Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day Giffords Makes First Public Appearance, Washington Post Touts "Kelly v. Kelly" House Battle In Arizona; Kicks Post-Jan. 8 Speculation Parlor Game To New Level

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-CD8) made her first public appearance yesterday - in Texas - at about the same time that the Washington Post was posting an article about the possibility that her husband, Mark Kelly, could run to retain her southern Arizona House seat.  As the 2012 election season nears, the speculation swirl is guaranteed to start spinning ever faster.

(more written later, but below are the links)

Giffords' public appearance: http://wapo.st/jBwAxd
Kelly's possible campaigns: http://wapo.st/mmm60A
WaPo Senate speculation last week: http://wapo.st/lXgOUg
ABC voicer on Giffords' appearance: http://abcn.ws/mOcZcF

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Monday, June 27, 2011

OFF-TOPIC (pretty much): Bill Cosby Is A Very Cranky Fellow. WRONG!

One of the cool things about Twitter is the ability to follow a diverse group of individuals (and non-individuals).  The result is that you just never know what will catch your eye among the ever-rising flood of messages.

I added Bill Cosby last year because I was going to see him in concert (again) and I wanted to ask him a question about the show.  I rarely take a second look at his Tweets - which are generally a tame gumbo of promos and responses to fans.  Maybe today's caught my eye because I had just seen LouisC.K. on a late night talk show.

Here's the Tweet: "Thank you @louisck for enjoying my work. Nod to @andrewrgoldman & his editor(s) for the honest question about me. http://t.co/sDjgPFB"

I followed Cosby's link to see the praise, and because I wondered what "honest question" had been raised.  The NY Times article (interview) in question is about 1 1/2 weeks old now.  The relevant section is initiated by the reporter asking C.K. who is funnier (sic, NYT, sic) than he is:
Of all the comedians working today, who’s funnier than you?

I don’t think you can quantify it that way. It’s like boxing — there are people who are set up according to weight and how big their hands are and stuff. But the best comedian I’ve ever seen live is Bill Cosby, and this was only about a year and a half ago.

Cosby? Really. I thought he’d become a crank in his old age.

No. Go see him. Two-hour-long show, 400 ways to get a laugh. It’s like being a brawler and going to see somebody do jujitsu like a master.

I love how the Cos did not say anything more.  (Nor does his website, of course.)  The understatement made it.  Of course, the answer is that he is NOT "a crank".  (Even if he does yell at the kids to get off of his lawn, NOONE could do it with the humor that he would!) 

Now, to (try to) tie it in to the other news that Arizona's Politics has been featuring so far today, with a personal recollection: the last time I saw him in concert here in Arizona - a couple of years ago - Cosby briefly displayed a bit of political crankiness when he riffed on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.  Thomas was among the five-member majority in today's opinion overturning the matching funds provisions of Arizona's Clean Elections campaign finance system. 

P.S. My own attempt at understated-ness.

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REACTION: Common Cause President: "Not The Death Knell Of Public Financing"

Reaction to the Supreme Court's decision today striking down the matching funds provisions of Arizona's Clean Elections campaign financing continues to come in.  Common Cause headlines their post on the opinion by claiming that the Supreme Court sided with "Big Money Again".

Statement by Common Cause President Bob Edgar:

“This is not the death knell of public financing. This ruling affects only one mechanism of public financing, and there are numerous ways to fix it. Today, in the wake of Citizens United, it is more critical than ever that we change the way we pay for our elections by moving to a small donor system that gives the public a voice back in our government. Nothing short of our democracy is at stake.”

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REACTION: Goldwater Institute Says "Government's Heavy Thumb" Off the Scales

Further reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision today that the matching funds provisions in Arizona's Clean Elections campaign financing system violate the First Amendment: the Goldwater Institute, which represented the plaintiffs in one of the consolidated cases, is justifiably feeling pretty good, as evidenced in their still-wet-on-the-screen news release:

PHOENIX — Today, in a 5 to 4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision striking down the matching funds provisions of Arizona’s taxpayer-funded campaign finance system known as Clean Elections.

Mirroring arguments from the Goldwater Institute that prompted the Supreme Court to block Arizona’s matching funds system on June 8, 2010, the Court declared that Arizona’s matching funds provision, “The First amendment embodies our choice as a Nation that, when it comes to [campaign] speech, the guiding principle is freedom---the ‘unfettered exchange of ideas’---not whatever the State may view as fair."

The Supreme Court confirmed that Arizona’s system of providing government campaign funding to candidates cannot be squared with its earlier decision in Davis v. F.E.C. In Davis, the Court struck down a regulatory scheme whereby “the vigorous exercise of the right to use personal funds to finance campaign speech produces fundraising advantages for opponents in the competitive context of electoral politics.” Arizona’s matching funds provisions similarly disadvantage citizen-funded candidates for exercising their First Amendment rights by causing their campaign contributions and expenditures to trigger taxpayer subsidies to opposing government-funded candidates.

“This decision protects democratic elections and gets government’s heavy thumb off the scale,” said Nick Dranias, the Goldwater Institute’s director of constitutional studies and the lead attorney in the case.

