2017 law to defund Planned Parenthood backfires

Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization that provides reproductive health services. (Deposit Photo)
Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization that provides reproductive health services. (Deposit Photo)

In 2017, Republican lawmakers sneaked a provision into the state budget designed to strip Planned Parenthood of funding meant to serve low income patients.

The law directed the Arizona Department of Health Services to apply for Title X grant dollars under the federal Public Health Safety Act. State health officials are required to argue that the state “is best suited to receive and distribute” those federal dollars to eligible agencies.

But when the Health Department was finally awarded Title X funding, the agency spent only a fraction of the grant.

DHS was given $906,000 to spend between September 2018 and March 2019.

Of that, they spent just $88,000, leaving $818,000 in unspent federal dollars that should have gone to services for low income patients.

Meanwhile, Arizona Family Health Partnership had no trouble spending its portion of federal dollars. The nonprofit group, which has received most, if not all, of the Title X funds allocated to Arizona since 1983, was awarded $2.72 million during the same seven-month period.

They spent every penny, according to Arizona Family Health Partnership CEO Brenda Thomas.

Arizonans made up about 1 percent of all Title X patients in 2017.

That’s 36,402 people, mostly women, who could otherwise not afford to seek medical care. Of those patients, more than 22,000 were uninsured.

Had Arizona Family Health Partnership received all the Title X grant money, it’s likely that the $818,000 DHS didn’t manage to distribute would have been spent on birth control and other family planning services for low-income Arizonans.

That includes Planned Parenthood, which received a portion of the $2.72 million the nonprofit was awarded in that seven-month period. The remaining dollars went to county health departments and other providers.

Had the state received the full portion of the Title X grant, no dollars would have been distributed to Planned Parenthood.

In 2017, President Trump overruled an Obama administration order that prohibited states from denying Title X funds to certain organizations, as long as they’re capable of providing family planning services.

Republican lawmakers, backed by Cathi Herrod and the Center for Arizona Policy, an influential anti-abortion lobbying group, seized Trump’s order as an opportunity to divert Title X funds away from Planned Parenthood.

In order to do that, the state needed to get its hands on the Title X grant, said Sen. J.D. Mesnard, then speaker of the House of Representatives.

“It’s been no secret that the Legislature, the Republicans here, are not fans of funding the No. 1 abortion provider in the country,” the Chandler Republican said in 2017. “We have, as much as we’ve been able to do, [tried] to divert funds to other health care providers that aren’t abortion providers… This is consistent with that philosophy.”

Herrod said at the time that it would be typical for a state agency to apply for the funding and dismissed the idea that Planned Parenthood relies on the funds.

“Planned Parenthood is not the only game in town, and taxpayers should not be forced to pay for abortions – even indirectly through paying other expenses at abortion clinics,” Herrod said in a 2017 statement. “Planned Parenthood of Arizona currently receives a fraction of Title X funding – losing it would hardly be crippling.”

Planned Parenthood Arizona receives about 18 to 20 percent of their annual revenue from Title X dollars, according to spokeswoman Tayler Tucker. But, Tucker said Planned Parenthood Arizona serves 53 percent of Title X eligible patients.

Both state and federal laws already preclude the use of tax dollars for elective abortions, and no Title X money can be used for abortions either.

Under the 2017 law, the state’s health services agency must distribute the grant money first to state or county-owned health care facilities, then to hospitals and federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, and health care providers that offer required primary health services as listed in federal law.

DHS officials blamed the unspent federal dollars on location and timing.

The Health Department’s share of Title X dollars could only be spent in five rural counties: Mohave, Santa Cruz, Yuma, Apache and Cochise. None of those counties currently have Title X providers, the most obvious candidates for the grant money, said Sheila Sjolander, assistant director of prevention services for DHS.

Sjolander said the state would have had to help start local Title X programs in a short period of time in order to spend the remaining $818,000.

“Title X is a very structured highly regulated program,” Sjolander said. “It makes it really hard to start up a new service in a rural area in a very short period.”

Although there are no current Title X providers in those five counties, county health departments could have applied for the funds as long as they used them for their intended purpose.

None did, according to Sjolander.

Given the short timeframe in which to spend grant dollars, Sjolander said she understands why county health departments didn’t apply for the money.

“I probably wouldn’t have applied either,” Sjolander said.

She said the ability to apply and the capacity to implement the program are two different things.

The $88,000 the department did spend was for staff and development of the program during the seven-month time period, which was unusually short, Sjolander said.

Sjolander said the state is developing a plan to spend the remaining $818,000 on one-time purchases like supplies and training, but that has to be approved by the federal government, and Sjolander said the department is still waiting for that to happen.

Had Arizona Family Health Partnership been awarded the money granted to DHS, it’s likely that at least some patients in those five rural counties would have been served. Thomas said her nonprofit has worked in some of the five counties previously, but none on a consistent year-to-year partnership. Most of the nonprofit’s rural work has been in Mohave County, where it continues to allocate money.

Moving forward, Arizona Family Health Partnership will focus on providing services in counties with unmet needs, Thomas said.

For the next three years, the nonprofit will have plenty of funding to do just that.

Arizona Family Health Partnership was given 100 percent of Arizona’s recent Title X grant funding, while DHS received none. Thomas said the grant, which is $5.2 million per year, is not enough money to fund all the rural counties, but that the nonprofit is working to finalize contracts that would extend services in two counties.

Thomas said the competition for Title X funding has soured her nonprofit’s relationship with DHS. Thomas had previously had conversations about Title X funds with state health officials, and said she later felt duped into helping the state directly compete for grant dollars with her organization.

“It’s harder to be a good partner with people you know you have to compete with,” she said.

While the state’s recent applications for Title X funding have been a motivator for Thomas’ organization, the state’s involvement goes against the spirit of Title X funding as outlined by the federal government in the 1980s, Thomas said.

She said when multiple groups were receiving the grants in 1983, Arizona Family Health Partnership, which was called Arizona Family Planning Council then, was agreed upon by the groups to serve as an “outside government entity” that would distribute the funds.

“They made that decision so it (Title X dollars) couldn’t be politicized,” Thomas said.

As for DHS, Sjolander said state health officials will continue to apply for Title X funding according to state law.

If DHS is awarded funding in the future, officials expect they’ll be given longer than seven months to spend the grant money, enough time to avoid the issues that led to unspent dollars in 2018 and 2019, she added.

Sjolander would not speculate why the department was not granted any of the funds after their most recent application.

Reporter Ben Giles and Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.

A perspective – democracy is still working

Fake Dictionary, definition of the word Democracy.

In the heat of the moment we often lose sight of challenging events of America’s history. I know and appreciate the emotion the attack on our nation’s capital provokes in all of us. That may well be President Trump’s legacy. However, once you step back from all that is going on, this is democracy working. This fight has been going on since the beginning as to who will make the rules, who will control, and who will be in charge. 

Democracy is being challenged every day. Most times it is in little bites like a squabble over charter schools or environmental policy. Other times it can become a national sensation like the nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court justice. Or a peaceful demonstration that turns into a riot such as occurred at the U.S. Capitol.  And of course, our news media will fan the flames of the controversy on both sides. You may not like the smell, the tone or the picture of what has happened, but still, that is democracy at work.

After the War of Independence, our history began with Jefferson v Hamilton as to the form of our government, and the fight continues – John Maynard Keynes v Milton Freedman, WSJ v NY Times, MSNBC v FOX, Harvard v Hillsdale College, left v right, market-based economy v socialism, Democrat v Republican. This fight for control has been going on since Adam and Eve.

We have had these kinds of disruptions in our history before and survived, including the Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Korean conflict, the sad events leading to the civil rights movements, the Great Depression, 9/11, Eugene McCarthy period, Million Man March on Washington, and the political turmoil that took place during the Vietnam War.

Further examples saw the Chicago riots of 1968 with thousands of protesters to the Democratic Convention and more than 48 hours of rioting left 11 Chicago citizens dead, 48 wounded by police gunfire, 90 policemen injured, and 2,150 people arrested.

I was in Los Angeles and witnessed the Rodney King beating, the trial and Watts burning. And this is hardly the first impeachment. Don’t forget, the threat of impeachment drove Richard Nixon from office. President Bill Clinton was impeached. My history is rusty, but democracy has been challenged many, many times and it/we survived. Democracy is a fragile form of government that depends on a balance between competing philosophies. We have watched from the 1960s as our government move toward the left with the creation of programs to take care of people. If this continues, we may wind up with more takers than producers. That is what worries me and should worry you.

Donald Trump is not the messiah. I do not endorse his character or behavior. That said, I am still going to acknowledge what he was able to accomplish in his four years. So did 74,222,958 voters. I am a Republican who believes in conservative principles. Like so many, I am ready to work to restore the party and elect Republican candidates, for the Congress, Senate, and White House in 2024. 

Donald Trump will fade away and the Republican Party will still be around, hopefully smarter and better organized with new, fresh leadership. Let me further suggest that the Republicans should leave Cindy McCain alone. After what Trump said about her husband, she has every right to speak out.

So, don’t get your feathers all ruffled. Speak out, get involved, stand up for what you believe. Democracy is alive and well. A bit bloodied, but still alive.  And we need to keep it that way. That is my take. 

Barry M. Goldwater Jr. is a retired congressman.

Abortion debate brings out lawmakers’ personal experiences, emotions

Sen. Eva Burch, D-Mesa, and Sen. Janae Shamp, R-Surprise, speak after an emotional debate on the Senate floor Feb. 22, 2023, on a proposed law that would require medical professionals to try and save any “infant born alive.” SB1600 passed on a party-line vote of 16-13 and must pass the House and get the approval of the governor, who is expected to veto it. Sen. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, sits in the foreground reading. (Photo by Camryn Sanchez/Arizona Capitol Times)

In a usually contentious forum, lawmakers on Wednesday wept, offered comfort, and spoke about their struggles with ambivalence on abortion as they discussed a proposed law that would require medical professionals to try and save any “infant born alive.” 

And from the debate on the bill two lawmakers, both nurses, found a moment of understanding despite ideological differences. 

Janae Shamp

Sen. Janae Shamp, R-Surprise, is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1600, and she argued on behalf of her bill against Sen. Eva Burch, D-Mesa. 

While they disagree strongly on abortion issues, Burch and Shamp share common ground. After an emotional discussion brought lawmakers to tears, they came together for an embrace after the bill passed the Senate third reading 16-13 on party lines. 

Burch is open about the fact that she’s had miscarriages before, including one since taking office in January. She made the difficult decision to have one pregnancy terminated, although she wanted the baby to be born, after a doctor explained that the pregnancy would end in a miscarriage.  

“If I had a baby that was 18 weeks, 19 weeks, 20 weeks, that I delivered in a hospital, and that baby was born alive, a medical team springing into action to do medical intervention instead of me being allowed to hold my baby when it died, and instead of allowing for comfort care and for all of the other options that are available and appropriate. That’s my concern,” Burch said. 

Eva Burch (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The bill requires any “infant who is born alive” – including one that survives an abortion – to get “medically appropriate and reasonable care” from health professionals. A health care professional who violates the bill “intentionally or knowingly” is guilty of a felony and could have their license revoked. 

The bill also says that no treatment is required if it would only “prolong the act of dying when death is imminent.” 

With that language, Shamp said she believes that doctors wouldn’t be rushing to save non-viable fetuses. Abortions over 15 weeks’ gestation are already illegal in Arizona.  

“As a nurse, I will always stand to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” Shamp, registered nurse, said. 

Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills said he believes the bill would only apply to abortions, but Burch and other Democrats disagreed.  

Although the bill mentions abortion, it’s not specific to that. Burch, an ER nurse, said that miscarriages are common and that the bill would “really only apply” to patients miscarrying. She reminded the chamber that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes the bill. 

Premature babies born under 23 weeks’ gestation are not generally considered viable. Burch called it “inhumane” to provide medical care in those cases.  

