisan ethics and accountability group - spoke with Arizona's Politics. "Because each Representative's office budget (the "MRA") is limited, if they are spending more money on travel, they may not be paying staff appropriately."

An Arizona's Politics review of each Arizona Representative's personnel costs did indicate that Gosar paid the least amount of his MRA for salaries, although offices may employ different numbers of staffmembers.

The bonuses range between $500 and $12,500. Most of the bonused staff are based in the Washington office, and the size of the bonuses tend to correlate to the employees' salaries. (The FEC report is reproduced at the bottom of this article.)
Gosar Cong. Staff, 3q2018
Gosar paid between 14 and 16 individuals in his Congressional office in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2018 (campaign seasons). Of those, 9 or 10 received the "bonus for campaign staff".

While Gosar's Democratic opponent did receive national publicity for his ads - the ones where Gosar's siblings bemoaned their brother's records and comments - the election was not a close one. It is also worth noting that the Gosar campaign was not a "family affair", and spent much more of its monies on California-based professional campaign consultants.

The House Ethics Manual makes it clear that employees ARE permitted to perform campaign duties, although they need to be careful to do it on their own time and to keep accurate records. The Manual notes that a member of Congress was subject to disciplinary action early in the 2000's for a similar situation.

Arizona's Politics has asked Rep. Gosar's office for details on the staff's campaign work that justified the $44,000 in bonuses. No response has yet been received, and this article will be updated if warranted.

If the Congressional staff members performed campaign work on their own time, kept records to document it, and reduced their governmental compensation if necessary, then no ethics violations occured. Conversely, campaign finance regulations may have been violated if the staff members did not perform campaign work commensurate with the bonuses.

McGehee notes that the purpose of the ethics rules is clear. The staff is supposed to be working for the taxpayers. "But, if campaign funds are used to supplement their salaries, it is less clear who they are working for."

Arizona's Politics also spoke with Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota law professor who served as the Chief Ethics Lawyer for the White House between 2005-2007. He pointed out that paying Congressional staff for political work also "creates the potential for a lot of problems", such as treating male and female employees differently, rewarding (or punishing) certain employees, etc.

McGehee and Painter both note that even if the Congressmember and the staff abide by the ethics rules and the campaign finance laws, it is not a wise idea to try to walk that line. "Just use other people for your campaign work," summarized Painter.




On a lighter note: 
WATCH: Congressman/Dentist/Body Language Expert Also KNOWS Algorithms; Gosar To Experts: "I Have a BIG MATH Background"


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Thursday, May 23, 2019

What About OUR Disaster? McSally Votes No On Bipartisan Disaster Aid Package; Passes 85-8

Arizona Senator Martha McSally was among the 8 Republicans who voted against a supplemental disaster aid package this afternoon, despite President Donald Trump signaling that he would support the measure even without additional border funds.

McSally stated that her no vote was because she "won’t ask Arizonans to pay for disasters in other states without funding the disaster in our backyard."

The 85-8 vote came about after President Trump - who was first balking about additional funding for Puerto Rico, and then asking for additional border funding - told Senator Richard Shelby today that he would support it without the border funding. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had been vowing that the Senate would vote on the package before leaving for the Memorial Day recess this evening. Democrats signaled their support for the present version of the bill earlier today.

McSally sent out her explanation in a pair of tweets. "There is an ongoing disaster at our border — in the past 5 months over 32k migrants have been released into AZ. I support helping those who are impacted by disasters, but won’t ask Arizonans to pay for disasters in other states without funding the disaster in our backyard. Some politicians may want to ignore this crisis – but this is real in Arizona and any compromise disaster supplemental appropriations bill should have included this desperately needed funding."

The status of the package in the House of Representatives is unclear.

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Friday, May 17, 2019

"Save Arizona": Former AZGOP Staffer Starts New Committee To Back Pro-Trump Ideals, Candidates (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

"Save Arizona": Former AZGOP Staffer Starts New Committee To Back Pro-Trump Ideals, Candidates
3:15pm: Robert Maxwell is back, and he plans to "Save Arizona". The former Deputy Communications Director for the Arizona Republican Party who was last in the news in January when he resigned and blasted the state party's then-Chair Jonathan Lines (and the party's coziness with the Ducey re-election campaign) yesterday formed a new federal political committee.