Although labeled differently, similar matching funds provisions exist in Florida, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. Additionally, Connecticut and Massachusetts previously had public-financing provisions, but repealed them.

The Court’s decision puts an end to these unconstitutional experiments.

The Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation represented John McComish, Nancy McLain, and Tony Bouie, candidates for the Arizona Legislature whose campaigns were funded by donations from citizens, not the government. Previously, the Institute secured three rulings from U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn O. Silver that Arizona’s matching funds provision violated the First Amendment. Those rulings were overturned by the Ninth Circuit on May 21, 2010.

But on June 8, 2010, responding to an emergency request from the Goldwater Institute, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Ninth Circuit’s decision from taking effect and suspended Arizona’s use of matching funds for its 2010 election cycle. Subsequent decisions arising from the Second and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal followed suit, striking down equivalent matching funds provisions in Connecticut and Florida. The Supreme Court formally agreed to consider the Goldwater Institute’s challenge on Nov. 29, 2010, along with a separate case that had been filed by the Institute of Justice.

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Quick Reaction From Clean Elections Commission: We're Not Finished

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission ("CCEC") was very quick to react to today's Supreme Court ruling striking down the matching funds portion of the campaign financing system.  Within a minute or two of the opinion being released, this Tweet came out: 

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READ: Here's the summary (i.e. "Syllabus") of the Supreme Court's Opinion Striking Down The Matching Provisions Of Clean Elections

Here is what is called the "Syllabus" of the Supreme Court's majority opinion striking down the matching funds provisions of Arizona's Clean Elections financing system.  The entire opinion package is 68 pages; this 6-page syllabus can be very helpful but is NOT written by the Justices. 
The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act created a public financing system to fund the primary and general election campaigns of candidates for state office. Candidates who opt to participate, and who accept certain campaign restrictions and obligations, are granted an initial outlay of public funds to conduct their campaign. They are also granted additional matching funds if a privately financed candidate’s expenditures, combined with the expenditures of independent groups made in support of the privately financed candidate or in opposition to a publicly financed candidate, exceed the publicly financed candidate’s initial state allotment. Once matching funds are triggered, a publicly financed candidate receives roughly one dollar for every dollar raised or spent by the privately financed candidate—including any money of his own that a privately financed candidate spends on his campaign—and for every dollar spent by independent groups that support the privately financed candidate. When there are multiple publicly financed candidates in a race, each one receives matching funds as a result of the spending of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups. Matching funds top out at two times the initial grant to the publicly financed candidate. Petitioners, past and future Arizona candidates and two independent expenditure groups that spend money to support and oppose Arizona candidates, challenged the constitutionality of the matching


*Together with No. 10–239, McComish et al. v. Bennett, Secretary of State of Arizona, et al., also on certiorari to the same court. 2


funds provision, arguing that it unconstitutionally penalizes their speech and burdens their ability to fully exercise their First Amendment rights. The District Court entered a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the matching funds provision. The Ninth Circuit reversed, concluding that the provision imposed only a minimal burden and that the burden was justified by Arizona’s interest in reducing quid pro quo political corruption.

Held: Arizona’s matching funds scheme substantially burdens political speech and is not sufficiently justified by a compelling interest to survive First Amendment scrutiny. Pp. 8–30.

(a) The matching funds provision imposes a substantial burden on the speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups. Pp. 8–22.

(1) Petitioners contend that their political speech is substantially burdened in the same way that speech was burdened by the so-called “Millionaire’s Amendment” of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which was invalidated in Davis v. Federal Election Comm’n, 554 U. S. 724. That law—which permitted the opponent of a candidate who spent over $350,000 of his personal funds to collect triple the normal contribution amount, while the candidate who spent the personal funds remained subject to the original contribution cap—unconstitutionally forced a candidate “to choose between the First Amendment right to engage in unfettered political speech and subjection to discriminatory fundraising limitations.” Id., at 739. This “unprecedented penalty” “impose[d] a substantial burden on the exercise of the First Amendment right to use personal funds for campaign speech” that was not justified by a compelling government interest. Id., at 739–740. Pp. 8–10.

(2) The logic of Davis largely controls here. Once a privately financed candidate has raised or spent more than the State’s initial grant to a publicly financed candidate, each personal dollar the privately financed candidate spends results in an award of almost one additional dollar to his opponent. The privately financed candidate must “shoulder a special and potentially significant burden” when choosing to exercise his First Amendment right to spend funds on his own candidacy. 554 U. S., at 739. If the law at issue in Davis imposed a burden on candidate speech, the Arizona law unquestionably does so as well.