“Requiring the medical professional to provide lifesaving and sometimes painful interventions when a life cannot be fixed, it’s not medical, its torture, and its experimentation and my concern is that when a mother losing a pregnancy that this is a very difficult time for a woman,” she said. 

Catherine Miranda

Sen. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix, known as a rare pro-life Democrat, voted against Shamp’s bill.  

Miranda served four years in the House and four years in the Senate with that identifier – but she took the last four years off from the Legislature.  

“I got to reflect and revisit some things. … I realized through that reflection the hypocrisy that I was involved in,” Miranda said on the Senate floor. “What are we doing with that child after it’s born? I didn’t do much. The Senator [Burch] spoke in the Committee of the Whole of her experience, and that’s a real experience, and do you think that if there were tools to save that baby do you think that she wouldn’t have insisted? She’s a mother, we all would have.” 

Sen. Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, said he had concerns with the bill although he is pro-life. 

 He ultimately voted ‘yes,’ but said the language might not yet strike the “correct balance.” 

Bennet also spoke from personal experience. 

Bennett’s daughter has worked as a labor and delivery nurse for 15 years.  

Bennett, elections, residency
Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (Bill Clark/Pool via AP)

“Somehow she has in both places where she’s worked kind of become the nurse that deals with infant demises, and the stories I hear about break my heart,” Bennett said.  

He recalled stories of his daughter taking locks of hair or using a Q-tip to push the hand of a dead fetus into plaster of Paris to make a mold for the grieving family. 

“I know my child would never make a decision in a room with parents … that she didn’t feel was in the best interest of the child and of the family,” he said. 

The conservative Center for Arizona Policy is backing Shamp’s bill and issued a statement after its passage in the Senate, saying the votes tell “everything you need to know about which lawmakers refuse to draw the line before infanticide.” 

Shamp doesn’t depict the issue as one with any gray area either.  

“This isn’t about emotion. This isn’t about reproductive health. This is about life. Spiritual and comfort care is medically appropriate and reasonable care. Every baby that is born alive deserves a chance to live,” she told the chamber, siting the story of a couple whose child was born alive, but died about a week later. The couple believes the child was “slow coded” by doctors who didn’t expect her to live and didn’t do everything possible to save her. 

The bill still must pass the House before it lands on the desk of Gov. Katie Hobbs, an ardent pro-choice advocate who is expected to veto it.  

Burch said there’s still value in holding these floor discussions.  

“Maybe we could at least understand each other, even if we can’t agree a little bit, Burch said. “And I think that’s definitely the right direction, and I know there are plenty on my side of the issue who would say that those conversations are futile, and that we have to call those things out for exactly what they are and all that, but maybe it’s because I’m new, I’m still hopeful.” 

As for Shamp, Burch said as a fellow nurse she agrees with her colleague on as many things as she disagrees with her on.  

Shamp is Trump-endorsed, religious, and conservative. Burch is endorsed by Planned Parenthood, non-religious and liberal.  

She says she gets along with Shamp at the Legislature.  

“Hopefully, we can all try to listen to each other,” Burch said.  

Arizona GOP fundraising drops significantly under Ward

Kelli Ward at a campaign rally in August 2018. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
Kelli Ward at a campaign rally in August 2018. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

The Arizona Democratic Party is out raising the state GOP by a lot.

New campaign finance reports show the Arizona Republican Party collected just $81,320 in the three months ending Sept. 30. By contrast Democrats raked in $347,841.

And this isn’t just a one-time problem.

An analysis by Capitol Media Services finds that Republicans managed just $382,582 for the first nine months of the year, including nearly $180,000 from political action committees. Democrats took in $641,345, with $339,312 from PACs.

“I think it’s too early to declare this some sort of crisis for the Republican Party,” said GOP political strategist Stan Barnes.

And the phenomenon is not new, with an energized Arizona Democratic Party bringing in more cash during the two-year 2018 election cycle than the Republicans, though by nowhere near the current disparity.

“But it’s fair to say the world’s going to be watching whether or not this leadership of the party can raise the kind of money necessary to be relevant,” Barnes said. “And that question still remains.”

That “leadership” issue refers to the decision by precinct committeemen in January to oust party Chairman Jonathan Lines, who had been the establishment favorite, in favor of the far more conservative and overt Trump supporter Kelli Ward.

Ward, a former state senator from Lake Havasu City, had failed in two prior attempts to gain statewide office: a primary challenge to U.S. Sen John McCain in 2016 and, just last year, her bid to become the Republican nominee for Senate in a primary eventually won by Martha McSally.

Political consultant Chuck Coughlin said that Ward’s history as a candidate – and an unsuccessful one at the statewide level – is part of what’s going on now with fundraising.

“It’s a different role,” he said of being the party chief.

“It’s really behind the scenes,” Coughlin said, with the party chair working closely with other elected officials “and being very servant-oriented to their needs and solicitous of their needs and desiring of their support.”

And Ward?

“She seems much more comfortable in front of the scenes,” Coughlin said.

That includes most recently her role in leading some anti-impeachment demonstrations. And Ward has taken a much higher public profile than her predecessors.

“Of course, that doesn’t sit well with major donors,” he said.

Zach Henry, spokesman for Ward and the state party, did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

But the issues for the GOP go beyond who is leading the party. There’s the Trump factor.

“The Donald Trump cloud over the state of Arizona is a consequence,” said Barnes. “And I think one of those consequences is traditional large-gift donors are unsure.”

None of that, he said, means that Trump himself is in danger of losing Arizona.

“But donors and their money are emotional people,” Barnes said. “And the president’s impact on some of those egos is probably meaningful and having an impact on contributions.”

Put another way, Barnes said the history of the GOP is that its fundraising has done better when the party apparatus was controlled by the more “country club establishment wing.”

Former state House Speaker Kirk Adams said that, in some ways, the lag in donations to the state party following Ward’s selection is not a surprise. He said that the ability of the party chair to connect with donors and rake in cash is built on relationships.

`Do you have existing relationships and do you have the ability to make new relationships?” he asked. “It’s a lot of work.

That, however, leaves the question of whether Ward will get to that point.

“I believe she has the ability to build relationships,” said Adams who until last year was chief of staff for Gov. Doug Ducey. “I don’t know that’s she’s doing it yet.”

Barnes thinks she’ll come around.

“It seems to take time for that new chairman to figure out where the love is among the contributors that support that chairman’s point of view or that chairman’s agenda,” he said. “I have long-term confidence that Kelli Ward is going to figure that out.”

So what’s the impact of the party having less money?

“You can’t win elections without money,” said former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. She said it’s critically important now, on the heels of some key Democrat victories in 2018, “to help these candidates take back the seats that we lost last time.”

That includes trying to wrest control of the state’s congressional delegation, with Democrats holding five of the nine House seats, and the fact that the GOP edge in the state House slid by four, to the bare minimum 31-29.

And McSally hopes to hang on to the U.S. Senate seat that used to belong to McCain.

Still, Brewer said any reticence by GOP faithful to give to the party need not be fatal. She said there are other options.

One, said the former governor, is to give directly to the candidates. Brewer said donors also can write checks to the Republican National Committee.

Still, she said, that could be a hardship on some candidates.

“They’ve always counted on the party,” Brewer said.

Coughlin said there already are mechanisms in place to find other ways to help.

He noted that Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers have formed what amounts to a political action committee to solicit donations for GOP legislative candidates. And consultant Nathan Sproul said the Trump re-election campaign is expected to pump major dollars into the state, with dollars also expected to flow in to keep that U.S. Senate seat from falling into Democrat hands as what happened last year with the election of Kyrsten Sinema.

Still, Coughlin said, it would be more efficient to have these kinds of campaigns coordinated by the party, even to the point that it gets a better rate on its postage.

“But if they’re not bringing anything to the table themselves, and particularly because it’s a caustic relationship with the other electeds, then maybe you rethink that.

Arizona Legislature’s budget analysts predict 2018 shortfall

The Arizona Legislature’s budget analysts on Thursday predicted a budget shortfall that could top $100 million in the current and coming year as the impact of corporate tax cuts continues to overwhelm increases in sales, insurance premium and personal income tax collections.

Chief budget analyst Richard Stavneak told economists and state officials who make up the Legislature’s Finance Advisory Committee that the shortfall will hit $104 million. That’s out of an expected $10 billion in spending for the budget year that begins next July 1. A panel of state lawmakers also attended the meeting.

Excluded from that projection is $90 million in current spending that is labeled one-time but appears to be an ongoing commitment by the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey, Stavneak said. That puts the expected shortfall next year close to $200 million if that spending isn’t cut. The revenue picture could also brighten, but signals are mixed, he said.

Phased-in corporate tax cuts enacted under former Gov. Jan Brewer in 2011 have cut more than $600 million in yearly revenue since 2014. Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, said it may be time to revisit the corporate tax cuts and predicted a budget battle next year.

“It’s going to be a free-for-all. We’re back to the cutting, I don’t see any other way,” Shooter said. “It’s going to come down to who’s going to bleed the least, what’s going to be the least painful, I guess.”

Of the corporate tax cuts, Shooter said: “Maybe we should postpone them for a year or two until we get out of the woods.”

That’s unlikely to be a solution that will pass muster, though, because the 2017 tax year completes the four-year phase-in of the tax cuts. On top of that, Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato all but ruled out any change.

“The governor does not believe in raising taxes and I think he’s made that very clear,” Scarpinato said Thursday, noting that Ducey’s priority is ensuring a competitive tax environment so companies expand in the state.

Scarpinato downplayed the analysis presented by Stavneak and his staff at the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, saying a small change in revenue or Medicaid caseloads could make a big difference in the bottom line. But he noted that the governor’s office has been warning for weeks of a tight budget year ahead and pledged that Ducey will present a balanced budget in January that will use any available cash to first boost education spending.

“K-12 education is going to continue to be at the top of the list,” he said.

Overall, state revenues for the 2017 budget year that ended June 30 came in $19 million below forecast, with sales and individual income tax ahead of projections and corporate income tax collections $52 million below forecast. This budget year’s overall revenue projections were revised downward, and corporate income tax collections are predicted to be the lowest since 1993.

Stavneak noted that another key part of state revenue also faces challenges, this time from Washington. The state collects more than $500 million a year in insurance premium taxes, more than 60 percent of it from health insurance providers. If the Trump Administration pushes through major changes in health insurance requirements, that revenue could drop significantly.

Arizona Rep. McSally tells colleagues she’ll run for Senate

In this June 14, 2017 file photo Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta,File)
In this June 14, 2017 file photo Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta,File)

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, Congressional District 2, has told Republican colleagues that she will enter the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by fellow Republican Jeff Flake, a move that puts a mainstream candidate who could win backing from President Donald Trump into the primary race.

McSally hasn’t made a formal announcement of her intention to run in next year’s Republican primary. But U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, Congressional District 6, said Tuesday that she told fellow Arizona GOP members of Congress that she was running.

“She said she’s in for Senate,” Schweikert said of the talk he had with the southern Arizona congresswoman on Monday. “It was one of those just sort of as you’re running around from votes, so there wasn’t much of a conversation on my part.”

McSally’s staff didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

A former Air Force fighter pilot who represents a moderate district, McSally would face off against former state Sen. Kelli Ward and could face other Republicans who have been considering getting into the race.

Ward lost badly in a challenge to Sen. John McCain last year.

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is seeking her party’s nomination along with several lesser-known Democrats.

Flake announced last month that he would not seek re-election. He has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump and acknowledged that he could not win a GOP primary in the current political climate.

Mainstream Republicans in Arizona have been searching for another primary candidate because they believe Ward cannot beat Sinema.

Ward discounts talk that she’s unelectable, saying in a recent interview that people are rallying behind her.

“The people who are dismissive, some of them have sour grapes because they didn’t get in at the right time to be able to build the organization that I’ve built,” she said.