Maxwell tells Arizona's Politics that his "purpose is to save Arizona from it's impeding slide to the ideological left by disseminating strong pro-Trump messaging into the state." He would also like to help House and Senate candidates who match up with President Trump's "America First agenda."

Maxwell released a scathing memorandum on the eve of the vote for AZGOP Chair between the incumbent Jonathan Lines and Kelli Ward. Ward defeated Lines, though it is unclear how many votes were swayed by the Maxwell memo.

Maxwell uses the social media handle "Black Hannity", and declined to answer further questions about "Save Arizona" from Arizona's Politics.

Arpaio Asks Court To Sanction Democratic Representatives For "Bogus" Brief Re: Trump Pardon
1:15pm: Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is asking Ninth Circuit judges to sanction Democratic Representatives for filing a "bogus" brief in his Trump pardon appeal.

Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt in 2017. Before being sentenced, President Donald Trump issued his first Presidential pardon. Besides preventing any sentencing, Arpaio would like the conviction to be undone.

24 Democratic Congressmen and Congresswomen filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit earlier this month, suggesting that the judges should protect their independence by not reversing the conviction.

Arpaio struck back this week, saying that the amicus brief is a "sham" and that the Representatives knew or should have known that the President's pardon power is absolute. Therefore, they should be sanctioned - an extremely rare move for an amicus brief.

The complete article is available at our new sister site, ArizonasLaw.org. The amicus brief and Arpaio's motion for sanctions are also published there.


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Friday, May 10, 2019

Arizona Reps. Vote Party Line On Disaster Relief Package (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

12:00pm: Arizona Reps. Vote Party Line On Disaster Relief Package
Arizona's Congressional delegation voted along party lines this morning on the $17.2B disaster aid package. 34 Republicans did vote in favor of it, but Arizona's 4 GOP Reps. were not among the group.

The President had tweeted his opposition to the bill, and the version to be considered in the Republican-controlled Senate is likely to be different.

Here is the text of the bill passed today (before amendments).

10:00am: OFF-TOPIC: Sprout's Gift Card Fundraiser
Shop at SPROUT’S? Arizona's Politics' co-founder Paul Weich  is organizing a gift card fundraiser for Temple Emanuel (Tempe). And YOU can help! 5% of each Sprout's gift card you purchase will help cover the congregation's higher security costs.

The deadline to order is MONDAY, so please email Paul-at-ArizonasPolitics-dot-com, and we'll get you set up. Thanks.

9:00am: OFF-TOPIC: Not Too Late To Join Our Diamondbacks Season Ticket Group
The Diamondbacks are hot! We've been part of a Diamondbacks season ticket group for 20 years now, and a couple of our members had life changes that prompted them to stop participating. We have two seats that are probably the best value in the ballpark. One share is 16 games over the 6-month season, and although we assign the games randomly, everyone is usually pretty accomodating for switches. If you are interested, email me, at Paul @ ArizonasPolitics.com (no spaces), and I'll send you more details.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

OFF-TOPIC: Sprout's Gift Card Fundraiser

Shop at SPROUT’S? @AZs_Politics' co-founder @PaulW_InAZ  is organizing a gift card fundraiser for Temple Emanuel (Tempe). And YOU can help!

5% of each @Sproutsfm gift card you purchase will help cover the congregation's higher security costs.


Email Paul-at-ArizonasPolitics-dot-com, and we'll send you details. Thanks.

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WATCH: Reps. Lesko and Biggs At Today's Hearing On Attorney General Contempt Issue

Arizona has three Representatives on the House Judiciary Committee. The two Republican members spoke as the committee was considering contempt of Congress charges against Attorney General William Barr.

Here are the comments from Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-CD8) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-CD5).




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Monday, April 29, 2019

NEW: Arpaio Attorney Faults 9th Circuit For Supreme Court Justices Denying Effort To Remove Special Prosecutor On Pardon Effect Appeal (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

4:50pm: (This article originally appeared on sister website Arizona's Law.)