The differences between the matching funds provision and the law struck down in Davis make the Arizona law more constitutionally problematic, not less. First, the penalty in Davis consisted of raising the contribution limits for one candidate, who would still have to raise the additional funds. Here, the direct and automatic release of public money to a publicly financed candidate imposes a far heavier 3 Cite as: 564 U. S. ____ (2011)


burden. Second, in elections where there are multiple publicly financed candidates—a frequent occurrence in Arizona—the matching funds provision can create a multiplier effect. Each dollar spent by the privately funded candidate results in an additional dollar of funding to each of that candidate’s publicly financed opponents. Third, unlike the law in Davis, all of this is to some extent out of the privately financed candidate’s hands. Spending by independent expenditure groups to promote a privately financed candidate’s election triggers matching funds, regardless whether such support is welcome or helpful. Those funds go directly to the publicly funded candidate to use as he sees fit. That disparity in control—giving money directly to a publicly financed candidate, in response to independent expenditures that cannot be coordinated with the privately funded candidate—is a substantial advantage for the publicly funded candidate.

The burdens that matching funds impose on independent expenditure groups are akin to those imposed on the privately financed candidates themselves. The more money spent on behalf of a privately financed candidate or in opposition to a publicly funded candidate, the more money the publicly funded candidate receives from the State. The effect of a dollar spent on election speech is a guaranteed financial payout to the publicly funded candidate the group opposes, and spending one dollar can result in the flow of dollars to multiple candidates. In some ways, the burdens imposed on independent groups by matching funds are more severe than the burdens imposed on privately financed candidates. Independent groups, of course, are not eligible for public financing. As a result, those groups can only avoid matching funds by changing their message or choosing not to speak altogether. Presenting independent expenditure groups with such a choice—trigger matching funds, change your message, or do not speak—makes the matching funds provision particularly burdensome to those groups and certainly contravenes “the fundamental rule of protection under the First Amendment, that a speaker has the autonomy to choose the content of his own message.” Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc., 515 U. S. 557, 573. Pp. 10–14.

(3) The arguments of Arizona, the Clean Elections Institute, and amicus United States attempting to explain away the existence or significance of any burden imposed by matching funds are unpersuasive.

Arizona correctly points out that its law is different from the law invalidated in Davis, but there is no doubt that the burden on speech is significantly greater here than in Davis. Arizona argues that the provision actually creates more speech. But even if that were the case, only the speech of publicly financed candidates is increased by



the state law. And burdening the speech of some—here privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups—to increase the speech of others is a concept “wholly foreign to the First Amendment,” Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1, 48–49; cf. Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U. S. 241, 244, 258. That no candidate or group is forced to express a particular message does not mean that the matching funds provision does not burden their speech, especially since the direct result of that speech is a state-provided monetary subsidy to a political rival. And precedents upholding government subsidies against First Amendment challenge provide no support for matching funds; none of the subsidies at issue in those cases weregranted in response to the speech of another.

The burden on privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups also cannot be analogized to the burden placed on speakers by the disclosure and disclaimer requirements upheld in Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm’n, 558 U. S. ___. A political candidate’s disclosure of his funding resources does not result in a cash windfall to his opponent, or affect their respective disclosure obligations.

The burden imposed by the matching funds provision is evident and inherent in the choice that confronts privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups. Indeed every court to have considered the question after Davis has concluded that a candidate or independent group might not spend money if the direct result of that spending is additional funding to political adversaries. Arizona is correct that the candidates do not complain that providing a lump sum payment equivalent to the maximum state financing that a candidate could obtain through matching funds would be impermissible. But it is not the amount of funding that the State provides that is constitutionally problematic. It is the manner in which that funding is provided—in direct response to the political speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups. Pp. 14–22.

(b) Arizona’s matching funds provision is not “ ‘justified by a compelling state interest,’ ” Davis, supra, at 740. Pp. 22–28.

(1) There is ample support for the argument that the purpose of the matching funds provision is to “level the playing field” in terms of candidate resources. The clearest evidence is that the provision operates to ensure that campaign funding is equal, up to three times the initial public funding allotment. The text of the Arizona Act confirms this purpose. The provision setting up the matching funds regime is titled “Equal funding of candidates,” Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann.§16–952; and the Act and regulations refer to the funds as “equalizing funds,” e.g., §16–952(C)(4). This Court has repeatedly rejected

5 Cite as: 564 U. S. ____ (2011)


the argument that the government has a compelling state interest in “leveling the playing field” that can justify undue burdens on political speech, see, e.g., Citizens United, supra, at ___, and the burdens imposed by matching funds cannot be justified by the pursuit of such an interest. Pp. 22–25.

(2) Even if the objective of the matching funds provision is to combat corruption—and not “level the playing field”—the burdens that the matching funds provision imposes on protected political speech are not justified. Burdening a candidate’s expenditure of his own funds on his own campaign does not further the State’s anticorruption interest. Indeed, “reliance on personal funds reduces the threat of corruption.” Davis, supra, at 740–741; see Buckley, supra, at 53. The burden on independent expenditures also cannot be supported by the anticorruption interest. Such expenditures are “political speech . . . not coordinated with a candidate.” Citizens United, 558 U. S., at ___. That separation negates the possibility that the expenditures will result in the sort of quid pro quo corruption with which this Court’s case law is concerned. See e.g., id., at ___–___. Moreover, “[t]he interest in alleviating the corrupting influence oflarge contributions is served by . . . contribution limitations.” Buckley, supra, at 55. Given Arizona’s contribution limits, some of the most austere in the Nation, its strict disclosure requirements, and the general availability of public funding, it is hard to imagine what marginal corruption deterrence could be generated by the matching funds provision.