Even ahead of an expected McSally announcement, she was targeted by conservative groups. A group affiliated with former Trump strategist Steve Bannon launched a website last week attacking what it called “McSally’s troubling history of supporting amnesty and being weak on illegal immigration.”

If McSally formally enters the race, it could make it easier for Democrats to retake her seat representing Arizona’s 2nd District.

The seat had been held by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, then won by Democrat Ron Barber when she stepped down in 2012 following an assassination attempt that left her badly injured. McSally defeated Barber by 167 votes when he sought re-election in 2014.

She handily won re-election last year by a 14 percentage point margin.

A House re-election may be tougher next year, with former U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick seeking her party’s nomination.

McSally has threaded a needle in her Tucson-area district, pushing border security and veterans issues while fighting to save the jet she flew in combat, the A-10, from retirement by the Air Force.

In May, she was quoted using an expletive urging fellow Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act in advance of a vote. She took heat back in her district for the vote and has worked since then to moderate her stance.

Arpaio announces run for U.S. Senate

In this Jan. 26, 2016, photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
In this Jan. 26, 2016, photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is running for U.S. Senate, he told the Washington Examiner this morning.

While Arpaio had hinted at a run for months, many political insiders doubted his interest in actually running for the seat currently held by Sen. Jeff Flake, who announced last year that he wouldn’t run again.

Arpaio was first elected as Maricopa County sheriff in 1992 and held the seat until 2016, when he was ousted by Democrat Paul Penzone.

His reign as sheriff was marred by controversies over racial profiling against Latinos. He was convicted of criminal contempt in 2017 for defying court orders for his office to stop detaining people because they were believed to be undocumented. President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio last year.

AZ residents file suit to stop citizenship question on census

With no action by the governor or attorney general, two Arizona residents filed suit Wednesday to block the Census Bureau from adding a citizenship question to the decennial count.

Richard McCune of Nogales and Jose Moreno of Somerton joined with several Maryland residents to ask U.S. District Judge George Hazel to declare that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acted illegally in requiring that all residents answer the question, one that has not been asked since the 1950 census. Attorney Shankar Duraiswamy charges that Ross’ decision is “arbitrary and capricious.” Duraiswamy said all the evidence gathered by the federal agency clearly shows there will be an undercount, not only of those who are not in this country illegally, but also of minority groups who are likely suspicious of government counters.

More to the point, the plaintiffs charge this is a violation of constitutional provision that says the whole purpose of the count is solely to determine the number of people in the country.

Wilbur Ross
Wilbur Ross

But the issue, they say, is more than academic. They cite actual financial and political losses likely to befall Arizona and its residents because the state has a higher percentage of groups that will not respond to census takers.

For example, the lawsuit says if the areas of the state where they live — areas of higher-than-average undocumented and Hispanic population — are undercounted, that will result in less funding for road projects.

It also says Moreno sends his children to public schools in Arizona that receive funding under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a program designed to help schools with the highest percentage of children from low-income families. If area residents are not properly counted, the lawsuit states, the schools will get fewer federal dollars.

Duraiswamy also said that decennial census also is the basis for determining the number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives allocated to each state.

“Based on recent population growth trends, Arizona is likely to gain one congressional seat following the 2020 census,” he argued. “The disproportionate undercount that will result from use of a citizenship question in the 2020 census is expected to deprive Arizona of this additional congressional seat.”

And it’s even more complex than that.

Duraiswamy said even the way Arizona is divided into its 30 legislative and current nine congressional districts is determined by that population count.

If some areas of the state are undercounted, he said, the residents there effectively will have their political strength diluted. That’s because there will be more actual people in the district than in other districts — districts whose representatives will have equal voting rights with the overpopulated districts.

A spokesman for the Department of Commerce declined to comment on the specific claims but said the case is “without merit.”

“We look forward to prevailing in court and continuing to work with the Census Bureau to conduct a complete and accurate 2020 census,” he said.

Central to the case is the decision by Ross to add the question to the “short form” census question, the one that most households get. A smaller group gets a “long form,” with a host of additional questions.

Ross last month decided to add that citizenship question to the short form.

What’s wrong with that on the surface, Duraiswamy said, is the federal agency did not conduct a single test to see how the new question would impact the prime purpose of the census: to count who is in the country.

Duraiswamy said Census Bureau personnel have repeatedly found the question was unnecessary. More to the point, he said, they concluded it “would undermine the accuracy and completeness of the census by causing disproportionate levels of non-participation among certain demographic groups.”

The reason offered for the new question, the lawsuit states, was a request made in December by the Department of Justice which said it needed citizenship data right down to individual census blocks to enforce provisions of the Voting Rights Act designed to protect the rights of minorities.

“In reality, the VRA rationale is a mere pretext,” Duraiswamy wrote, designed at “advancing the Trump administration’s anti-immigration political agenda, heedless of legal requirements.”

As proof, Duraiswamy said that even before Ross announced his decision the Trump reelection campaign sent out a mass email declaring that the president “wants the 2020 United States Census to ask people whether or not they are citizens” and asking “if you are on his side.”

And two days after the announcement, Duraiswamy said there was another email saying that Trump had “mandated” the decision and soliciting political support on that basis.

Duraiswamy acknowledged federal law gives Ross the authority to determine the “form and content” of the census. But he said that discretion “is not unlimited.”

The lawsuit said there is precedent for the claim that the question will result in an undercount.

It cites a statement made by John Keane, who was head of the Census Bureau when the agency considered questions on citizenship and legal status.

Keane said at the time that could cause the government agency to be “perceived as an enforcement agency,” with “a major effect on census coverage.” And Keane said that both undocumented immigrants and legal residents might “misunderstand or mistrust the census and fail or refuse to respond,” resulting in reduced counts for some cities and states.

In fact, Duraiswamy said, even Ross himself found a similar impact, comparing the response rate in 2000 between the short form and the long form which did ask a citizenship question. For noncitizens, Duraiswamy said, the response rate to that long form was 3.3 percent less than that of citizens.

The lawsuit comes a week after a top aide to Gov. Doug Ducey said his boss was not interested in joining a separate lawsuit filed by Democrat officials from other states. Daniel Scarpinato said the governor “supports having statistical information.”

Ryan Anderson, aide to Attorney General Mark Brnovich, said his boss saw the lawsuit and fight as having become “overly politicized.” But Anderson said Brnovich was not pleased that federal officials added yet another question to what the U.S. Constitution says is supposed to be a simple counting of population.

Biden must focus on affordable, reliable electricity

Electricity Pylon against clear sky

Democratic majorities in the U.S.  House and Senate, along with a new Biden administration, promise sweeping policy changes in the United States. This includes campaign pledges to remake America’s electricity mix. But with campaign season over, Democrats should put rhetoric aside and pursue a bipartisan energy plan that supports economic recovery.

During the 2020 campaign, President Biden pledged to “achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.” Doing so would mean essentially — in a mere 14 years — eliminating all of the fossil-fuel power plants currently supplying 63% of America’s electricity needs. It’s just this type of plan that could prove crippling to the U.S. economy — eliminating millions of jobs and driving up energy prices while offering only vague promises on replacing longstanding power generation or managing additional costs.

Both the U.S. and Europe already have some experience with this kind of aggressive transition away from traditional fuels toward more renewable power. And the results are troubling.

For example, California’s shift to a renewable-heavy grid has already yielded some of the nation’s highest electricity prices and serious grid reliability issues. During a heat wave last summer, California suffered rolling blackouts when demand outstripped the state’s available power supply.

Matthew Kandrach
Matthew Kandrach

Texas has experienced a similar shock, now that its power mix increasingly relies on wind generation. The state’s pivot away from traditional base-load power toward weather-dependent electricity has led to worrying shortfalls — including a 2019 summer heat wave when insufficient wind conditions caused electricity prices to spike.

New England has seen price increases, too. Rapidly transitioning away from a balanced electricity mix that once included coal has meant dire fuel security warnings from the region’s grid operator along with electricity prices now running almost twice the national average.

The same problems are cropping up overseas. Germany’s “energiewende” movement toward full-scale wind and solar power has driven German electricity prices to three times the U.S. average.

Japan is also seeing record electricity prices as grid operators warn that available power isn’t keeping up with demand. And even the UK power grid is showing signs of strain. Britain’s grid manager has already issued four warnings this winter, with power demand on the verge of exceeding supply. It’s an alarmingly common occurrence now that the nation has shifted to greater reliance on intermittent wind generation.

The Biden administration is taking office at a time of serious economic disruption from the Covid pandemic. The new president may be eager to roll out a comprehensive energy agenda, but the American people can ill-afford the hefty additional costs right now.

Families depend on reliable, affordable electricity. Yes, there’s great appeal to incorporating more solar and wind power in the nation’s electric grid. But the priority must be to ensure secure, affordable power for 330 million people. It would be a grave mistake to hurriedly abandon the nation’s current, diverse electricity mix in favor of costly power generation that could prove insufficient when it’s needed most.

Matthew Kandrach is president of Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market advocacy organization. 

Blame falls on Fernandez for Dems not taking House

Voters deliver their ballot to a polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Voters deliver their ballot to a polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Editor’s note: This is a developing story that will be updated as more results become available. This story was first published Nov. 3 at 8:45 p.m. This most recent update occurred Nov. 5 at 7:51 p.m.       

House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez looked far and wide for opportunities to knock off Republican incumbents and take control of the state House. But, at least if results as of November 5 hold, Fernandez missed something right under her nose – the vulnerability of her seatmate. 

With an additional 138,000 votes that came in from Maricopa County late November 4, Republicans have solidified their lead over Democratic challengers in most key races in the state House, and in one instance, knocked off a Democratic incumbent: Rep. Gerae Peten, D-Buckeye – Fernandez’s seatmate. If those leads hold, the House will remain in Republican hands with the same slim margin as last session. 

As late at November 5, Democrats were still holding on hope that they’ll take control of the chamber for the first time since the 1960s, especially after suffering under a tantalizingly tenuous 31-29 GOP majority last session. Central to this goal is a handful of Republican-held districts with changing electorates that seem primed to elect new leadership, especially with a highly motivating presidential race at the top of the ballot.

In each, single-shot Democratic candidates with tremendous resources are vying for open seats or challenging potentially weak incumbents. The party is hoping to take this strategy to the bank even in ruby-red districts in Scottsdale and southern Arizona, where not long ago fielding any kind of candidate would have come as a surprise. 

But only in LD20 has the tactic so far borne fruit. In Legislative District 6, Legislative District 11, Legislative District 21, and Legislative District 23 – the rest of the districts that, to varying degrees, made up the party’s map this year – Democrats have fallen behind their Republican opponents.

These results could change, as Maricopa County alone still has to count hundreds of thousands of ballots. In a reversal from previous cycles, many Republicans held onto their ballots until Election Day, creating a phenomenon in which healthy Democratic leads evaporated in the middle of the night as more results poured in. 

But even if Democrats are able to surge from behind in LD6 and LD21, the most they can get in the House is 30 seats, barring a major comeback from Peten. 

Fernandez’s detractors within the caucus – a growing group that has coalesced behind Rep. Diego Espinoza, D-Tolleson – were quick to put the blame at her feet, lamenting that she should have done more to fundraise for Peten, given her influence with the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. 

“I think we gave it 110 percent,” Fernandez said. “Any time I could raise money for Dr. Peten, I did.” 

Ben Scheel, a consultant for Fernandez, pushed back against the criticism, noting that state statute bans direct contributions from one candidate committee to another. 

“Everything that Peten could spend, we matched with slate mail pieces etc.,” he said in a text.

“Fernandez gave $26,000 to ADLCC from her account. She also raised huge amounts for ADLCC working with (Rep. Raquel) Teran.”  


Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake, edged ahead in LD6 with 28% of the vote. Trailing him is former lawmaker Brenda Barton, who is running to solidify Republican control of the northern Arizona district. Latest returns show she has 26% of the vote. Just 267 votes separate her from Democratic Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans, who led in early votes and seemed to be comfortably in second place heading into November 4. In fourth place is Art Babbott, a Coconino County supervisor running as an independent, with 20%.