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's request to remove a special prosecutor in his ongoing battle. One of Arpaio's attorneys tells Arizona's Politics/Arizona's Law* that the 9 Justices "just (don't) have enough time to correct all of the Ninth Circuit's mistakes." (The Supreme Court's declination came without comment or an indication of how each Justice voted.)
Arpaio is fighting to vacate his criminal conviction for contempt of court in the long-running Melendres case regarding racial profiling. After President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio in 2017, the President's Justice Department declined to fight Arpaio's attempt to vacate the contempt conviction. The court has assigned an independent attorney to step in and argue that the pardon does not erase the conviction.

As Arpaio counsel Jack Wilenchik tells Arizona's Law/Arizona's Politics, the appeal - currently in the 9th Circuit - will continue despite the adverse decision from the Supreme Court.
"The Supreme Court just doesn’t have enough time to correct all of the Ninth Circuit’s mistakes. Appeal goes forward as normal except that the USA now has two sets of prosecutors who don’t agree with each other because the Ninth Circuit ordered that it be so."
The Ninth Circuit appeal was on hold until the U.S. Solicitor General informed the court in January that the government would not appeal the decision. The briefing schedule continued despite the former Sheriff's decision to ask the Supreme Court to get involved. Last week, both the Special Prosecutor and the Department of Justice filed their answering briefs with the Ninth Circuit, and Arpaio's Reply is due later in May.


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Friday, April 26, 2019

BREAKING: "Dirty Trick" By National Republican Group Targeting Arizona Reps Given Pass By Dysfunctional FEC...After Five Years

Five years ago, Arizona's Politics helped report efforts by a "dirty trick" by the National Republican Congressional Committee ("NRCC") against candidates nationwide, including the three Arizona swing-seat Democrats. The FEC finally gave the NRCC a pass and opened the file today.
Screenshot from fake site AnnKirkpatrick.com

The so-called attack microsites launched against Reps. Kyrsten Sinema, Ann Kirkpatrick and Ron Barber (and a couple of dozen other Democrats around the country) spoofed the candidates' websites and tried to trick Googlers into donating to the NRCC.

National articles found a couple of the Arizona spoofs, and Arizona's Politics located the third in February 2014. A follow-up later that month found that the NRCC had changed the donation pages to reduce the trickery level and to add security to its spoofs. (There are lots of images, ironies and fun facts in the older articles that will not be repeated here; please check out the links!)

One month later, national campaign finance watchdogs Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission, alleging multiple violations of election law by the NRCC.

Last month, the perpetually dysfunctional FEC deadlocked on the 5-year old case, with the 2 Republican Commissioners voting to dismiss and the Democratic and independent Commissioners voted to approve the General Counsel's recommendation of finding a violation had likely occurred and then entering into a conciliation agreement. The deadlock simply closed the matter without any findings.

Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub today blasted her colleagues' delaying actions and tweeted that "It’s a dirty trick one should expect from Internet trolls and hackers, but not from a national party organization. And it’s a dirty trick that should never have been given a pass by the @FEC’s Republican Commissioners."




During last year's campaign, Arizona's Politics also reported  about how the boot was now on the other foot, and the ways that both Democrats and Republicans made changes to websites attacking their opponents, to stay far away from the (now-blurrier) line.

Here is Weintraub's memo decrying the Commission's inaction.




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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

NEW: Retired 3-Star Army General Starts New "Arizona for America PAC" (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

NEW: Retired 3-Star Army General Starts New "Arizona for America PAC"
5:00pm: Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley (ret.) was the Commanding General of the Army Reserve Command. Now, he is taking on a new role as the Chair of a new political action committee, "Arizona for America." He created the PAC on Friday, and tells Arizona's Politics that he intends it be an organization that "educates and promotes civil discourse on the critical issues affecting Arizona and America today and tomorrow."

Talley served as the Chief of the Army Reserve for several years, ending in 2016. He is now a Vice President with IBM, and also has a faculty appointment with University of Southern California. However, Talley is based in the Phoenix area.

He is not yet ready to divulge further details for the Arizona for America PAC.



BREAKING: Fewer Redactions In "Mystery Mueller" Case May Be On Way, Court Orders
4:20pm: ArizonasLaw.org - our new sister site - is breaking news this afternoon of a new ruling about the "Mystery Mueller" - or, "Mystery Grand Jury Subpoena" - case. A 3-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, is giving the Department of Justice until May 3 to show why more of the case should not be unsealed.