The State and the Clean Elections Institute contend that even if the matching funds provision does not directly serve the anticorruption interest, it indirectly does so by ensuring that enough candidates participate in the State’s public funding system, which in turn helps combat corruption. But the fact that burdening constitutionally protected speech might indirectly serve the State’s anticorruption interest, by encouraging candidates to take public financing, does not establish the constitutionality of the matching funds provision. The matching funds provision substantially burdens speech, to an even greater extent than the law invalidated in Davis. Those burdens cannot be justified by a desire to “level the playing field,” and much of the speech burdened by the matching funds provision does not pose a danger of corruption. The fact that the State may feel that the matching funds provision is necessary to allow it to calibrate its public funding system to achieve its desired level of participation—without an undue drain on public resources—is not a sufficient justification for the burden.

The flaw in the State’s argument is apparent in what its reasoning would allow. By the State’s logic it could award publicly financed


candidates five dollars for every dollar spent by a privately financed candidate, or force candidates who wish to run on private funds to pay a $10,000 fine, in order to encourage participation in the public funding regime. Such measures might well promote such participation, but would clearly suppress or unacceptably alter political speech. How the State chooses to encourage participation in its public funding system matters, and the Court has never held that a State may burden political speech—to the extent the matching funds provision does—to ensure adequate participation in a public funding system. Pp. 25–28.

(c) Evaluating the wisdom of public financing as a means of funding political candidacy is not the Court’s business. But determining whether laws governing campaign finance violate the First Amendment is. The government “may engage in public financing of election campaigns,” and doing so can further “significant governmental interest[s].” Buckley, 424 U. S., at 57, n. 65, 92–93, 96. But the goal of creating a viable public financing scheme can only be pursued in a manner consistent with the First Amendment. Arizona’s program gives money to a candidate in direct response to the campaign speech of an opposing candidate or an independent group. It does this when the opposing candidate has chosen not to accept public financing, and has engaged in political speech above a level set by the State. This goes too far; Arizona’s matching funds provision substantially burdens the speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups without serving a compelling state interest. Pp. 28–30.

611 F. 3d 510, reversed.

ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which SCALIA,

KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined. KAGAN, J., filed a dissenting

opinion, in which GINSBURG, BREYER, and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined.

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U.S. Supreme Court Deals Arizona's Clean Elections Matching Blows

On the final day of its 2010-11 term, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt Arizona Clean Elections system of financing for state political campaigns matching blows on Monday. 

The justices, on a 5-4 split decision (opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts), issued an opinion in the consolidated cases of McComish (State Sen. John) v. Bennett (Secy of State Ken) and Arizona's Free Enterprise Club Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, holding that the matching funds provisions of the Clean Elections law passed by Arizona voters in 1998 violate the First Amendment.  The decision overturns the 9th Circuit, but vindicates District Court Judge Roslyn Silver.

The split was along expected lines: Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, and Thomas joined the Chief Justice in the majority.  Justice Kagan wrote the dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Sotomayor.

Here is a link to the opinions; we will hopefully have some analysis shortly.  (Thanks to http://www.scotusblog.com/ for their fine live coverage of the Supreme Court!)

(BONUS Supreme Court coverage: Led by Justice Scalia, the Court holds that California's law restricting the sale of violent video games also violates the First Amendment.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

FACT CHECK: State Sen. Pres. Russell Pearce Claims President Barack Obama Secretly "Enacted the Nightmarish DREAM Act"; "100% True" Claim Is Really 100% False

Google the two search terms "Russell Pearce" and "Fact Check", and you will come up with 21,200 results in less than a second.  (I am proud to say that the first two are from this blog.)  If Arizona's Tea Party Senate President continues affixing his signature to rants like this (see below the jump for the entire text), the results number will mushroom and the two terms will become inextricably linked.

Pearce, in his position as the "Honorary National Chairman" of the semi-tax exempt (501(c)(4)) Ban Amnesty Now organization, sent out another wild (and wildly inaccurate) rant claiming that President Obama "secretly enacted the nightmarish DREAM Act", painting him as a dictator and juxtaposing his picture with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and noting that the claims must be "100% true" because "news reports online" said so.

That line - coupled with the fact that I thought I would have heard about something as newsworthy as Obama using an Executive Order to enact the DREAM Act - had me scrambling to search engine land.  However, I did go back to finish the nearly-hysterical fund-raising letter, and learned that it contradicts its own claims: it was not a "Stroke of a pen" by the President, and it did not enact the DREAM Act.

The origins of the anti-DREAM Act rants:  apparently, Sen. Pearce saw this report from WorldNet Daily.  That story was based upon a Fox News panel from last week.  And, that panel was based upon this pretty vanilla June 17 memo from Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") Director John Morton

In it, he reiterates long-standing tenets of prosecutorial discretion and how they can be applied in the context of enforcement of immigration laws.  He does not direct ICE agents to exercise that discretion in any certain way - that would be contrary to the entire concept - but, he does suggest that many factors be taken into consideration when deciding whether to pursue enforcement action (both negative and positive). 