LD6 is a district of political poles with a large contingent of independents. Flagstaff, a college town, is reliably Democratic, as is Sedona and the parts of the district that intersect with tribal nations. Towns like Payson, where Barton’s from, are fiercely conservative, along with the rural sections and the dozens of little unincorporated settlements, retirement communities and census designated places that fill out LD6’s emptier stretches. 

Blackman’s seatmate, Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, left the Legislature after last session to run for a seat on the Coconino County Board of Supervisors. 

This created an obvious opportunity for the Democratic Party, with Evans as an obvious champion. She led the House in fundraising this cycle, taking in a massive $717,018.25 – a sum eclipsed only by the more than $1 million that Republican LD6 Senate hopeful Wendy Rogers raised, which seems to suggest something about the district’s competitiveness. Evans also benefited from independent expenditure groups, which put enormous amounts into supporting Evans and attacking her opponents.  

Democrats led in early ballot returns for much of last week, but saw that lead close as Election Day neared – an inversion of the trend in previous elections, which saw Democrats take the edge late in the game. Republicans went into November 5 leading by roughly 1,500 ballots in LD6, with 60% turnout.  


Democrat Judy Schwiebert is leading in LD20 House, a widely-watched race that will serve as a test case of the Democratic Party’s suburban strategy. She has 36% of the vote in the West Valley district, three percentage points ahead of the incumbent, Rep. Shawnna Bolick, R-Phoenix. 

Rep. Anthony Kern, the district’s other incumbent, a Republican from Glendale, follows in third place, with 31%. He trails his seatmate by around 1700 votes. Like in LD6, Democrats began early voting with a sizable lead in returns, an advantage that diminished heading into Election Day. 

LD20 is one of two districts that President Donald Trump carried in 2016, but that supported Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema two years later, a sign to Democrats that they might be able to flip a seat in the Legislature. It’s the kind of suburban district that has peeled away from the GOP in recent years, with demographic shifts that narrowed the Republican voter registration advantage to only around 6,000. 

Schwiebert, like Evans, has proven a prodigious fundraiser and a magnet for outside spenders. She’s raised $551,464 as of November 3, surpassing both Bolick and Kern by hundreds of thousands of dollars.  


In LD21, Republican Beverly Pingerelli sits in first, with 35% of the vote. She’s two percentage points ahead of the incumbent Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria, who in turn leads Democratic challenger Kathy Knecht by 1,264 votes. 

LD21 is a district of similar characteristics to the neighboring LD20: It spans the suburban West Valley and has new residents that Democrats hope can give them an edge. 

But the electorate hasn’t shifted to the same degree as LD20, and the Democratic registration disadvantage has remained relatively stable between last election and this one: around 14,000 voters. LD21 is also the home of deep-red retirement communities like Sun City. 

However, unlike LD20, LD21 has an open seat, as Rep. Tony Rivero, R-Peoria, chose not to run for re-election. This could make it possible for Knecht to edge out Pingerelli, even if Payne’s seat remains secure.  Knecht also has a track record in over-performing expectations. In 2018, she was only around 3,500 votes from winning the LD21 Senate race as an independent. 

Knecht, as with most of the other single-shot Democrats running this year, has vastly outraised her opponents – around $300,000 to Payne’s $72,000 and Pingerelli’s $47,594. If either of the Republicans is worried about their chances, that fear isn’t reflected in their fundraising. 


Republican Reps. Bret Roberts and Mark Finchem pulled ahead with a solid lead in LD11. Roberts has 34% of the vote, with Finchem not far behind. Democrat Felipe Perez, a medical doctor, has 32% of the vote. He’s separated from Finchem by around 3,400 votes. 

The map for Democrats has grown as the election cycle has gone on – or so they believe, at least. LD11, an expansive southern Arizona district that has elected some of the House’s most conservative members, is at the heart of that expansion. 

Democrats poured money into the district, especially in the late stages, seeing a potential for gains in the LD11’s increasingly blue Pima County section. Perez raised more money in the third quarter than he did in all of the election cycle previously. 

Independent expenditure groups played an outsized role, as the local party infrastructure is largely focused on more achievable districts. They spent almost $300,000 in Perez’s favor, and have invested around $250,000 to attack Finchem – not huge sums compared to LD6, but for a district where Democratic registration lags by almost 20,000 voters, it’s money that has turned heads southward. 

However, this money doesn’t necessarily translate into results, and the astronomically high turnout rates of southern Arizona retirement communities like SaddleBrooke could secure the Republican position.  


Republican Rep. John Kavanagh and Joseph Chaplik are leading over two-time Democratic challenger Eric Kurland in LD23. Kavanagh has 37% of the vote, leading Chaplik by three points. Kurland is in third with 29%. 

Kurland conceded on Twitter November 5, saying that “all of the fine people from Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, Rio Verde and Fort McDowell deserve nothing but your very best.”

Chaplik threw doors to the district wide open when he defeated Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, in the primary. 

Kurland has aimed his challenge almost solely at Chaplik, needling him for avoiding debates, suing political opponents and making claims of campaign sign vandalism. 

Only Kurland and Chaplik bothered to seriously fundraise, bringing in $266,157.40 and $187,662.76, respectively. (As a note: $80,000 of Chaplik’s haul came in the form of money he loaned his own committee). 

Kurland first ran on his “Time for a Teacher” platform in 2018, when he came within 3 percentage points of unseating Lawrence. 

Two Public Policy Polling surveys showed Kurland as the first pick of a plurality of LD23 voters, though more voters picked Kavanagh as either their first or second preference. 


House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, has a comfortable lead in LD4, but her seatmate is on track to lose. 

Fernandez has 40% of the early votes, while Republican farm business owner Joel John has surged into second, with 31%

He leads incumbent Peten, a Buckeye Democrat, by around two percentage points, or nearly 2,000 votes. 

John represents one of the few serious chances Republicans have of flipping a Democratic district this year. LD4 has conservative hotspots around Buckeye and the neighboring exurbs, as well as among the district’s farming communities.  

In Peten, the GOP saw a Democratic incumbent who generally has not performed as well as Fernandez, her seatmate, and who has yet to face a serious opponent since her appointment in 2017 and first election the following year. 

Republicans have come close in the district before. In 2014, Fernandez defeated Richard Hopkins by fewer than 200 votes. That said, the Democratic registration advantage – which now sits at around 16,000 voters – has grown considerably in the subsequent six years. 

Brnovich asks court to allow state to intervene in immigration matter


Attorney General Mark Brnovich wants to defend a Trump-era rule that was designed to deny “green cards” to those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

The move comes as the Biden administration has decided not to fight a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which found the policies of the former president illegal. That potentially returns the situation to the way it was during the Clinton administration, when the economic tests for admission — and getting what is formally known as a Permanent Resident Card — were much more lax.

“Invalidation of the Public Charge Rule will impose injury on the states,” Brnovich said in asking the appeals court to let him intervene in the case. He estimated the cost of abolishing the 2019 rule at $1 billion a year nationally.

Brnovich, in explaining his move, said there needs to be some review of expanded public assistance benefits at both the state and federal level.

“Our system has been very taxed because of Covid and everything else that’s been going on,” he told Capitol Media Services.

“I think that now is not the right time to increase the amount of people that are getting Medicaid, public assistance benefits,” he said.

“I think that we need to take care of people that are here legally before we start giving benefits to people who just recently arrived here and don’t have legal status,” Brnovich said. “I’m trying to protect Arizona taxpayers.”

The ability of immigrants to support themselves has always been a part of the consideration when determining if someone who enters this country legally should be granted permanent status.

The Trump rule was designed to deny that status to people already here legally if it was determined they are likely to use government programs like food stamps and subsidized housing.

Mark Brnovich
Mark Brnovich

That would be determined on a variety of factors ranging from income to the ability to speak English. And the rule would apply on the basis of the chance of needing benefits at some point in the future, to whether anyone actually is receiving them.

One way of accomplishing that was to use income as a much stronger indicator of whether the applicant is likely to become a burden and, therefore, ineligible.

One section says that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services “will generally consider 250% of the federal poverty guidelines to be a heavily weighted positive factor in the totality of the circumstances.” In essence, that suggests anyone above that level — $66,250 for a family of four — would have little problem qualifying.

At the other end, it says the absolute minimum for even being considered will be in the neighborhood of half that much.

“More specifically, if the alien has an income below that level, it will generally be a heavily weighted negative factor in the totality of the circumstances,” the measure reads.

In a December ruling, the 9th Circuit called the Trump rule “inconsistent with any reasonable interpretation” of the law on immigration.

The judges said the law has always been interpreted to mean long-term dependence on government support and not to encompass the temporary need for non-cash benefits. They also said the change failed to consider the effect on public safety, health and nutrition as well as the burden placed on hospitals and the vaccination rates in the general public.

Then there’s the fact the Trump rule sought to introduce a lack of English proficiency into the decisions “despite the common American experience of children learning English in the public schools and teaching their elders in our urban immigrant communities.”

Finally, the court said the Trump administration “failed to explain its abrupt change in policy” from the 1999 guidelines.

That sent the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, as other appellate courts have issued contrary rulings.

But here’s the thing: The Biden administration has decided not to defend the rule and, as of last week, effectively rescinded it. So Brnovich wants to intervene “to offer a defense of the rule so that its validity can be resolved on the merits, rather than through strategic surrender.”

The attorney general said he sees it from a strictly financial perspective.

He noted the appellate court, in its ruling, acknowledged that the Trump rule predicted a 2.5% decrease in enrollment in federal programs and a corresponding reduction of Medicaid payment nationwide of more than $1 billion.

Then there are other programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and food stamps, both of which require the state to pay at least the administrative costs.

The maneuver puts him at odds with Gov. Doug Ducey.

He criticized the Trump administration in 2019 when it proposed the rule, saying the federal government should focus more on criminal activity, drug cartels and human traffickers.

More to the point, in discussing the issue of who would be able to get permanent resident status under the new rules, the governor said this country needs more than those who already are financially sound.

“It’s not only people at the graduate level and the Ph.D level who we need,” Ducey said. “We also need entry-level workers and people who can work in the service economy.”

The governor said it’s about opportunity.

“I want to see people who will climb the economic ladder,” he said. “I think many of us have a family story similar to that.”

And that, said Ducey at the time, goes back to his preference for a more balanced approach to immigration than what Trump proposed.

“We have the ‘haves’ and the ‘soon-to-haves,’ ” he said. “And both of them a part of proper immigration reform.

The court has not set a date to decide on whether to let Brnovich intercede.

He is not alone, with Republican attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia also signing on to his legal brief.

COMMENTARY: A tale of 2 GOP-controlled legislatures

Charles Nielsen, 58, and his 11-year-old granddaughter, Bailey Nielsen, testify before a House panel at the Idaho Statehouse on February 24, 2020, in Boise, Idaho. Visitors to the Idaho Legislature are allowed to open-carry firearms, one of the differences between Arizona’s Capitol and Idaho’s. (AP Photo/Keith Ridler)
Charles Nielsen, 58, and his 11-year-old granddaughter, Bailey Nielsen, testify before a House panel at the Idaho Statehouse on February 24, 2020, in Boise, Idaho. Visitors to the Idaho Legislature are allowed to open-carry firearms, one of the differences between Arizona’s Capitol and Idaho’s. (AP Photo/Keith Ridler)

One of my longer days on the Arizona House floor this year was May 5, when lawmakers voted to pass two controversial bills that supporters said would ban “critical race theory” in schools and government employee trainings. As I listened to the Democrats and Republicans argue, live tweeting as I did, I wondered if I had even left my previous job of covering the Idaho Legislature, where that session was dragging on as legislators were mired in similar debates. The similarities weren’t lost on my Twitter followers. 

