There is a distinct possibility that Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump may have engaged in illegal campaign coordination. To find out if he has, a group called the Checks and Balances Project is inquiring into Stump’s text communications with campaigns and the utilities he regulates. As a result, Republicans have launched an attack ad trying to discredit the investigation through good ol’ fashioned shooting the messenger.
Not surprising, Republicans took flak for their recent hit piece, some of which was in The Arizona Republic. In response to the criticism, state GOP Chairman Robert Graham took to these pages to defend his party’s actions saying, “That’s what the Republican Party does for Republican office holders.”
Nowhere in his op-ed did Robert Graham claim that the GOP was defending an innocent man. That absence is conspicuous. The job of a political party is to provide leadership, not a criminal defense in the court of public opinion. As is painfully obvious in Graham’s letter, the GOP’s only interest is to create misdirection.
Graham knows all too well that Arizona Republicans have engaged in a multitude of illegal campaign activities; just ask John Huppenthal and Tom Horne. I’ve said it before, when it comes to the Arizona GOP, party and power is all that matters.
Graham and the Arizona GOP don’t want the public to know about the two investigations looking into potential illegal campaign coordination efforts involving Bob Stump and two new Republican commissioners. These investigations are so serious that Attorney General Mark Brnovich, whose campaign was the recipient of $450,000 in “dark money,” recused himself from his office’s investigation because of a perceived bias and conflict of interest.
If the GOP is serious about government transparency, Graham should tell Stump to come clean. If Bob Stump did nothing wrong, then he has nothing to hide. If he has nothing to hide, then why are he and the ACC falling over themselves trying to conceal public records and information from lawful requests?
Since Graham will do none of this, what, then, does the Arizona GOP have to offer conservative voters who care about ethics? It seems to me that, for anyone who wants more than just political blood sport, the local Republican Party has nothing to offer and certainly has no room to criticize anyone else without sounding like the hypocrites they are.
In Arizona, our bad economy and bad education get spun hard. Our economic gains are in low single digits and we still haven’t recovered from the recession while our neighbors consistently outperform us.
Our failure with education is typically framed within the “shiny ball” context of “number one in school choice.” Never mind that Arizona ranks in the bottom five of every meaningful metric of education performance.
History suggests there is no limit to the number of times Arizona’s Republicans will slap lipstick on a pig with the hope bad policy or results will be forgiven, ignored, or wrongly justified. While a bad economy and poor education performance can be whitewashed, bad ethics and illegal activity is just plain hard to defend, particularly by a party that proclaims family values and honesty in nearly every rallying speech. The names Mecham, Symington, Huppenthal, Horne and Thomas should remind us why a recent Harvard study called Arizona “America’s most corrupt state.”
Republicans can stonewall investigations and then run propaganda in their own defense, but voters are noticing something is wrong. The actions by the Arizona GOP and ACC commissioners are becoming another issue that will be discussed during the 2016 campaign cycle. It is the triumvirate of arrogance: political cronyism, corruption and dark money influence.
They couldn’t be giving Democrats a better gift.
— Andrew Sherwood represents District 26 in the state House of Representatives.