(more later)

ICE memo: http://bit.ly/lqVx20
other BAN stories: http://bit.ly/kkVp3z
Fox panel video, transcript: http://fxn.ws/kaKWzv
WND story: http://bit.ly/iMOYnV

Friday, June 24, 2011

Schweikert Votes To Limit U.S. Funding For Libya Operation; Grijalva and Pastor Vote Against Authorizing Operation

An interesting day in Congress today as the House defeats two Libya-related measures, and three Arizona Representatives are among those whose votes will gather attention.

First, Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-CD7) and Ed Pastor - Arizona's two Democratic Congressmen (the third, Gabrielle Giffords, is still rehabbing) - (D-CD4) voted with the majority in refusing to authorize the U.S. to participate in the NATO operation that has been proceeding in Libya since March.  All the Arizona Republicans voted against and the House vote was 123-295 against the resolution.  (The overall split among Democrats was 115-70, and the GOP split was 8-225.)  The Senate is expected to pass the authorization.

The second vote was one pushed by Speaker of the House John Boehner, to cut off funding for the ongoing operations there.  It failed 180-238, and the only member of the Arizona delegation to vote for cutting off funding was Rep. David Schweikert (R-CD5).  Arizona's other four Republicans voted with a majority of the Democrats in not cutting the funding.

The only Representative to issue a statement (so far) is Rep. Jeff Flake (R-CD6), who voted against both measures:  "“The President still has not made clear what national security objectives are being met by U.S. participation in the NATO mission or how we can justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars to fund our efforts there.  The time for debate over whether to authorize U.S. armed forces to engage in Libya was months ago, before the U.S. entered into the NATO operation."

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Arizona Clean Elections In "The Final Four"; Opinion To Come Down On Monday

The eagerly-awaited U.S. Supreme Court opinion on a core of Arizona's Clean Elections campaign financing system will almost certainly be issued this coming Monday.  The Supreme Court issued six opinions earlier today, leaving only the Clean Elections case and three others to be decided.

The nine Justices traditionally adjourn at the end of June for the summer, and the 27th is the last scheduled day for handing down opinions; it would be highly unusual for the decision not to be announced Monday morning.  Opinions announced near the ends of Supreme Court terms are much more likely to be difficult, divided decisions, often with multiple concurring and dissenting opinions.

The twin cases of Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett and John McComish v. Bennett challenge the matching funds provisions of the Clean Elections law that was passed by Arizona voters in 1998.  The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on March 28.

The Supreme Court is just about at the end of its 2010-11 Term, and has not yet

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READ: Sen. Jon Kyl Statement On His Leaving Deficit Reduction Talks

A couple of months ago, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the Minority Whip, was named to represent Senate Republicans at deficit reduction talks headed by Vice President Joe Biden.  Today, Kyl and House GOP Rep. Eric Cantor left the talks.  Here is the statement that Kyl has made (along with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell):

“The White House and Democrats are insisting on job-killing tax hikes and new spending. That proposal won’t address our fiscal crisis, our jobs crisis, or protect and reform entitlements. And a bill with new spending and higher taxes would fail with bipartisan opposition – as it should. President Obama needs to decide between his goal of higher taxes, or a bipartisan plan to address our deficit. He can’t have both. But we need to hear from him.”

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

OFF-TOPIC: R.I.P., Clarence Clemons; A Little Less Joy In The World

"A Little Less Joy In The World (A Verse, A Chorus)"
Life - and the music - will continue.
Someone may be able to fill big shoes stage right.
The Big Man's sax and smile disappeared tonight.
But, the spirit of his spirit will always shine through the spotlight.

Clarence Clemons, the "Big Man" in the E Street Band and Bruce Springsteen's saxophonist passed away a few hours ago, six days after suffering a stroke.  Like many, I have great memories of seeing Clemons up close and personal, seeing how much he enjoyed playing music, enjoying the spotlight and interacting with the fans standing and yelling in front of him.

The few times that I was fortunate enough to be standing in the first couple of rows of "the pit", I was always on "the Clarence side" of the stage (stage right, from his perspective).  Even when he was in pain, he played his parts with joy and always seemed to genuinely appreciate - and return - the love from the people around me.  (Including me - I could not resist expressing my appreciation, which he reciprocated with a smile, nod or point.)

I have re-read parts of his fictionalized memoir* this week.  There is little doubt that he enjoyed his stardom during the past nearly-40 years.  And, while there seemed to be a realization that his health would continue to make life more difficult, he made a (successful) effort to come back and wring a bit more joy out of life here on earth.

Clarence is the 2nd major onstage element of the phenomenon that is a Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band concert to pass away in the last three years.  Danny (Federici) was a key component in the music, but Clarence was also a key part of the show and his shtick with Bruce cannot - will not - be duplicated.