“Although you have moved to Arizona your reporting could still be for Idaho,” one of them said. 

When I first announced I was moving here, some people tried to impress me with how kooky the state’s politics are.  

“So do you have any experience covering the mentally disturbed????” Howie Fischer, an Arizona Capitol reporter for almost 50 years tweeted at me.  

Someone else said: “As the old cliché goes, you can’t spell ‘Crazy’ without AZ. Welcome to the madhouse!”  

I wasn’t that worried. I spent five years covering politics in Idaho. While it doesn’t get as much outside attention as Arizona due to its small size and safe Republican status, Idaho still occasionally draws national attention. My first year there, I covered a special session that had to be called because some legislators voted down a child support bill over fears it could be used to enforce rulings by foreign Shariah law courts. 

The last special session I covered before moving to Arizona, made for a perfect bookend – rowdy opponents of Covid restrictions broke a door to get into the House gallery and shut down committee meetings. Ammon Bundy, the leader of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, who is now running for governor of Idaho, was arrested for trespassing twice. Photos of a dejected, handcuffed Bundy being wheeled to a police cruiser in an office chair were shared by news outlets and meme makers around the world. 

Anti-government activist Ammon Bundy is wheeled from the Idaho Statehouse in Boise, Idaho, on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, following his second arrest for trespassing in two days. Bundy was arrested Tuesday in a committee room and charged with trespassing. (AP Photo/Keith Ridler)
Anti-government activist Ammon Bundy is wheeled from the Idaho Statehouse in Boise, Idaho, on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, following his second arrest for trespassing in two days. Bundy was arrested Tuesday in a committee room and charged with trespassing. (AP Photo/Keith Ridler)

 I quickly noticed some obvious parallels between the politics of my old home and my new one. Both states have business-friendly, center-right governors who sometimes seem out of step with what the Republican Party has become since first the Tea Party and then Donald Trump sought to reshape the meaning of conservatism.  

Republican politics in both states is dominated by the split between an “establishment” faction that espouses a more traditional, Reagan/Bush style of Republicanism and a more hard-right one that is ascendant within the party organizations but doesn’t have as much influence over actual governance. The left has its divides too, although given the Democrats’ minority status in both states the squabbles between Bernie Bros and Blue Dogs don’t have the same impact on policymaking. 

And the legislatures in both states are very polarized. Given Arizona’s status as America’s newest swing state, I expected to see both more Democrats playing to the disaffected Republicans who put Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Biden and Mark Kelly over the top and more Republicans trying to bring those voters back into the flock. Not really, as it turned out.  

Most of the Republicans in the Arizona Legislature are conservative enough to fit right into rural Idaho, and most of the Democrats are pretty progressive. Some of them have publicly split with Arizona’s more moderate senators on issues such as the filibuster and whether to send the National Guard to the border. It makes sense when you think about it. The handful of McCain/Biden voters might decide who wins statewide office in a state that’s split almost 50/50, but most lawmakers represent safe districts where the primary is effectively the election.  

But having so many more Democrats does make a difference. In Idaho, the GOP holds more than 80% of the Legislature’s seats. Bills can and do pass there even when a noticeable minority of Republicans oppose them – neither the moderates nor the libertarian-lite wing have the votes to impose their will on the rest of the caucus.  

In Arizona, Republicans literally cannot lose a single vote if they want to pass a bill without Democratic support. One Republican opposing a controversial bill means it isn’t going to pass. One Republican absence can mean the Legislature cannot conduct business. And the Republicans themselves, having watched their majorities shrink over the past decade, don’t know how much longer they will control things. 

 In this Thursday, June 24, 2021, file photo, Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, speaks during a vote on the Arizona budget at the Capitol.  (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
In this Thursday, June 24, 2021, file photo, Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, speaks during a vote on the Arizona budget at the Capitol. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

“We had supermajorities,” Rep. John Kavanagh reminisced at a caucus meeting in May as he urged his colleagues to pass a flat tax while they still could. “I never thought we’d be here. Next year we may not be in the majority, and then you’ll never get 2.5%.” 

While this fear of a possible impending loss of power may be part of why the GOP rammed through some controversial measures this year while it still could, it also means the Arizona Legislature effectively has “48 governors with veto power,” as Kavanagh also put it.  

A handful of holdouts delayed the budget for a month, ultimately forcing leadership to agree to their condition for supporting the flat tax. Reps. Michelle Udall and Joel John, in particular, exercised this veto repeatedly, blocking a school voucher expansion and forcing, against the will of most of their caucus, a ballot measure that will let voters decide whether undocumented immigrants should be allowed to attend college at in-state tuition rates. 

The razor-thin Republican majorities here do lead to different policy outcomes than in Idaho. Another difference is that the more hardline right wing of the GOP is better organized in Idaho, and more able to wield power as a result. This year’s anti-critical race theory push in Idaho was largely led by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which was attacking pro-diversity efforts for a year before other conservative media and politicians latched onto the cause nationally. 

Perhaps the IFF’s best-known project is the “Freedom Index,” where it ranks lawmakers based on their votes. The handful with consistently high scores tout it as evidence of their conservative bona fides. The more establishment-oriented Republicans, who think of themselves as plenty conservative but who are liberals in disguise in the IFF’s telling because they vote for things like education funding or regulating medical debt collectors, have a different view of it. 

 The foundation doesn’t get everything it wants, but it still has an ability to shape the agenda in Boise that is unmatched by any similar group in Arizona. 

There are, of course, procedural differences between the two legislatures, and little things such as the stricter dress code in Idaho. (Every male lawmaker wears a tie on the floor there.) Perhaps the difference I noticed first was how much more seriously Covid was taken in Arizona. While Gov. Doug Ducey and the Republican House and Senate leadership have certainly gotten plenty of criticism from people who say they didn’t do enough, they were much more restrictive than their counterparts in Idaho, who did almost nothing to require Covid precautions. 

The historic Arizona Capitol building. Arizona legislators have introduced several bills this year to allow the Legislature to have greater control over state agencies and other elected bodies. PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR
The historic Arizona Capitol building.  PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/FLICKR

A mask was practically the equivalent of a Biden-Harris pin in Idaho. The Idaho Legislature had to recess for two weeks in the middle of the session because too many lawmakers had Covid. Covid rules aside, the Idaho Capitol has a freer and more open feel than Arizona’s, which with its security and limited access can feel more like an airport or police station than the people’s house. Public access to the Idaho Capitol is basically unrestricted. There are no security checks when you walk in. You can bring an AR-15 into the House gallery if you want, and some people do. In fact, you see people openly carrying guns in the Idaho Capitol often enough that you don’t really notice it after a while. 

In many ways, our two major political parties are both more different from each other and more ideologically homogenous than ever, coalitions of people who, whatever their disagreements on taxes or government spending, are largely united on cultural and social issues. Their members sometimes seem to exist in different realities, increasingly viewing the other side as enemies whose ability to wield power is an existential threat. This really comes across when you’re watching a vote on, say, a bill relaxing gun laws or making it harder to get an abortion. In either Arizona or Idaho – and most other places for that matter – those votes are almost always party-line. There aren’t many conservative Democrats or liberal Republicans anymore. 

Legislatures reflect the people who elect them. Those people are getting increasingly partisan and preoccupied with national politics and more interested in using the power of the government to win culture war fights. Perhaps the most striking thing I’ve noticed moving from covering Idaho’s Legislature to Arizona’s is how similar they are in this regard, and how what happens at the legislative level here, there and in every other state, reflects the divided nation we’ve become. 

DACA can make the American Dream a reality for thousands


The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments regarding the legality of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, on November 12. Court injunctions have left protections temporarily in place, but should the Supreme Court make a decision terminating the program, which they could as early as January 2020, these protections will be stripped and Dreamers, such as myself, could be subject to deportation. We need our Arizona senators to act now.

Denis Alvarez
Denis Alvarez

For the most part, I know what I want my future to look like. I want to graduate from Arizona State University and become an educator. I want to stay in Arizona and give back to my South Phoenix community. These are end goals that I have made for myself and have been developing from the mentorship of my sisters, parents, and teachers.

At five years old, my family immigrated to Arizona. My parents have always emphasized that education would take me where I want to go. I am fortunate that I was here at the right time and at the right age and to have had a resource for me to attend college. DACA was announced when I was 13. By the time I was 16, the hard work had already been done by those who came before me. I was eligible to have a driver’s license, to work, and to apply to the few DACA eligible programs and scholarships. I didn’t think about what I would do if I didn’t have this. It wasn’t until I was crying in my counselor’s office that morning of September 5th, scared because what I felt so certain about once before, now felt impossible. I didn’t know what DACA being rescinded meant for me, my scholarship, and my ability to study at ASU. I had the opportunity to step on to campus as a student and I wasn’t willing to let it become temporary.

The DACA program has made my ability to achieve the American Dream a reality, but without it, I could be subject to deportation to a country I hardly even know or remember, taking with me all that I’ve worked towards and contribute to my community, family, and Arizona economy.

I am not alone in this. If the Supreme Court terminates DACA protections, the more than 30,000 Arizona DACA recipients like myself will be removed from our studies and places of work, and the state could lose $1.3 billion in annual GDP.

Arizona’s economy and communities throughout this state will be negatively affected if our protections are stripped. I encourage my fellow DACA recipients to renew while they can and ask that Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally work in a bipartisan manner to pass permanent protections for Dreamers through legislation such as the American Dream and Promise Act before it’s too late.

Denis Alvarez is the lead advocacy director for Undocumented Students for Education Equality.

Dem AZ Rep. Sinema ‘seriously considering’ Senate challenge

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema said Friday she is “seriously considering” a run for the Arizona Senate seat held by Republican Jeff Flake.

The three-term congresswoman says she’s heard from many in her state encouraging her to run. Flake narrowly won his first term in 2012 and is among the very few GOP incumbents who might be vulnerable in next year’s midterm elections in a Senate map that favors Republicans.

“I’ve heard from many Arizonans encouraging me to run for the United States Senate. It is something I am seriously considering,” Sinema said. “When I make any decisions, Arizonans will be the first to know.”

Sinema, 41, earned a reputation as a liberal while serving in the Arizona legislature. But she’s sought to cultivate a more moderate profile in the House, joining the Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats. After a relatively narrow win in her first House race in 2012, Sinema has comfortably won re-election and has more than $3 million in campaign cash on hand.

She is the first openly bisexual member of Congress.

Flake has been a high-profile critic of President Donald Trump and has written a book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” that details his unease about Trump and the Republican Party. A major trump donor, Robert Mercer, has donated $300,000 to a super PAC backing Flake’s GOP primary opponent, Kelli Ward.

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Experts: Joe Arpaio’s pardon not likely to be overturned

In this February 4, 2009, file photo, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio orders approximately 200 convicted illegal immigrants handcuffed together and moved into a separate area of Tent City for incarceration until their sentences are served and they are deported to their home countries. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
In this February 4, 2009, file photo, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio orders approximately 200 convicted illegal immigrants handcuffed together and moved into a separate area of Tent City for incarceration until their sentences are served and they are deported to their home countries. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A court hearing Wednesday in Phoenix over former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s pardon isn’t expected to lead a judge to undo his clemency, even though some critics want it declared invalid and for the retired lawman to be sentenced.

Instead, it will likely focus on Arpaio’s bid to throw out a blistering ruling that explains the reasoning behind his guilty verdict and could create an opening for outside legal advocacy groups to try to shape the legal interpretations of presidential pardon powers.

The hearing comes five weeks ago after President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio’s conviction for disobeying a 2011 court order in a racial profiling case to stop his traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. U.S. Judge Susan Bolton, who found Arpaio guilty of the misdemeanor, has said case law suggests a pardon doesn’t erase a recipient’s underlying record of conviction and instead is aimed at lessening or canceling punishment.

Margaret Love, who served as U.S. Pardon Attorney between 1990 and 1997, said she doesn’t expect the pardon to be overturned. “The idea that a court could set aside a pardon is wrongheaded,” Love said.