The Mueller grand jury had issued subpoenas for the mystery company, but the company has refused the court order to comply. The secret case has been up and down the court system, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to give the foreign government-owned company any relief from the order and the accompanying daily fine. The Reporters Committee for a Free Press has intervened to ask the court to unseal information about the company and the subpoenas.

Judges Tatel, Griffith and Williams for the D.C. Circuit today wrote that "As we have previously noted, '[g]rand jury secrecy in not unyielding." The U.S. government and the mystery corporation proposed redactions. But, the judges indicate that they have identified additional material that could be unsealed - though not the name of the foreign government's corporation itself.

The court notes that the additional material "will permit the public to, first, see (in part) "what informed [our] reasoning" and, second, scrutinize the government's assertion of power."
More, and the Court's opinion, can be found at Arizona's Law.


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Monday, April 22, 2019

BREAKING: ASU Asst. Prof. Plays Big Role In Elizabeth Warren's $640B Student Debt Forgiveness Proposal (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

5:00p.m.:  Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren today proposed a major $640B Student Loan Debt Cancellation plan. ASU Assistant Professor Raphaël Charron-Chénier is one of four "leading experts on student loan debt to analyze the proposal and conclude that it would help close the "racial wealth gap."

Charron-Chénier teaches at ASU's School of Social Transformation, and tells Arizona's Politics that he used Federal Reserve data to model the impacts of Sen. Warren's proposal. "Based on the analyses, I think this policy can have a significant positive impact on the financial well-being of the majority of student loan borrowers and will disproportionately benefit borrowers in more precarious economic situations."

The plan would cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for people with household incomes of less than $100,000 (with a sliding scale for those with incomes between $100-250k).  Warren proposes to pay for the debt cancellation via a "wealth tax" of 2% on families worth more than $50M (each).

Warren will be talking about her plan on a live townhall televised tonight on CNN.

Here is the letter from Charron-Chénier and the other analysts:








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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

NEW: Schweikert Campaign UNDERWATER As Legal Expenses Surpass $583,000 Due To Ethics Probe; Former Chief Of Staff No Longer Being Investigated

Arizona Rep. David Schweikert (R-CD6) has seen his campaign committee owe more money than it has on hand, as its legal expenses climbed to $583,000 as a result of a year-long ethics investigation. The apparent origin of the trouble - Oliver Schwab, his former Chief of Staff - is no longer under investigation.

The investigation continues, and the Arizona Republic's Ronald Hansen reported on today's release of the initial referral by the Office of Congressional Ethics to the House Ethics Committee. Most of that information was already in the public sphere; however, it does indicate that the referral for the alleged infractions was unanimous.

The Committee - made up of Republican and Democratic Representatives - then voted unanimously in June 2018 to establish an Investigative SubCommittee ("ISC"). It was between the April referral and the June ISC that Friends of David Schweikert began paying five different law firms.

One law firm (Holland & Knight) consulted with several individuals affiliated with the campaign or his Congressional office, and was paid $34,375 between May and December 2018. Another law firm (Venable) appears to be representing Legislative Director Matthew Tully, and has been paid $17,459. (Last payment was March 25.)

Berke Farah has been representing Schwab. And, even though the Ethics Committee lost jurisdiction over Schwab when he resigned on July 9, 2019, the legal expenses are still accruing. Schweikert's committee has paid Berke Farah $71,633 through March 25.

It is not clear whether the remaining two law firms are representing the Congressman, his campaign committee, or other individuals or entities. Wiley Rein has billed $22,727 since last summer, and is still owed all of that save $405.

The well-known campaign finance law firm of Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky has been the most involved. They were first paid by the campaign committee in June 2018, and have received $230,554; the last payment was on January 25. However, they are owed $206,906, and most of that ($118,049) was INCURRED during the first three months of 2019.

Schweikert's campaign committee was officially underwater on March 31, 2019, with a reported $240,564 in the bank and debts owing to Holtzman Vogel plus others of $251,614. This, as two Democrats who ran in the Phoenix area in 2018 have announced their plans to unseat Schweikert.

And, as Politico noted, the $167,925 in contributions reported for the first quarter is "anemic" for a longtime Congressman who holds a seat on the powerful Ways & Means Committee (and is facing a credible election challenge).