* By the way, if you are a fan of Clarence Clemons, Bruce Springsteen, and/or Hunter S. Thompson's style of gonzo trips, make sure you check out "Big Man".  A fun, funny and insightful volume.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Out Of the Hospital!: Giffords "Will Continue To Make Significant Strides"

Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-CD8) was released from the hospital today, as she continues to recover from the January 8 assassination-attempt-turned-shooting-spree.  She will continue with her rehab efforts as an outpatient in Houston (where her husband and his brother own at least one home).

The TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital announced the discharge after the fact, and the chief medical officer made the following statement:

“Congresswoman Giffords has shown clear, continuous improvement from the moment she arrived at TIRR five months ago. We are very excited that she has reached the next phase of her rehabilitation and can begin outpatient treatment. We have no doubt that she will continue to make significant strides in her recovery.”
The entire news release is presented below the jump.

Arizona Republic Reporting That Maricopa County Has Already Verified Enough Signatures To Put Russell Pearce Recall On Ballot.

Arizona Republic is reporting that Maricopa County has verified enough signatures to put Russell Pearce recall on ballot. It is not the last step before the election is declared - it goes back to the Secretary of State and then to the Governor, but a November recall election is looking more likely.

(Links to some past reports on Pearce.)

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Rep. Schweikert Only Arizona Freshman To File Financial Disclosure Statement Before Deadline; Links To Rest of Delegation

The House of Representatives released its members' annual personal financial disclosure statements today.  Six of Arizona's eight Congresspersons' reports are available.  Of the three new lawmakers in the delegation, only Rep. David Schweikert's (R-CD5) is posted; Reps. Paul Gosar (R-CD1) and Ben Quayle (R-CD3) either asked for an extension or have not yet filed anything (even those posted earlier today are available on the House website).  (Update 12:41pm: Rep. Gosar's office has replied that he did receive an extension.  Further update 5:02pm: Was able to confirm through Legistorm that Rep. Quayle also sought and received an extension.)

Although we have not yet reviewed all of them, here are the links to them in case you want to check them out.  (If you find something noteworthy, please send me an e-mail.)  Here is Legistorm's page with all of Arizona's Representatives conveniently grouped together.

CD1: Paul Gosar (not available as of June 15)
CD2: Trent Franks
CD3: Ben Quayle (not available as of June 15)
CD4: Ed Pastor, and amendment
CD5: David Schweikert
CD6: Jeff Flake
CD7: Raul Grijalva
CD8: Gabrielle Giffords

One other quick note: these financial disclosure statements do NOT provide a "net worth" of the Representatives.  In fact, they do not even provide an accurate range of net worth.  This is because assets such as homes, second homes, timeshares (and anything which is not owned to provide income) does NOT need to be reported.  This came up the other day when it was reported (elsewhere) that Sen. Jon Kyl owned a cabin in the path of the Wallow fire; it was not listed on his disclosure statement because he does not rent it out.  Thus, a Congressperson could own expensive mansions in Arizona, Washington and elsewhere - even free and clear; if he or she does not receive income from it, it is likely to not be listed.

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WATCH, IN CONTEXT: Sen. Kyl Testifying Re: Wallow Fire, Forest Management

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) took to the witness chair yesterday in front of the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  He did not read his prepared testimony, and instead spoke (partly) extemporaneously from "first-hand observations."

He started with an update on the Wallow fire and recounted how his cabin in Greer was spared but that he was at a neighbor's a half-mile away a couple of week's ago and that cabin was destroyed.  He then moved on to discussing better forest stewardship in the future.  Kyl's website has some concise information on his positions on the issues

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

WATCH, IN CONTEXT: Barack Obama Walks and Talks About Gabrielle Giffords

President Barack Obama was interviewed yesterday by new Today Show co-host Ann Curry.  The interview was aired this morning.

As they strolled, Curry asked the President about Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-CD8).  Obama saw her last month, when they were both in Florida for the scheduled launch (it was delayed) of the Space Shuttle.  The transcript and the video from the entire segment are below the break.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Arizona Congressional Payrolls, Part 2: Outgoings' Swell Payroll Expenses; Numbers May Put Them In "Unfairly Unfavorable Light"

In preparing last week's report on the payrolls for each of Arizona's 8 Representatives in Congress, I noted some seeming aberrations.  Though I had not yet had time to investigate them further, I noted a couple of days ago that the website which posts the payroll information (among other important data) had also seen the red flags.  Their response was to pen an article (OK, "type a post") which details which departing Representatives "splurged" on their staff as they were leaving. 

It turns out that two of Arizona's three departing Representatives are near the top of the list.  Former Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-CD1) and Harry Mitchell (D-CD5) both listed more than $100,000 in payroll expenses in the last two days of their terms.  ($105,294 and $120,790, respectively) 

Digging a bit deeper, I quickly discovered that it is not as clear a picture as it first appeared.  Each Representative gets a fixed amount to spend on their office expenses (including salaries), and none of them receive exactly the same amount (at least in Arizona).  The amount of the "Member's Representational Allowance" ("MRA") varies based upon the distance of the district to D.C., the size of the district, the cost of living there, etc.; the national range for a Representative's budget is currently between $1.3 and $1.9;  Arizona's is between $1,445,393 (Pastor) and $1,565,655 (Franks).  There is no standard procedure for all House members to follow in how to hire staff, how to structure their compensation packages (vacation, sick time, etc.).  Monies are authorized based upon the legislative year (Jan. 3 - Jan. 2, which explains why the expenses are shown through Jan. 2) while they are funded in separate budgets based upon the fiscal year (Oct. 1 - Sept. 30); this makes it even harder to wade through the disbursement reports to figure out whether a Representative spent all of the funds at his or her disposal.