Three outside legal advocacy groups are requesting that the pardon be declared invalid or unconstitutional, arguing that letting it stand would encourage government officials to flout future court orders on matters involving people’s constitutional rights.

Lawyers who defeated Arpaio in the profiling case say the decision explaining the guilty verdict should remain intact to serve as a rebuke of the sheriff’s actions and as a deterrent to other politicians who might want to disobey a judge’s orders.

And more than 30 Democrats in Congress have asked Bolton to declare the pardon invalid and move forward with sentencing, saying the clemency is an encroachment by Trump on the power and independence of the courts.

Arpaio’s attorneys want the judge to formally dismiss Arpaio’s case and throw out the ruling that explains the guilty verdict. They say their requests are aimed at clearing Arpaio’s name and barring the ruling’s use in future court cases as an example of a prior bad act.

Arpaio attorney Jack Wilenchik said efforts by outside advocacy groups were a politically motivated waste of time. “I think the judge appreciates that she has to honor a pardon,” Wilenchik said.

Daniel Kobil, a professor at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, called the requests to declare the pardon invalid to be “the longest of long shots” and said the courts are reluctant to limit a president’s power to pardon.

Kobil believes the litigation over Arpaio’s pardon centers largely on an effort to push back against the presidential pardon. “This is really about trying to put a marker in for a particularly egregious use of pardon power,” Kobil said. “It’s divisive and questionable as a matter of public policy.”

P.S. Ruckman Jr., who edits a blog about presidential pardons, also believes the litigation is about shaping the courts’ interpretation of the pardon. “Arpaio is just the means to an end,” Ruckman said.

Ruckman said the arguments to overturn Arpaio’s pardon are weak but added that the courts haven’t had a highly relevant pardon case since the early 1970s.

Brad Miller, a Washington lawyer who represents the congressional Democrats who oppose the pardon, said the key question for Bolton to consider is whether the pardon intrudes on the constitutional rights of Latinos in the racial profiling case when he violated the 2011 court order.

“It’s about separation of powers — to make sure there isn’t too much of concentration of powers in the executive branch,” Miller said.

Since the pardon, Arpaio has said he did nothing wrong, criticized Bolton as biased and called the offense behind his conviction a “petty crime.” Arpaio, defeated last year in the same election that sent Trump to the White House, is now talking about getting back into politics.

Founder of Chandler-based opioid company indicted on federal charges

opioid-620A federal grand jury has indicted the founder and chief shareholder of Chandler-based Insys on charges of overly aggressive — and illegal — marketing of its powerful opioid drug which has helped fuel the opioid epidemic.

The criminal case, filed Thursday by federal prosecutors in Massachusetts, claims billionaire John Kapoor, 74, and others at the company conspired to use bribes and kickbacks to get doctors to issue new prescriptions for Subsys, the company’s concentrated form of fentanyl spray, and to get them to increase both the dosage and volume of existing prescriptions.

“The bribes and kickbacks took different forms, including speaker fees and honoraria for marketing events, food and entertainment, administrative support, and fees paid to co-conspirator pharmacies,” the indictment reads.

Kapoor and six former executives and others are also accused of defrauding insurers by setting up a scheme to mislead them about why patients needed the drug. The result was insurers approving payment for purchases in cases where Subsys, which the Food and Drug Administration has approved for cancer patients with “breakthrough pain,” also being prescribed for patients with less serious conditions.

The charges include racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Each charge provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine or $250,000 or twice the amount of each their financial gains.

John Kapoor
John Kapoor

According to the indictment, Kapoor and Michael Babich, who was president and CEO of the company, were dissatisfied with lackluster sales after the drug hit the market in 2012. The result, the legal papers said, was a speaker program where doctors urged others to prescribe the drug.

But what was really happening, according to the indictment, was a system of bribes and kickbacks to convince doctors “to issue more prescriptions for the fentanyl spray outside the usual course of their practice and to change the dosages and volumes prescribed.”

What also happens, the indictment says, is that if doctors who did not write “an appropriate number of prescriptions” found themselves with fewer speaker fees.

Another way the charges say sales were increased was by urging doctors to give initial doses of the drug at far higher levels than even what was recommended in the FDA-approved package insert.

William Weinreb, the acting U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, noted the indictment comes in the midst of a nationwide epidemic of opioid misuse, abuse and overdoses. Just Thursday, President Trump declared a nationwide “public health emergency.”

“Today’s arrest and charges reflect our ongoing efforts to attack the opioid crisis from all angles,” Weinreb said. “We must hold the industry and its leadership accountable, just as we would the cartels or a street-level drug dealer.”

And Phillip Coyne, special agent in charge of the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the indictment charges that the Insys executives “allegely fueled the opioid epidemic by paying doctors to needlessly prescribe an extremely dangerous and addictive form of Fentanyl.” And Coyne, in a prepared statement, said the indictment is designed not only to prosecute and punish the Insys executives but also to send a message to the drug industry.

“Corporate executive intent on illegally driving up profits need to be aware they are not squarely in the  sights of law enforcement,” he said.

Others named in the indictment include Alec Burlakoff who was the company’s vice president of sales, Richard Simon who was national director of sales, Michael Gurry who had been vice president of managed markets, and Sunrise Lee and Joseph Rowan who were regional sales directors.

Kapoor, Gurry and Babich are all listed in documents from the Department of Justice as Scottsdale residents.

The criminal charges closely parallel a civil lawsuit filed against the company in August by Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

That case, playing out in Maricopa County Superior Court, charges that Insys used unfair and deceptive marketing practices designed to increase company profits at the expense of patient safety. The lawsuit says Insys engaged in a nationwide scheme to deceive patients, doctors and insurers about the safety of Subsys.

“Insys lied to insurers, concealed key facts from doctors and patients, and paid doctors sham ‘speaker fees’ in exchange for writing prescriptions, all in order to increase the sales of Subsys, without regard for the health and safety of patients,” Brnovich charged. “Insys made hundreds of millions of dollars from its deceptive scheme, but also put countless patients in harm’s way, exposing them to unacceptable and unnecessary risks of addiction and death.”

Brnovich is using the state’s Consumer Fraud Act to ask a judge to block Insys and its employees from engaging in unfair, deceptive or misleading acts. That allows him to demand the Chandler-based company to both pay restitution to consumers who should never have been prescribed the drug and force the company to surrender all of its profits from what Brnovich says is the company’s illegal practices.

No date has been set for a hearing in that case. An aide to Brnovich said the federal criminal charges should not interfere with the Arizona case.

Freshman year in Congress a whirlwind

It is hard to believe that this time last year I was contemplating if I should run for Congress. After prayerful consideration with my family, I decided to throw my hat in the ring and run. After winning a special primary and general election earlier this year, I was sworn into Congress on May 7, 2018. Since then, I’ve been fighting on behalf of my constituents every day to grow our economy, secure our borders, protect citizens, help veterans and senior citizens, and provide excellent constituent service for Arizonans.

Debbie Lesko
U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko

My first year in Congress has really only been eight months, but I hit the ground running on day one and never stopped. Since I was sworn in, I have one bill getting ready to be signed into law, sponsored two other bills, cosponsored 96 bills, signed over 40 letters to various federal agencies and government officials to help our nation and Arizona, and joined 18 different caucuses. My office has given 87 U.S. Capitol tours to families from our district and handled over 38,000 phone calls, letters, and emails from constituents. What I’m most proud of is that my office has been able to assist hundreds of constituents who needed help with veterans’ issues, Social Security, Medicare, passports, and more.

My national and border security bill, H.R. 6400, passed out of both the House and Senate and is headed to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law. This legislation will help secure our border and nation by protecting our air, land, and sea ports of entry from illegal activity.  I also introduced H.Res. 1026, a resolution recognizing Medicare and Social Security as essential programs that must be protected for current enrollees and strengthened for the future. To improve education in Arizona, I introduced H.R. 6259, the Make Education Local Act, which will get more money back into our classrooms for students and teachers.

Congress passed, and the President signed into law, some very important bills since I came to Congress. I supported the VA MISSION Act, landmark legislation to improve health care for veterans. I also voted to bring 93 additional F-35s to Luke Air Force Base and give our troops the largest pay raise in nine years.

During my trips around the district, I visited 13 schools and toured a number of businesses. I’ve been to every corner of CD8 to meet with constituent groups and community organizations. I even took a trip to Nogales to meet with Customs and Border Protection and see the challenges at Arizona’s southern border first-hand. Often, my days start before the sun rises and end well into the evening, but I enjoy every minute of being your Congresswoman.

I’ve certainly kept busy since day one, but I love the job. Serving the people of CD8 is an honor and a privilege, and I am blessed to have the opportunity. I’m looking forward to two more years of working hard for our district, state, and nation. Thank you for your support, and may God continue to bless you and your family.

Congresswoman Debbie Lesko represents Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District in Congress and is a member of the House Homeland Security and Science, Space and Technology Committees.

GOP county chairs urge Ducey to call special session

Maricopa County elections officials count ballots, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Maricopa County elections officials count ballots, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Top officials of the 15 Republican county committees want a special session — and soon — to order an audit of the machinery used to count ballots.

But only in Maricopa County.

Michael Burke, who heads the Pinal GOP, delivered a letter to the governor Tuesday asking that he call lawmakers back to the Capitol to approve a special one-time law requiring an examination of the software used in machines made by Dominion Voting Systems. Burke said he and his colleagues — the letter was signed on behalf of 14 county chairs and one vice-chair — do not believe that Democrat Joe Biden could have picked up so many more new votes in 2020 in the state’s largest county than Hillary Clinton got four years ago absent a software problem.

But the letter does not call for the same kind of examination of the tabulating machines in other counties where the results for the president were much more favorable. This, Burke said, needs to be focused on Maricopa County.

And Donna Tanzi, who chairs the Yavapai County Republican Committee, said things ran smoothly in her county. It is only in Maricopa, which gave Biden about 45,100 more votes than Trump out of nearly 2.1 million cast, that the GOP officials say there needs to be a closer look.

Those Maricopa votes are crucial: Biden won Arizona by fewer than 11,000 votes.

Burke said he hand delivered the letter Tuesday afternoon to the governor’s office. An aide to the governor said the letter has not yet been reviewed.

Maricopa County elections officials count ballots behind boxes of counted ballots, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Maricopa County elections officials count ballots behind boxes of counted ballots, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Senate President Karen Fann said she has her own questions about election procedures. And, going forward, she is looking at examining state election laws and procedures to ensure there are sufficient safeguards and that voters have “100% confidence” in the system.

But Fann told Capitol Media Services there is virtually no chance that what the party officials want will happen, even if the governor agrees to go along. She said there simply isn’t the time to enact a special law, have it take effect and examine the software before the votes cast this year need to be formally canvassed, something that has to occur no later than Dec. 3.

“I realize this is a Hail Mary,” Burke said. But he said he remains convinced that the legislature is constitutionally empowered to do what it wants on presidential elections.

What the request comes down to, the party chairs told Capitol Media Services, is that they’ve heard things.

“We’re hearing stories about Dominion software changing votes, doing all kinds of unfortunate things,” Burke said.

“I don’t know if that’s true or not,”  he conceded. “But let’s find out.”

Tanzi said her particular concern is the Dominion software, “or any software for that matter, and how is that being handled.”

There already are auditing procedures that were established and approved by the Republican-controlled legislature. These involve taking random samples from precincts chosen by officials of the two major parties and doing a hand count, comparing what humans find with what the machine tallied.

If the results fall within the margin of error, that’s the end of it.

But if not, the size of the sample continues to increase until the numbers correspond, potentially getting to a point — which has never happened — where all the ballots are reviewed by hand and that becomes the official count.

In fact, if that were to occur, there already is a requirement in the law for the secretary of state to furnish the “source code” used in the machines to a superior court judge. And the judge then is required to appoint a special master to review the software.