It is important to note that - although the initial referral was released today by the Ethics Committee - the investigation is continuing. And, the legal expenses would indicate that it has become more intense, despite the Congressman's repeated insistence that the "errors" have been resolved.

KPNX's Brahm Resnik spoke with the Congressman today and reports that Schweikert says "he did nothing wrong & doesn’t plan to resign." (Video on tonight's newscast.) Resnik also shared this video from one year ago.




And, while the Ethics Committee indicated in December that it is investigating whether Schweikert "may have omitted required information from his annual House financial disclosure statements and Federal Election Commission candidate committee reports", Arizona's Politics can report that neither Schweikert nor his campaign committee has filed amended reports since then.

Initial referral, released today:



History of Ethics Committee investigation:





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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Trump Signs Colorado River DCP, Tweets "Big Deal For Arizona", Praises McSally (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

Trump Signs Colorado River DCP, Tweets "Big Deal For Arizona", Praises McSally
5:45pm: President Donald Trump today signed the Congressional approval of the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan. As reported previously, Arizona lawmakers were in the forefront of getting the measure passed quickly in both the House and the Senate.

Trump singled out Senator Martha McSally, however, praising her for "getting it done", and calling it "a big deal for Arizona."  Of course, it is also important for the other states in the lower basin, but it is not wrong to focus on the importance to Arizona - especially since it is the effected state that Trump and Republicans are most interested in for the 2020 elections.






Trump Vetos Resolution To End Support For Saudi Arabia In Yemen War; 3 AZ Republicans Had Voted "Aye"
5:30pm: President Trump tonight vetoed a Congressional resolution calling for an end of support for the Saudi Arabia-led effort in the Yemen war. Three Arizona Republicans had joined all Democrats and 20 other Republicans in passing the resolution this past month.

Reps. David Schweikert (CD6), Andy Biggs (CD5) and Paul Gosar (CD4) joined Arizona's 5 House Democrats in passing it 247-175 earlier this month. Arizona's Senators had split last month, but it passed with seven Republicans joining in the rebuke of the Trump Administration support.

Here is the President's veto message:
And, here is the text of the vetoed Resolution:





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Friday, April 12, 2019

TODAY: Oral Argument On Case To Move Up Election To Fill McCain Senate Seat (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

Attorneys will argue in U.S District Court this afternoon about whether the Arizona law permitting Governor Doug Ducey to control the late-Senator John McCain's seat until November 2020.

Arizona's Poltics previously reported on the constitutional challenge to the vacancy law. At that point, Sen. Jon Kyl was serving at the Governor's request. Kyl then resigned, permitting Ducey to appoint Martha McSally to the seat until a special election would be held in 2020 to fill the last two years.

Further details available at our (NEW) sister site, Arizona's Law.

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NEW: Sinema Snubs (All of Her) Democratic Colleagues, Declining To Co-Sponsor Bill Expanding Child Tax Credit and EITC

Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema this week became the only Democratic Senator to decline to co-sponsor legislation to expand the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The bill was introduced Wednesday by Senators Sherrod Brown (OH), Michael Bennet (CO) and Richard Durbin (IL). With much fanfare, they announced that they "lead 46 Democrats in introducing the "Working Families Tax Relief Act." Well, the Senate has 47 Democrats (including the two independents who caucus with them).

Each of the 46 are listed, including frequent aisle-crossers like Joe Manchin (WV) and Doug Jones (AL). The only one missing is Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema, who is up for re-election in... 2024.

Although the text of the bill is not yet publicly available on the website, the Democratic Senators (sans Sinema) note that their bill would make the Child Tax Credit increased in 2017 by the Republicans' tax bill refundable, so that low-income families would benefit. It would also create a "Young Child Tax Credit" and allow low-income families to receive a $500 advance on their Earned Income Tax Credit in emergency situations.

Of course, without any apparent effort to secure Republican support, the measure does not appear destined for approval in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Arizona's Politics made several efforts to get a comment from the Senator before publishing this article, and held it for publication overnight in case of response.

Yesterday, Arizona's Politics reported on Sinema's vote to join Republicans (and 3 Democrats) to confirm David Bernhardt as the new Interior Secretary. That article has been updated to include her explanation as to why she voted to confirm.