Put another way, Reps. Mitchell and Kirkpatrick could have structured their offices and compensation packages to pay employees at the back end while other Representatives (John Shadegg was the third Arizona Congressperson to leave office at the beginning of this year, and he only had one significant expenditure for January 2 - a $4,000 payment to one district aide) may have compensated employees more upfront, or paid out untaken vacations earlier in the year.

The real key is how much of their annual office budgets the Representatives return at the end of the year.  Or, even more accurately, how much they have returned at the end of their service in Congress.  Because, Representatives do not actually return unused monies to the United States Treasury at the end of the fiscal (or legislative) year(s), they have two subsequent years in which those monies can be used.  (Although, apparently, unused Kirkpatrick monies - if any - do not become available to Paul Gosar, her successor.)

The House does not make it easy to find out which Congresspersons have returned parts of their office budgets to the Treasury.  Both Kirkpatrick (through campaign spokesman)and Mitchell have purportedly returned monies to the Treasury from their budgets.  Mitchell's former Chief of Staff, Alexis Tameron, told Arizona's Politics on Friday that...
"..while funds were used in part to payout unused vacation, sick and other accrued compensatory benefits accrued by staff, all MRA expenditures including those referenced by Legistorm are a matter of public record and can be verified by the Clerk of the House. This includes the hundreds of thousands dollars in unspent funds allotted to Rep. Mitchell's office that had been returned to the Treasury each year over the course of his time in Congress." (italics added)
Arizona's Politics is attempting to obtain  from the House of Representative the data that would confirm or refute those claims (as well as comparative data for other Representatives' offices).

But, there is very clear data that the Legistorm (and the Arizona Republic article that was published on Saturday while this report was being prepared) headlines and numbers might be misleading - despite the disclaimers - is by looking at additional payroll numbers for the three Arizona Representatives who left office on January 2.  Shadegg's 2010 (calendar year) payroll expenses totaled $1,120,707, far more than either Kirkpatrick ($886,856) or Mitchell ($979,058) for the same period.  INCLUDING the first two days of 2011, Shadegg had spent $528,066 more than Kirkpatrick on payroll during their entire two-year term, and a quarter of a million dollars more than Mitchell.

This reminds me of an article I wrote two months ago. Rep. Ben Quayle (R-CD3) was written up on another non-partisan website as having the worst attendance record in the House for the firsts couple of months of this term.  While the numbers showed that he had missed an alarming 22% of the House's votes, it turned out that Quayle had missed a Friday-Saturday debate on current year federal spending, and there were lots of votes on amendments to skew the percentage.  We labeled that an "unfairly unfavorable light".  Without more complete information about how much each Representative's office spends of its budget, it is premature to judge about "splurging". 

When we are able to present the amounts that were RETURNED by each Representative to the United States Treasury, we will. 

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Monday, June 6, 2011

MoveOn.org Promotes Online Petition Calling For Sheriff Arpaio To Resign

Arizona's Politics does not generally pay much attention to the vast world of left- and right-wing online petitions.  But, a reader (thanks, m.c.) just forwarded an e-mail he received from the national progressive organization MoveOn.org.  The group apparently e-mailed the Arizona portion of its list about a petition that one of its members had started demanding the resignation of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The two-sentence call to action is as follows:  “Sheriff Joe Arpaio is currently under investigation by the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the State of Arizona for numerous violations, charges of $100 million in illegally misspent funds, abuse of power, and corruption. Sheriff Joe should do the right thing and resign.” (The link to the petition and the supporting text, which also is the text of the e-mail, is below the jump.)

In the less than one hour since receiving m.c.'s e-mail, the number of signers - many appear to be real, full names - has grown from about 400 to about 875.
According to SignOn.org's FAQ's, the site (sponsored by MoveOn.org) "occasionally" chooses to promote a petition by e-mailing alerts to members of their organization.  Apparently, the Sheriff's national profile got MoveOn.org's attention, too, and led them to solicit signatures from their subscribers.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Arizona Congressional Delegation's Payroll Figures; Flake Ramps Up

New staff salary figures for the first quarter of 2011 have been released for the House of Representatives.  Arizona's Politics will look into the data in more detail later, but here are the raw numbers.  Highlights:  Rep. Jeff Flake (R-CD6) is the only one of the five Arizona House members (who are not freshman) to increase his payroll (up 11.5%) from the same period in 2010, and veteran Rep. Ed Pastor (D-CD4) has a lower payroll than two of the three freshman.  Rep. Trent Franks (R-CD2) has the highest payroll and Rep. David Schweikert (R-CD5) has the lowest.