The GOP county chairs, however, want the legislature to short-circuit all of those existing laws and order a special audit this year of the Dominion software.

“We just want to have somebody who is an expert at IT security take a look at that software and make sure it’s fine,” said Burke who put the letter together.

Tanzi, for her part, said she’s not convinced the hand count already authorized in law will answer all the questions.

Maricopa County elections officials count ballots, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Maricopa County elections officials count ballots, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, at the Maricopa County Recorders Office in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

“That should catch a lot of things,” she said. But Tanzi said pulling out a sample “could mean there’s a whole section that is missed.”

For his part, Russ Jones who chairs the Yuma GOP, said he has yet to see any hard evidence that the Dominion software, which is not used in his county, has caused problems. But Jones said he supported the call for the special audit “so we can satisfy, once and for all in Arizona, that the issues that apparently exist or may exist elsewhere did not occur in Arizona.”

“It’s a matter of voter confidence in our systems,” he said.

And Elizabeth Speck, the former chair and now secretary of the Greenlee GOP, had her own concerns.

“I’ve always been very skeptical of electronic voting machines,” she said. Speck said she worries about software and hardware that essentially sits unnoticed in equipment until activated.

“The legislature has the ability to interview witnesses, review complaints, and most importantly, engage the services of an independent professional IT security firm, who have the expertise to conduct a forensic audit of the suspect software, determine if irregularities exist and provide piece (sic) of mind to the voters of this state,” the letter to Ducey reads “We must begin this process immediately before the election is certified.”

What the county chairs want goes beyond what even is being sought by the Arizona Republican Party.

It’s lawsuit, playing out in Maricopa County Superior Court, is demanding that hand-count review be done on a precinct-by-precinct basis even though state law specifically allows counties to set up vote centers rather than force people to cast a ballot at a specific neighborhood location. A judge will hear arguments on that Wednesday.

Ducey, who has remained silent on the entire election and the results, is a critical player in all of this because he can bring lawmakers to the Capitol on any issue he wants. It would take a two-thirds vote for legislators to call themselves into special session, something that would require Democrat support.

But Fann said even if the Republicans who control the House and Senate did marshal the votes for the audit, they lack the two-thirds vote to have it take effect immediately. And the Arizona Constitution says laws cannot take effect until at least 90 days after the end of the session.

That means not just blowing by the canvass schedule but also the Dec. 14 date for the state’s 11 electors to cast their votes — and even the Jan. 20 date for the presidential inauguration.


Editor’s note: A previous version of this story reported that David Eppihimer, chair of the Pima County Republican committee said he never signed the letter, but he later retracted the statement. 



Graham, DeWit to meet on who will challenge Flake in GOP primary


Former Arizona GOP chairman Robert Graham and State Treasurer Jeff DeWit will meet this week to figure out who should run against U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake in the Republican primary, Graham told the Arizona Capitol Times.

Graham said he and DeWit will not run against each other, and they’re trying to figure out who would make the best Flake challenger, whether it be him, DeWit or another person.

“Now we’re going to sit down and really work through [it]. The president encouraged us to talk and figure it out,” Graham said.

As reported last week by Politico, when President Donald Trump visited Arizona for a campaign rally on August 22, he talked with Graham and DeWit backstage and stressed the need for a strong challenger to Flake.

Robert Graham
Robert Graham

Graham said he expects some sort of decision on who will run against Flake in the next week or two.

DeWit said he couldn’t comment on meeting with Graham or if he’s prepared to run for Senate.

But earlier last week, he said he had no plans to enter the Senate race and has “never indicated to the contrary.”

Flake’s campaign did not want to comment on the potential for another GOP challenger.

Recent poll numbers showing Flake in a weak position have made people eager to find another GOP option, Graham said.

The poll from Phoenix consulting firm HighGround put Flake down by double digits to primary challenger Kelli Ward, a former state senator, who leads 42.5 to 28.2 percent.

Jeff DeWit

In the general election, the poll shows Flake losing to U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who is considering challenging Flake for his U.S. Senate seat. Sinema leads Flake 40.5 to 32.5 percent, with 27 percent saying they don’t know who they would vote for or who refused to answer.

Still, while Ward, Flake’s only Republican challenger at this point, may be getting more exposure and attention at the national level, people in Arizona are “still gun shy on her capacity to win,” Graham said.

Trump and Flake have clashed repeatedly, and the White House has met with Graham, DeWit and Ward to try to find someone to oust the state’s junior senator.

Flake recently wrote a book, Conscience of a Conservative, detailing his problems with Trump’s politics, nativism and isolationism. Flake has defended the North American Free Trade Agreement, a frequent punching bag for Trump.

At last week’s rally, Trump didn’t mention Flake by name, but referred to him indirectly as weak on borders and crime.

“Nobody knows who the hell he is,” Trump said about Flake during the rally.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., jokes during the the National Press Club’s Centennial Spelling Bee, which pitted lawmakers against journalists. (Cronkite News Service by Brandon Brown)
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., jokes during the the National Press Club’s Centennial Spelling Bee, which pitted lawmakers against journalists. (Cronkite News Service by Brandon Brown)

He followed it up with a tweet the next day, mentioning again that Flake was weak on borders and crime.

Graham said the plan is to find whomever would be most effective at advancing Trump’s agenda in the Senate.

He said he’s prepared to run if it’s the smartest decision both politically and personally, as he has six kids, five of whom still live at home.

“It’s a big consideration, as you can imagine,” he said.

But the conversation is no longer just about Flake not having a good relationship with Trump, Graham said – it’s about keeping the Senate seat in GOP hands.

U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, long rumored to be eying a run for Senate, is expected by many to enter the race. Sinema has fashioned herself a pragmatic centrist in Congress, and she’s known as a impressive fundraiser.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema

“I think all of us feel that Kyrsten Sinema is a smart, effective candidate, and she can fundraise and would be a real, viable opponent,” Graham said, making the need for a strong Republican candidate in the general all the more important if she runs.

Graham said the fact Trump didn’t mention Flake’s name and really hasn’t talked about Flake’s book, seen as a broadside against Trumpism, signals how focused the Trump camp is on finding the best candidate to run against him.

“The president has exercised some remarkable restraint on commenting about the book, even giving it the time of day,” Graham said.

And then there’s Ward, who ran against McCain last cycle and is now running against Flake.

“Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!” Trump tweeted five days before the Phoenix rally, kicking off rumors he may endorse her when he came to town.

Kelli Ward
Kelli Ward

But Trump didn’t mention Ward in his remarks at the Phoenix rally. Graham said it was clear that wouldn’t happen. Ward was told by organizers of the rally that she wasn’t allowed in the VIP section at the event, and her signs weren’t allowed into the venue, Graham noted. He said the organizers were trying to send signals to her without being too aggressive that the president would not be endorsing her.

“(Trump) said to my face, said to Jeff’s face (the tweet) wasn’t an endorsement. It was more of a little bit of a grind on Jeff Flake,” Graham said.

DeWit, an organizer of the rally, questioned why anyone would expect an unendorsed candidate to be allowed to campaign at a Trump event, when it’s the Trump campaign that paid to rent out the Phoenix Convention Center.

“If she wanted to have (a) Kelli Ward rally, why doesn’t she rent out the arena and have one instead of handing out her T-shirts at the door to someone else’s rally and begging random people to wear them inside?” DeWit said via text message last week.

Ward’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment about the signs not being allowed into the rally last week. Her campaign did not immediately return calls or emails for comment on Graham and DeWit’s plans to discuss entering the race.

Republican donors are also looking for a viable GOP challenger to Flake, Graham said. Some donors were upset with Flake’s behavior toward Trump during the general election last year, and they’re even more confused now by his political strategy for his own re-election, Graham said.

Graham said a Republican donor called him – he wouldn’t say who the person was – and laid out the situation very frankly.

He said the contributor told him, “If you or DeWit don’t run, then you’re responsible for giving up our Senate seat.”

Don Tapia, a major GOP donor in the state, told Politico earlier this week that he didn’t know who he would back in the Republican primary.

“I will not support Kelli Ward,” Tapia told Politico. “You can quote me on that.”

Jeremy Duda contributed to this report.

Health care worker’s plea: Vote, make sure voice is heard

Vote in a political campaign concept with a graphic element icon of voting as a jigsaw puzzle that is complete representing democratic elections organisation and campaigning for government positions of power between conservatives and liberals.

Skipping family gatherings. Skipping necessary doctor’s appointments. Missing out on time with friends. And the death of loved ones. At this point, COVID-19 has affected every single American in one way or another.

As a frontline health care worker, I have seen firsthand the damage this pandemic has caused. While the death toll has surpassed 225,000 in America alone and hospitalizations begin to rise again, I have gone to work and risked my life to save the lives of others.

It did not have to be this way. And that’s why I’m urging everyone to join me in voting for a change of leadership so we can begin to contain this devastating pandemic.

The President and his Administration knew – and most of us in the health care profession knew – in January that there was a serious virus that was already in the U.S. that had the potential to wreak havoc on our everyday life. By March, we knew this was not the typical flu, but something that would spread at a much higher rate if we did not take the precautions necessary to mitigate its impact.

States began to close themselves because there was no official mandate from the federal government. President Trump repeatedly said the virus would go away. Meanwhile, hospital beds filled up and our access to personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and gowns began to disappear thanks to a lack of planning by the federal government—putting health care workers at even greater risk.

Kerrie Poe
Kerrie Poe

In past circumstances, we have relied on science to guide us through these difficult illnesses. Contact tracing, testing, and wearing a facemask are essential. Yet, despite plenty of warning and ample time to put these measures into place, our leadership chose to limit these proactive measures, because as President Trump phrased it in a June 15 tweet, testing “makes us look bad.” That was several months into the pandemic. After having tested positive and being hospitalized himself, the President still mocks the usage of masks.

We need to once again allow science to guide us. President Trump has failed to protect the American people through his actions, and there are hundreds of thousands of grieving families today because of his Administration’s inaction.

There are also millions of Americans out of work, families facing childcare crises, evictions, health care workers like myself working hard every day to simply keep victims of this pandemic alive, and no real end in sight as we enter the winter season where things are projected to get much worse.

Health care workers are not the only ones who have a say in the current state of affairs—everyone should be casting their vote.

But seeing firsthand the effects of this pandemic while watching our President not only do nothing, but in fact make matters worse, is as much a call to action as possible. This year, more than ever, health care workers must let their voice be heard and cast a vote. COVID-19 has ruined the lives of far too many families, leading to heartbreak, frustration, anger, and fear. Just like wearing a facemask, do the responsible thing, and do your civic duty. A vote on Tuesday is a vote to end this pandemic.

Kerri Poe is a registered nurse who lives in Phoenix. 

Kennedy’s lead grows in Corp Comm race

Sandra Kennedy
Sandra Kennedy

The latest votes counted appear to put Democrat Sandra Kennedy close to being able to reclaim a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission.

But there still are enough uncounted ballots out there to leave the race for secretary of state up in the air for another day — if not longer.

New figures from the Secretary of State’s Office show Kennedy has so far tallied 1,004,281 votes. That puts her more than 10,000 votes ahead of incumbent Republican Justin Olson.

But the key here is that there are two seats up for grabs. And even if there is a late burst of votes for Olson, appointed last year after Doug Little quit to take a job in the Trump administration, Kennedy, who served on the commission from 2009 through 2012, still has about 14,500 votes more than Rodney Glassman, the other Republican on the ticket.

Glassman, a Phoenix attorney, could still overtake Olson to get a seat on the panel that regulates utility rates. But unless both he and Olson also overtake Kennedy, she will get one of the two open spots.

Kiana Sears, the other Democrat in the race, is out of the running with 50,000 fewer votes than even Glassman.

In the race for secretary of state, Democrat Katie Hobbs is maintaining her lead over Republican Steve Gaynor — but just barely.

