Saturday, April 17, 2021

AZ Rep. Gosar Sets Personal Record For Fundraising Following Jan. 6 Insurrection

Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar set a new personal fundraising record following the January 6 Electoral College certification and insurrection. Gosar played a prominent role in objecting to Arizona's votes for Joe Biden, and had also encouraged Trump supporters to come to Washington DC for the January 6 events.

According to this week's filing with the Federal Election Commission, Gosar raised $120,000 in the 11 weeks following the insurrection. That was double his average receipts for his five previous comparable* efforts. In fact, his collections the past three months from contributors across the country was nearly one-fifth of what he raised in the entire 2019-2020 cycle.

Standing out among the new contributions was a $1,000 contribution from the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma. An analysis of Gosar's reports indicate that political contributions from Native American nations in Arizona and around the country have dropped significantly in the past couple of years. 

Arizona's Politics has reached out to UKB officials in light of this week's news that Gosar is co-founding an America First Caucus in Congress, with a manifesto that calls for Americans and immigrants to have "respect for (our nation's) uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions."

*"Comparable" meaning the first quarter of a new election cycle, January through March of an odd-numbered year. 

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Friday, April 16, 2021

"Arizona Audit" Updates: Fmr Secy of State Can't Convince Companies Audit Is Not Part Of "Big Lie"; Notorious Atty Lin Wood Is Major Funder AND Has Ties To Head "Cyber Ninja"

Two related updates today on State Senate President Karen Fann's slow-moving effort to recount Maricopa County's November Presidential election ballots.

First, former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett - who has become "the liaison for the AZ Senate" in the audit effort - has been unable to convince two publicly-owned tech companies that his effort to recruit volunteer observers for the recount is legitimate and is not an effort to promote election misinformation - known to some as the "Big Lie".

Yesterday, Bennett cried "censorship" after Google removed his recruitment form. He announced that he had re-posted the form on Wuhoo/Survey Monkey. It did not take long for that company to also disable his account.

Bennett has declined to answer questions from several reporters (including Arizona's Politics) about how he will ensure that the volunteer observers who claim to be Democrats are not simply re-registered Trump supporters trying to give the Senate GOP's effort a false veneer of objectivity.

In the second development, the center-left website TalkingPointsMemo.com reported today that the connections between the lead auditor for the effort - Doug Logan of Cyber Ninjas - and admittedly-biased former Trump attorney Lin Wood are far more extensive than previously reported.

Wood apparently provided Logan (and others) with a home and office during late 2020 in order to support his investigations into any possible fraud in the Presidential election. 

Further, Wood has contributed $50,000 of the $150,000+ in private donations raised to assist Fann's recount.


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Friday, March 19, 2021

PRESENT? AMERICA ONLY?: AZ Reps. Biggs and Gosar Among 15 Refusing To Pass Resolution Condemning Military Coup In Burma (READ Resolution)

Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs led a group of 14 Republicans opposing a resolution condemning last month's military coup in Burma (also known as Myanmar). Rep. Paul Gosar could not bring himself to vote "no" and instead voted "present".

The final vote was 398-14, and Gosar was the sole abstention.

Gosar (R-CD4) has not yet made public his reasoning, but Biggs (R-CD5) posted a video explanation. Biggs worries that the resolution is setting ourselves up to be make Burma another Afghanistan and becoming "the military police for the entire world."

"The resolutions won't stop the military junta. I condemn the violence, I condemn what's happening there. But we have to understand, passing these resolutions can't be a way to put our foot in the door in Burma. There are other solutions." He did not suggest what those solutions might be.

The text of the resolution, of which Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-CD7) was among the original bipartisan group of co-sponsors, is below.

This resolution came up for a vote as U.S. diplomats are having a tense meeting with Chinese counterparts. It is not clear whether China is backing the Burma coup, but the Communist nation did block a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning it.

So, Biggs and Gosar uncomfortably find themselves on the same side of the issue with China on the same day when conservative media are blasting the Biden Administration's for its meeting with China.



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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

NEW, "BEHAVE LIKE GROWN-UPS": AZ Rep. Andy Biggs Leads Band of Disruptive GOP Reps In House (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

"Behave like grown-ups." That was the wish made by Democratic Rep. Tom McGovern, in reference to the group of disgruntled Republican Representatives who are intentionally slowing down the process in the Democratic-controlled House. Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs (R-CD5) is the face of that group.

Specifically, McGovern was wishing that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy would tell the Biggs-led group to act like grown-ups. Here is the Politico article featuring Biggs and discussing the internal GOP rift between Biggs' group and McCarthy's leadership which boiled over earlier today. It includes Biggs taking a not-so-subtle dig at the McCarthy-led delegation who went to the U.S.-Mexico border this past week.