In order, from highest to lowest:
Franks (R-CD2): $275,329 (down about $46,000)
Giffords (D-CD8): $270879 (down about $10,000)
Grijalva (D-CD7): $261,811 (down about $10,000)
Flake (R-CD6): $243,770 (up about $25,000)
Gosar (R-CD1): $189,475
Quayle (R-CD3): $183,481
Pastor (D-CD4): $179,139 (down about $19,000)
Schweikert (R-CD5): $160,739

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WATCH: Sen. McCain On Fox News Sunday; "Greatly Worried" About Bi-Partisan House Support To Get Out Of Afghanistan

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) made his most recent Sunday morning appearance on Fox News Sunday last weekend.  Among other subjects, he acknowledged that he is "greatly worried" that support for U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan may be drying up.

The House of Representatives narrowly defeated an effort to step up the withdrawal of troops.  McCain said the Taliban has to be convinced that it cannot win, in order to bring them to the negotiating table.  The Senator's words echoed his 2007 against-popular-opinion position for a surge of troops in Iraq (which helped bring his 2008 presidential campaign back from the dead).

"And, military, there is significant success on the ground. It's tough and it's hard, as General Petraeus predicted. But I've seen this movie before. It was in 2007 that the same movement to get out of Iraq and we managed to push that back and the surge succeeded."
(The rest of the transcript of the interview can be found here.)

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WATCH: Sarah Palin Hasn't "Really Considered" Running For Arizona Senate Seat

It took a spur-of-the-moment, look-who-is-here-walking-through-our-airport interview to finally find out that Sarah Palin has not even "really considered" running to be John McCain's Arizona Senate mate.  Channel 15 (KNXV ABC15, Phoenix) was set up to film a father-son reunion at Sky Harbor airport Friday afternoon when McCain's former running mate walked by.

Reporter Corey Rangel had the presence of mind to start asking her questions, and got her to acknowledge that a Senate run is not what motivated her purchase of a home here: 
"That's not what my plan is, no.  I haven't really considered that at all.  But, thanks for asking.  You have some great senators here, though. I appreciate both of them."
Daughter Piper provided the excuse to end the interview without answering the question about her presidential aspirations.  And, the question about her temporary escape of what is supposed to be her latest bus tour will have to wait for the next inadvertent interview.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

WATCH: Rep. Trent Franks Testifies About Electromagnetic Pulse Threats

Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R-CD2) has become Congress' expert on the protecting ourselves from the threat of manmade and/or natural electromagnetic pulses (EMPs).  He testified before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power on Wednesday (video below), and made the case for his SHIELD Act (Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage Act).

Although I have not yet had the opportunity to review the video, the case that Franks makes about the need for securing our electric grid from EMPs is encapsulated in this news release from February.  Franks has signed up a bi-partisan group of 24 co-sponsors for the bill, and has even started a Congressional EMP Caucus for like-minded Representatives.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

"Arizona In Judicial Crisis": Politico Reports On The Political Hold-up Contributing To Arizona Judicial Logjam

Arizona's Senators (John McCain and Jon Kyl, both Republicans) and President Obama (Democrat) have been slow to nominate U.S. District Court Judges to fill three vacancies on the Arizona bench.  In researching the earlier report on the Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' measure to improve mobile phone capabilities along the U.S.-Mexico border, I came upon this news story earlier today by Politico.

Finger prints and finger-pointing are all over this report - only Chief Judge Roslyn Silver (judiciously) avoids the political game.  The report is pinned to how the vacancy became worse when Judge John Roll was killed in the January 8 shooting spree that followed the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-CD8).

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WATCH: Giffords Border Security Measure Approved By House Today, Thumbs Down From Fellow AZ Dem Reps. Grijalva and Pastor (updated)

(Updated at 3:10pm to include response from Rep. Grijalva's office.)

In the shadow of the coverage of the Giffords-Kelly post-Shuttle reunion, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' (D-CD8) office is lauding today's passage of a House Amendment based on their request to improve (a small element of) border securityThe vote was 327-93; however, her two Arizona Democratic colleagues are among that minority of nays.

The Amendment, pushed by Texas Republican Ted Poe in the wake of the shooting of southern Arizona rancher Robert Krentz, would move $10 million around in the budget to permit it to be spent on getting rid of mobile phone dead spots on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico.

Rep. Giffords' office has trumpeted this measure, and today posted a video lauding the amendment's passage.  All of Arizona's Republican representatives voted "aye"; only Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-CD7) and Ed Pastor (D-CD4) voted "nay".  A request was forwarded to their offices for an explanation.

Rep. Grijalva's Communications Director, Adam Sarvana, did respond to share his Congressman's issues with the plan.  He indicated that the two main concerns are that the amendment did not provide for a study of the environmental impacts of any cellphone towers built (and mitigation, if necessary), and that there are "lots of reasons" - in the wake of previous technology-related efforts to control the border - to believe that the "territory won’t be hospitable to throwing cell phone towers at the problem."

The House has not yet voted on the overall bill, which is the 2012 appropriations measure for the Department of Homeland Security.

From Giffords' office:

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