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Thursday, April 11, 2019

BREAKING: Sinema Joins Republicans In Confirming Bernhardt As Secretary of the Interior (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

(Updated to include Sinema's explanation for voting to support.)
12:50pm: Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema joined every Republican and three other Democrats* in confirming David Bernhardt to become the new Secretary of the Interior. The final vote was 56-41.

Interestingly, a dark money liberal group called the Western Values Project spent $200,000 on TV ads urging Arizona's Republican Senator Martha McSally to vote against Bernhardt. 

McSally issued a statement this afternoon celebrating the vote: "We have spoken on issues affecting our state and I know he will work with me to improve forest health, implement the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, and be a good partner for Arizona in protecting our public lands for generations to come. I look forward to working with Secretary Bernhardt and showing him around Arizona.”

Sinema indicated that she, too, met with Bernhardt: “After meeting with Mr. Bernhardt and carefully considering his nomination, I am confident he is professionally qualified, believes in the mission of the Interior Department, and will faithfully uphold the law.”




*Sen. King is an Independent, but caucuses with the Democrats.

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Monday, April 8, 2019

UPDATE: Arizona's Congressional Delegation Leads Both Houses This Afternoon In Approving Colorado River DCP; Heads To President's Desk

UPDATE, 3:40pm: The Senate has now approved the DCP, as well. Both Houses passed the identical bill today on voice votes, so the next action will be for President Trump to sign the approval into law.

The Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan ("DCP") is front and center this evening in both Houses of Congress. And, Arizona's Congressional delegation is again in the forefront of the action. At approximately 6pm (EDT), the House approved the bill to approve the DCP by an uncontested voice vote.

As reported previously by Arizona's Politics, Arizona is the only state where the entire Congressional delegation sponsored/co-sponsored the bills to approve the DCP last week. And, Arizona is again center stage this afternoon.

The House is considering the bill, and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-CD3) is leading the unopposed "debate". Reps. Tom O'Halleran (D-CD1), David Schweikert (R-CD6) and Greg Stanton (D-CD9) have already spoken, and more may still do so.

On the Senate side, Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) is to speak about the bill this afternoon, and to ask for unanimous consent. However, the Senate is not conducting any votes today, and consideration will likely be scheduled for later this week.

Although Arizona's legislators dominated the day, it was Utah's Rob Bishop (R-UT) who had the best line. The Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee (to Chair Grijalva) praised the cooperation among the Colorado River Basin states, and then told his House colleagues that if this bill was not to pass, "Utah's going to keep all the water and the rest of you can suck under. (laughter)"

Here is a copy of the bill. (The House and Senate versions are identical.)




Arizona's Politics will post the relevant video when it becomes available later today.



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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS: Reps. Biggs and Gosar Team With AOC and Ilhan Omar In Letter To President!!!

Reps. Biggs and Gosar Team With AOC and Ilhan Omar In Letter To President!!!
4:30pm: In what might seem to be the shocker of the century, Arizona Freedom Caucus Reps. Andy Biggs (R-CD5) and Paul Gosar, DDS (R-CD4) have co-signed a letter with Green New Deal Dems Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar to President Donald Trump. The bipartisan and bicameral group of 12 praises the President for his stated start of withdrawing U.S. troops from the war-torn nation of Syria.

The letter, led by Senator Rand Paul and Rep. Ro Khanna, is an obvious attempt to bolster the President as he faces criticism from many in both parties.

Here is the letter:



OFF-TOPIC: Join our Diamondbacks Season Ticket Group
4:00pm: Opening Day is here! We've been part of a Diamondbacks season ticket group for 20 years now, and a couple of our members had life changes that prompted them to stop participating. We have two seats that are probably the best value in the ballpark. One share is 16 games over the 6-month season, and although we assign the games randomly, everyone is usually pretty accomodating for switches. If you are interested, email me, at Paul @ ArizonasPolitics.com (no spaces), and I'll send you more details.

Clever. Very Clever. AZ GOP Reaches Out To Trump Supporters - Become A "Trump Committeeman"
3:45pm: Kelli Ward, the Chair of the Arizona GOP, is looking to recruit more Trump supporters in as Precinct Committemen. In an effort to reach out, they are offering a personalized 2020 Trump jersey (sketch below) and a re-brand of the statutory party office to "Trump Committeeman".


