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Attorney General Tom Horne announces redistricting commission investigation

Attorney General Tom Horne (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Attorney General Tom Horne has announced his office has opened an investigation into the Independent Redistricting Commission in response to an investigation by Arizona Capitol Times and its sister publication, Yellow Sheet Report, that uncovered possible violations of the state’s open meeting and procurement laws.

“All that writing you guys did seems to have led to something,” Horne said. “I would say you played a role. We’ve also gotten lots of calls and emails. There’s a general public concern.”

He said his office will immediately begin interviewing IRC commissioners and requesting documents to see if there were any violations of state law, saying the matter was “a high priority.”

Horne noted that the investigation is still in its preliminary stages and that his office has no evidence there was any wrongdoing.

“We don’t’ have any real reason to think anything was done wrong, but there’s a general public concern,” he said. “The public has a right to know if anything was done wrong, and they need to know that someone’s looking into it.”

The investigation raised questions about the process the commission used to hire Strategic Telemetry, a firm with strong ties to Democrats and liberal groups, as its mapping consultant. Although state law bars commissioners from voting or taking polls in closed-door executive sessions, members of the IRC emerged from three-hour executive session in late June and made statements indicating they knew which firm would be hired.

It also appears that some scoring evaluations used to narrow down a list of mapping consultant applicants are missing. In response to a public records request, the IRC provided tally sheets for the four finalists, but did not turn over any documents relating to how the commission selected the finalists from the seven firms that applied. However, the final score sheets from the two Republican commissioners refer to an earlier round of scoring.

The documents that were obtained under public records law showed that three of the commissioners – Democrats Jose Herrera and Linda McNulty and independent Colleen Mathis – all gave Strategic Telemetry perfect scores during the final round of scoring.

Herrera told Arizona Capitol Times he “had to” give the firm a perfect score, even though he actually preferred another applicant, because there were concerns that the Republicans would give the company poor marks because it caters to Democratic candidates and unions.

Sen. Frank Antenori, one of the loudest critics of the IRC process, praised Horne’s decision to open an investigation and said the contract with Strategic Telemetry should be voided.

“They weren’t supposed to do the selection in executive session. That should have been done out in the open,” the Tucson Republican said. “If they want to play games with their scoring, let them do it in the public.”

The IRC’s decision to hire Strategic Telemetry has angered Republicans across the state and has led to calls from some GOP legislators that its chair, Mathis, be removed or that the panel be abolished outright.

Last week, Rep. Terri Proud, R-Tucson, began circulating an online petition aimed at currying public support for a special legislative session in which lawmakers would call a special election later this year to repeal a 2000 ballot measure that created the Independent Redistricting Commission. Under Proud’s proposal, the power to draw political lines for legislative and congressional districts would be returned to the Legislature.

15 comments

  1. Nothing like having the Republican AG politicize a process that was specifically put in place to keep partisan meddling out of it. Republicans will not be satisfied until they have gerrymandered the entire state to ensure the election of right-wing extremist nutjobs (see Antenori, Pearce, Burges, Gould, Allen, Melvin et al) who don’t in any way represent the average Arizona voter.

  2. I might add the lines drawn that elected the legislators Thomas complained about were drawn by the IRC, District 25 after suit by the Democrats was redrawn by the court to make it a more Hispanic population and now 25 is represented by 3 GOP nutjobs.

    It appears sour grapes is in play.

  3. Tom Horne, if there is no wrongdoing on the part of the IRC, why are you doing a “witchhunt” investigation. If the mapping does not go the Republican way are you always going to investigate, even when there is no evidence of wrongdoing? What kind of a shop are you running? We are tired of this type of politics.

  4. Leave it to the Dem’s to do things “Behind our backs” typical Dem. BS !!

  5. Nothing wrong with asking for more transparency. Open meeting law should be followed no matter what. The selection of Strategic Telemetry IS suspicious – how can that firm be unbiased? Their past clientele are all from the Democrat/left…. why?

  6. First off, Jim Small knows that Christian Palmer’s story was ax grinding and that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing. His self congratulatory statement does nothing to help restore the credibility Palmer called into question.

    Horne will not find any evidence of any wrongdoing. Keep an eye on this issue and on this news publication. They can do better than this.

  7. It’s finally at the point where the silent majority middle America will not tolerate corrupt “business as usual” government. The fact that Ms. Mathis falsified her application is cause enough to immediately dismiss her and find the vote to engage Strategic Telemetry null and voic.

  8. “Republicans will not be satisfied until they have gerrymandered the entire state to ensure the election of right-wing extremist nutjobs who don’t in any way represent the average Arizona voter.”

    See Jan Brewer, the current Governor of Arizona. She was re-elected by a margin of 12% (54% to Goddard’s 42%), as reported by the Huffington Post through “a wave of support for the state’s controversial illegal immigration law.”

    See Ken Bennett, the current Secretary of State of Arizona. He was elected by a margin of 16% (58% to Deschene’s 42%).

    See John Huppenthal, the current Superintendent of Arizona. He was elected by a margin of 10% (55% to Kotterman’s 45%).

    See Brenda Burns and Gary Pierce, the two elected State Corporation Commissioners for 2010. They were elected by margins of 9-11% (29% and 28%, respectively, to the 19% and 18% of Bradley and Garcia).

    See John McCain, one of the two current Senators from Arizona. He was re-elected by a margin of 24% (59% to Glassman’s 35%).

    This isn’t counting the two-thirds majorities in both houses of the Arizona State Legislature. These are state-wide elections. As such, no amount of “gerrymandering” has any significant influence on these votes. Seems like the Republicans do a pretty good job of winning the vote of the “average Arizona voter.”

    “Nothing like having the Republican AG politicize a process…”

    Oh, and on this:

    What about the Independent on the commission siding with the Democrats to deny the Republicans their choice of legal counsel?

    What about the 50% of time spend in executive session (where they are allowed to discuss an extremely limited set of topics, and where no votes or polls may be taken)?

    What about the 48 hours and (2 minutes, or 15 seconds) notice that the commissioners routinely give the people of meetings when they are supposed to give at least 48 hours? Cutting it right down to the wire bespeaks misdirection, or a desire to avoid public comment.

    What about the Flagstaff meeting that the commission completely missed?

    This is not an investigation of partisanship; it is an investigation of possible wrongdoing and incompetence. I’ve done my homework on this, but it sounds like you haven’t, “Thomas.”

  9. Why can’t the Republicans in this state stop trying to fix, adjust, investigate, and re-legislate everything in their favor? Leave the re-districting commission alone!

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