Sources told Politico that "Biggs responded that some members have been visiting the border for years and didn’t just show up there recently."

For his part, after the meeting, Biggs told reporters that “I didn’t think anything was heated. People are passionate. If we won’t use every procedural tool in the toolbox we have … yes, that frustrates me.” Biggs added that, as a member of the minority party, “You’ve got to get in the way and try to slow things down as much as you possibly can.”

Those slowing techniques include "requesting recorded House votes on non-controversial bills and forcing votes on motions to adjourn."

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Tuesday, March 16, 2021

JUST MEET US IN THE MIDDLE: Sens. Sinema and Kelly Part Of Mega-Block Of Bipartisan Centrists Meeting Tomorrow On Minimum Wage, Immigration, More

Arizona makes up an out-sized portion of a mega-group of U.S. Senators from both sides of the aisle who will be discussing the way forward on immigration reform, raising the minimum wage and more.

Politico's Burgess Everett reported today on the group of 20 Senators - fittingly*, 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans. They were unsuccessful in forging a bipartisan consensus on the $1.9T stimulus package enacted into law last week, but will convene tomorrow to discuss their next efforts.

Both Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) have both staked out this middle ground in their Senate campaigns, and have been facing heat from Arizona partisans from both major parties.

Sinema Communications Director Hannah Hurley confirms that Arizona's senior Senator is part of the group, and that she remains "committed to working across the aisle to get things done for Arizona."

Arizona's Politics has asked our Senators about what they hope to see come out of tomorrow's meeting, and we will update this article as warranted.

* Fittingly, as there is an even 50-50 split in the Senate.

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Thursday, March 11, 2021

$1.9T Relief Package Signed Into Law Today Includes Sinema's Long-Touted Restaurant Rescue Aid ( (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

4:55pm: $1.9T Relief Package Signed Into Law Today Includes Sinema's Long-Touted Restaurant Rescue Aid

President Joe Biden signed the $1.9T Covid relief package into law today, and it includes the $28.6B in restaurant rescue aid which Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema has been fighting for since just after the pandemic began.

Sinema tells Arizona's Politics that “Arizona restaurants fuel jobs across our state, and these employers need support now more than ever. Establishing a restaurant rescue plan will get Arizonans back to work and ensure local Arizona restaurants can keep their doors open as we continue to fight the ongoing pandemic and lay the groundwork for a full economic recovery,”

Sinema worked with the Arizona Restaurant Association in crafting the measure. She and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) also worked together to make sure it was included in this bill. (Wicker is receiving attention from the media for boasting about this, while trashing the rest of the package and voting against it.)

$5B of the fund is set aside for smaller restaurants/bars/etc, defined as those which had gross receipts of less than $500,000 in 2019.

Here is the text of the Restaurant Rescue Aid portion of the bill.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Arizona Should Prioritize People with Disabilities for COVID Vaccines - Like Other States (GUEST COLUMN)

(This Guest Column is contributed by Kara Karlson, disability advocate and election law attorney.)


Arizona has administered over 2 million COVID-19 vaccines.  This is a huge milestone and great news.  Unfortunately, despite promises from state leaders that the most vulnerable would be prioritized, pleas from multiple disability advocacy organizations have so far fallen on deaf ears.  The failure to vaccinate our most vulnerable should (and can) be rectified immediately.  It is the morally right thing to do, it saves taxpayer dollars, and would be simple to administer. 

 

COVID-19 Disproportionately Affects People with Disabilities

 

COVID-19 poses a disproportionate burden on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  People with disabilities may be more likely to be infected with COVID-19 because many require care from people outside the home, use mass transit, or work jobs without a telework option.  We know that children (0-17 years old) with intellectual and developmental disabilities (“I/DD”) are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than other children.


 People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are also much more likely to suffer adverse outcomes than people without disabilities.  Evidence early in the pandemic indicated that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities were two to three times more likely to die from COVID-19.  This early finding has been repeatedly confirmed by independent research.  Arizona recently prioritized vaccination for people with Down’s Syndrome, who are ten times more likely to die from COVID-19.  This is a step in the right direction, but it leaves many others in the disabled community unprotected.

 

The increased risk of death is most marked in children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who are ten times more likely to die from COVID-19 than other children.  The increased likelihood of death for children, who can’t yet get vaccinated, makes it very important that their caretakers are prioritized.  Despite the clear and urgent need to prioritize people with I/DD, they are not currently a priority for state health officials. 