The email went out late last night with the subject line: "Sign Up Today to Become a Trump Committeeman!" Ward called it "the official way to become a part of the Trump-Republican team in Arizona! The top listed benefit (besides the jersey) is "access to (your) precinct's voter data".*

The AZ GOP even secured the URL "TrumpCommitteeman.com" for the recruiting effort. Lest some existing GOP PCs worry that they will be forced to switch from "PC" to "TC", the fine print at the bottom of the website notes that it is voluntary and that non-Trump supporters can still become PCs.

Nonetheless, given the rancorous intra-party disputes surrounding PCs and their varying allegiances, this effort by the current leadership of the AZ GOP is bound to prompt some reactions. AZGOP Communications Director Zach Henry tells Arizona's Politics that it "aligns with Chairman Ward's stated priority of filling every open PC spot in the state."

He adds that "nothing fires up the base like President Trump and we're going to work overtime to make sure he wins Arizona in 2020. Trump wins, we all win."

*Arizona's Politics recently raised concerns about campaign volunteers and PCs becoming targets after reporting on new tactics to access voter databases.

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Monday, April 1, 2019

BREAKING: Federal Grand Jury Has Subpoenaed APS For Info and Communications Re: Its 2014 Dark Money Election Activities

Not only is the Arizona Corporation Commission looking through the pile of documents delivered by APS about its secret spending on 2014 elections, but a federal grand jury is, as well. This new piece of information could be critical to understanding the real reason why APS suddenly changed its long-standing tune and delivered the information to regulators.

Arizona Public Service Co. - the state's largest electric utility - finally publicly admitted on Friday night that it had spent $10.7M to elect favorable Corporation Commissioners; most of that had gone to dark money organizations, where the public was unable to see that APS had contributed the money.

The Arizona Republic's Ryan Randazzo did a great job reporting all of the newly-visible angles on a Friday night.

The fact that a federal grand jury had subpoenaed similar documents from APS's parent company, Pinnacle West, was recently disclosed* to the Securities and Exchange Commission.  The grand jury is looking at the 2014 races for Secretary of State and the Corporation Commission. APS indicates that it is "cooperating fully" with the subpoenas requesting "records involving certain Pinnacle West officers and employees, including the Company's Chief Executive Officer, as well as communications between Pinnacle West personnel and a former ACC Commissioner."

The CEO of Pinn West is Donald Brandt. APS would not confirm to Arizona's Politics this afternoon that the grand jury subpoenas have yet been responded to. Instead, spokesperson Suzanne Trevino sent a copy of the letter sent to the Corporation Commission indicating that the voluntary disclosure to them was "in the spirit of putting behind us any further debate regarding political spending, and with the hope that we can focus on the future to further the energy and economic goals of the state." (Signed by VP of Regulation Barbara Lockwood.)

Last year, a mistrial was declared in a bribery trial that included a former chairman of the Corporation Commission (Gary Pierce), his wife, a lobbyist and the head of Johnson Utilities. It was reported at the time that the underlying conduct had arisen during a "much larger investigation" by the FBI into the Corporation Commission. This new revelation about the grand jury would appear to be another part of that "much larger investigation." The Pierces' son, Justin Pierce, was running for Arizona Secretary of State in 2014, and lost in the primary election.

Arizona's Politics has reported extensively on the political efforts by APS, and its use of hiding the source of funds. We have utilized a scale dubbed the #50ShadesOfDarkMoney (primarily as a result of that 2014 campaign, which was awash in it). In 2016, we reported on the IRS filings of America Encore - a dark money outfit run by Arizona's Sean Noble (that had become nationally known for its work with the Koch brothers' money network).

When that report is combined with the new disclosures from APS, it is now clear that there was a convoluted web of contributions, transfers - and, probably re-transfers - that involved APS, Noble's operation, the Arizona Free Entrerprise Club, former Governor Ducey Chief of Staff Kirk Adams and others. It is also clear that some of the new disclosures may slightly contradict APS's previous public statements to the Arizona Republic and more clarity is still needed.

*Clarify, 5:20pm: APS has disclosed the grand jury subpoenas earlier. They just re-disclosed it in February, and would not respond to Arizona's Politics' questions about whether they concurrently sent the information about their 2014 political activities to the ACC and the grand jury. If we receive that information, we will update the article as warranted.

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