 

Savings to the State

 

In addition to being the right thing to do for people with disabilities, it is also the right thing to do for Arizona’s taxpayers.  Care for people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 is costly, and often includes long-term ICU care.  This care is more expensive if complicated by other health conditions that many people with I/DD have.  On the other hand, COVID-19 vaccines cost between $10 and $30 per dose.  A growing number of other states have recognized the value of prioritizing people with I/DD for COVID-19 vaccines, and Arizona should join their ranks. 

 

Verifying Eligibility

 

A simple way to verify eligibility for vaccination would be to allow people 16 years of age and older (or caregivers to younger DDD members) use their Division of Developmental Disabilities (“DDD”) insurance card to be vaccinated. 


To be a DDD member, a person must be diagnosed with at least one of the following disabilities:  cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, or intellectual disabilities.  In addition to the diagnosis, a member must have “significant limitations in daily life skills” such as an inability to communicate, requiring significant help with bathing, and needing daily supervision for their safety.  DDD members are significantly more likely to have multiple comorbidities that make them more susceptible to severe COVID-19. 

 

The state vaccine portal already requires anyone who is registering for an appointment to provide their insurance information.  DDD Members have unique Member IDs, and the group name “AZDDD” on their insurance card immediately identifies them as a DDD Member.  The state portal should recognize DDD Members and allow them to make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination.  Alternatively, the member could show their insurance card at the vaccination site.    

 

Call to Action

 

Under the current vaccination schedule, thousands of Arizona’s most vulnerable people remain susceptible to a virus that could kill them or add health complications to a population already coping with significant, chronic health conditions.  The new age-based approach taken by the state in some ways exacerbates this disparity.  There is no scientifically-based reason a healthy middle-aged person should qualify for vaccination before a person with severe developmental disabilities.  Given the increased risk of hospitalization and death DDD Members face as a result of their disabilities—and the fact that the infrastructure exists to allow the state to reserve these vaccines for those who qualify—there is no excuse to not prioritize DDD members for COVID-19 vaccines. 

 

If you want to help make a difference for people with I/DD, please join the Momvocate community.  We need everyone involved, and contacting their government health and elected officials, to make a difference.  


(Kara is the mother of two vivacious daughters, disability advocate and member of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Advisory Council, election law attorney, and Arizona Pioneer descendant. Arizona's Politics and Arizona's Law publish guest commentaries from time to time. If you have something on your mind that would be of interest to our readership, please inquire within. Better yet, send an email to "Paul.Weich.AZlaw @ gmail.com".)

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BREAKING: Shooter Can't Butt In As AZ Supreme Court Considers Whether Mesnard Had Legislative Immunity In Discussing Sexual Harassment Investigation

Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter tried to supplement his counsel's arguments to the Arizona Supreme Court, but was rebuffed. The brief interaction occurred after the Justices grilled both sides about whether former House Speaker J.D. Mesnard had immunity while expelling Shooter for sexual harassment charges.

Shooter claims that Mesnard defamed him and lost his legislative immunity when he edited and released the investigative report in 2018, and when he then issued a press release explaining his actions to expel. Mesnard's counsel told the Justices that "he was Speaker and he was doing something that is immediate" and therefore the absolute immunity should apply to both the report and the release.

The one thing that both attorneys seemed to agree on, albeit for different reasons, is that Mesnard did not get special immunity coverage because of his role as Speaker. Several of the Justices pressed the idea, and Justice Bill Montgomery finally told a very hesitant Stephen Tully (representing the Mesnards) that "these aren't gotcha questions".

Philip Byler represented Shooter and tried to emphasize that Mesnard was "making it up (as he goes along) and that's why he should not be having immunity." Justices seemed equally frustrated with many of his responses, and Byler closed by warning the Court that "the facts of this case are pretty ugly - do you want that absolutely immune?"

Justice Ann Timmer repeatedly asked why the press release should not be covered by the Arizona Constitution's immunity provisions, and mused whether Shooter's position would force Arizonans to watching hours of ACTV (Arizona Capitol Television) to know what their lawmakers were doing.

Chief Justice Robert Brutinel thanked the attorneys at the close of arguments. Shooter then started speaking up, although it was not audible on the livestream. Brutinel shut him down, saying we are not hearing from you, Mr. Shooter, this argument is done. (Shooter can be seen moving down to the front row during Tully's arguments, above.)

Shooter is primarily represented by Tom Horne, a former Arizona Attorney General. Tully also presently represents state Senate Republicans in the November election audit wars with Maricopa County.

There was no decision below on whether Mesnard actually defamed Shooter in his characterization of the report. This appeal is strictly on the immunity issue. The decision will be made by five of Arizona's seven Justices, as both Andrew Gould and James Beene did not participate.



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