The new returns give her an edge of 4,957  votes. That difference actually about 500 votes less than the margin after counting ended on Monday.

There are still a lot of early ballots to be counted. Maricopa County alone has 126,000 to be processed.

But the trend of those ballots has generally been in favor of the Democrats, with Kennedy outpolling Olson, a former state representative lawmaker from Mesa, by nearly 8,000 votes.

And Hobbs, a state senator from Phoenix, has 12,000 more votes from Maricopa County than businessman Gaynor.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said those seeking a quick end to the counting should not hold their breath.

“Some of the ballots we are currently processing require extra attention and research,” he said in a prepared statement. “We are taking the time needed to make sure every voter’s voice is heard.”

Spokeswoman Murphy Hebert said many of these are “conditional provisional” ballots — those that were cast at polling places but people did not bring the proper identification. They are, however, permitted to have the ballots counted if they show up at the recorder’s office after Election Day.

Others include the early ballots where signatures on the envelopes do not match what is on file. A court order Friday confirmed that counties have through the end of the day Wednesday to contact voters to determine if they did, in fact, sign the envelopes.

And then there are other issues, like stray marks on ballots or someone voting for more than one person for an office. These ballots are kicked out of the counting machines and review boards need to check them to determine a voter’s intent before crafting a new — and clean — ballot.


Lawmakers look to 2020 as ink dries on this year’s bills

In this April 5, 2019, file photo, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle sits near the wall as President Donald Trump visits a new section of the border wall with Mexico in El Centro, Calif. A federal judge has denied a request by the U.S. House of Representatives to prevent President Donald Trump from tapping Defense Department money for a border wall with Mexico. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
In this April 5, 2019, file photo, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection vehicle sits near the wall as President Donald Trump visits a new section of the border wall with Mexico in El Centro, Calif.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

The legislative session wasn’t even done before lawmakers started announcing bills they planned to introduce next session.

In addition to pledging to continue working on major pieces of legislation that didn’t pass this year, lawmakers promised to tackle a host of new items, from making it easier to build a border wall to banning corporal punishment.

Here’s a look at some of the bills legislators have already promised to introduce:


Shortly after the Legislature adjourned, a GoFundMe-account-turned-nonprofit organization that’s trying to build sections of a fence along the U.S.- Mexico border hit a bureaucratic wall in New Mexico. Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, said he was troubled by headlines about the city of Sunland Park, New Mexico, forcing the organization to halt construction because it didn’t have the necessary city permits.

Construction has since resumed on the New Mexico wall, and no one’s yet trying to build a wall on private border property in Arizona — where most border land is owned by state, federal or tribal governments.

But Petersen wants to make sure any construction in Arizona could move forward unimpeded by local zoning rules. He announced on Twitter that he plans to introduce a bill next session to make sure the organization, We Build the Wall, can construct one here.

“Hard to imagine government stopping people who simply want to be safe in their persons and property,” he told the Arizona Capitol Times in a text message.

Petersen added that he’s still working on language for the bill, but he believes the best path forward is a zoning pre-emption bill or a state general permit for private border wall construction.


Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Window Rock, announced on Twitter that she’ll be an Arizona sponsor of the Veterans Bill of Rights, a piece of model legislation drafted by the liberal advocacy organization Future Now for lawmakers across the country to introduce in 2020.

The model bill calls for awarding college credit for relevant military experience, giving veterans more flexibility in registering for and attending college and expanding their access to health care.

Peshlakai, an Army veteran who served during the Persian Gulf War, said in a statement she plans to work throughout the interim to modify the bill so it meets the needs of Arizona’s veterans.

“By participating in this national effort, I hope to show other states how Arizona delivers on the promise to give veterans and their families the very best,” she said.


This year’s session ended with a hard-fought battle over expanding opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Sens. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, and Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, secured a permanent 10-year increase in the age by which abuse survivors must file suit and a temporary window for older survivors to sue.

Before the ink of Gov. Doug Ducey’s signature was dry, Boyer and Carter were already thinking about what could be done next session to further help survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Creating a permanent window for older survivors to sue is a “no-brainer,” Boyer said.

Other revisions to law would result from a statewide task force Ducey plans to work on childhood sexual abuse.

“The good news is that there’s enough time for the task force to do its work to come up with legislative proposals that we can look at next year, and that is well before the window expires,” Carter said.


The April death of former state Sen. Stan Furman reminded his former colleague, Sen. Lela Alston, of a piece of unfinished business Furman left behind when his Senate service ended in 1995. Furman tried unsuccessfully to ban corporal punishment in schools, and that’s a ban Alston, D-Phoenix, said she’ll bring up next year.

Arizona is one of 15 states, almost entirely in the South, that still explicitly permits teachers to strike students. But actual cases of corporal punishment are rare. In the 2013-14 academic year, the most recent year for which the U.S. Department of Education has data, Arizona schools reported hitting six students.

Still, Alston said she wanted to get the law on the books in Furman’s memory.

“My pledge to Stan and the family is to introduce that bill next year and hopefully we’ll do away with corporal punishment in schools,” she said.

Newcomer Burch maintains lead over Scantlebury in LD9 Senate race but gap narrows

From left are Eva Burch and Robert Scantlebury, competitors in the Legislative District 9 Senate race. Burch, a political newcomer, is maintaining her lead over Scantlebury, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, but the gap has narrowed. 

Political newcomer Eva Burch is maintaining her lead over Trump-endorsed opponent Robert Scantlebury in the Legislative District 9 Senate race, but the gap has narrowed.

As of 10:44 a.m. on Wednesday, Burch was ahead with 53.1% of the votes. Scantlebury was behind with 46.9%.

Burch was ahead with 59.7% of the vote as of 8:45 p.m. on election night. Scantlebury had 40.3% of the vote.

“I’m incredibly proud of the hard work we’ve put into this campaign,” Burch said on Tuesday night. “I am cautiously optimistic that we’re going to pull through. I think in either event we’re going to continue to do the hard to work make sure that our democracy works for everyone and that win or lose we are available to the people of this district to do what needs to be done to move us forward.”

The Mesa district leaned slightly Democratic in the last election and was labeled one of the most competitive races in the state after redistricting.

This is both candidates’ first time running for a legislative seat, and both say they want to listen to their constituents more than past lawmakers have.

Former President Donald Trump endorsed Scantlebury on July 7 and wrote that his primary opponent, Sen. Tyler Pace, R-Mesa, was a “RINO like Jeff ‘Flakey’ Flake.” Scantlebury beat Pace handily in the primary and went on to face Burch.

Trump made several endorsements at the state legislative level in competitive races. Pace got heat from Republicans in the last session for not supporting a bill to ban gender-affirming healthcare for transgender minors. Pace also never claimed that the 2020 election was stolen, which is a prerequisite for Trump-endorsees.

Burch received 13,300 primary votes, Scantlebury received 12,308 and incumbent Pace received 6,081. Burch was unopposed in the primary election.

Pace was one of the more moderate Republicans in the Senate. He supported the legislature’s 15-week abortion ban but said he wouldn’t support a 6-week ban. His loss in the primary was a shock to several politicos, including Burch.

In 2020, 51.3% of voters supported Democrats and 48.7% supported Republicans, but things have shifted.

As of Oct. 29, Scantlebury raised $115,214 and benefitted from $286,053 in expenditures. Opponents spent $159,123 against him.

Burch raised $295,885. Supporters spent $330,900 in expenditures for Burch and opponents spent $145,597 against her in expenditures.

Burch is a registered nurse and made healthcare a focus in her campaign. This includes the abortion issue. Burch is vocal about her support for abortion rights.

Scantlebury served as a police officer for 25 years in Mesa. He retired from the police force and manages his own small business Little American Tractor Service.

The conservative Republican Legislative Victory Fund set up a website against Burch accusing her of wanting to defund the police. She said that this is a lie.

“I know that people are hearing and seeing things about my policy positions and my intentions that are untrue, but I’m not overly concerned about it primarily because I’ve spent so much time in the community,” Burch said on Nov. 2.

Updates: This story has been revised to include updated numbers.

Patriot Movement members sue Katie Hobbs over Ducey tweet

Members of the Patriot Movement AZ are suing Secretary of State candidate Katie Hobbs over a six-month-old tweet in which she criticized Gov. Doug Ducey for posing with the controversial activist group.

Four Patriot Movement members allege Hobbs intentionally sought to politically cripple Ducey and smear their group when she publicly shamed the governor for posing with the far-right activists at an April event in Mohave County.

A Democrat, Hobbs is running for secretary of state against Republican Steve Gaynor, whom the Patriot Movement recently endorsed.

Ducey was widely criticized for taking a photo with the Patriot Movement members. At the time, the governor’s staffers dismissed the photo, saying Ducey did not know who the group was.

Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix) (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix) (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

And recently, Gaynor faced backlash for posing for a photo with a male member of the Patriot Movement. A representative for Gaynor’s campaign said that Gaynor did not know who the man was when the picture was taken and he did not notice the man’s T-shirt, which touted the Patriot Movement.

Hobbs tweeted a photo on April 29 of the governor posing with members of the Patriot Movement with the caption, “Governor Ducey I hope you realize this woman is flashing a white supremacist sign. These are part of the group that shows up at the Capitol w/ AR-15’s and harass elementary school children and democratic staff, calling them illegals. You must denounce.”

Lesa Antone, the group’s founder and the woman who made the hand sign in the photo, is one of the four people who brought the libel and defamation lawsuit against Hobbs.The symbol has been called a sign of white supremacy, but that claim has largely been debunked.

The lawsuit alleges Hobbs tagged an Arizona Republic reporter in her tweet, which the activists blame for the onslaught of print and broadcast media coverage of the photo.

Hobbs’ campaign declined to comment on the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, those in the photograph, claim they have faced harassment, death threats, loss of employment, loss of wages, emotional stress and more due to media coverage of the photo.

In court documents, Antone said she and her family faced death threats and had to install a security system because strangers would knock on her door and call her a white supremacist.

The activists also make claims in the lawsuit saying that they have not carried AR-15 guns to the Capitol, nor have they harassed elementary school children or called Democratic staffers at the Capitol “illegal.”

On Jan. 25, the group of President Donald Trump supporters singled out dark-skinned lawmakers, legislative staffers and children at the Capitol as they protested congressional efforts to pass immigration reform, according to staffers of the Arizona Legislature and two Democratic legislators.

They called dark-skinned people “illegal” and told them to “go home,” according to several witnesses.

At the time, members of the group — including two women who filed the lawsuit against Hobbs — vehemently denied the accusations, saying they were protesting activists from Living United for Change in Arizona.

Videos of the protest posted on YouTube and other social media outlets showed protesters calling various people at the Capitol that day “illegal,” with one protestor yelling at a young man and a LUCHA member to “get legal or get out.”

Members of the group have also carried high-powered rifles around the Capitol on numerous occasions, including during the Red for Ed protests in the spring.

The activists, who filed the lawsuit without the help of an attorney, are seeking $40,000 in damages.

A local First Amendment attorney said the plaintiffs have a high bar to clear to prove libel.

Attorney David Bodney, who hadn’t read the lawsuit and spoke broadly about the standards for libel, said that there’s a chance the Patriot Movement plaintiffs could be considered “limited purpose” public figures for their role in protests at the Arizona Capitol.

If so, they would have to prove actual malice on Hobbs’ part, with clear and convincing evidence, he said. And even if Hobbs’ tweet wasn’t 100 percent true, “substantial truth” would be a valid defense, Bodney said.

While Harrison, Antone and their fellow plaintiffs filed the case without representation, Bodney noted such lawsuits are becoming far more common.

“We’re seeing more and more libel lawsuits brought by pro se or pro per plaintiffs, and they can inflict high costs on individuals, as well as news organizations, to secure dismissal of claims,” he said.

The lawsuit, filed on Oct. 12, comes mere weeks before the Nov. 6 election in which voters will select their next secretary of state.

Read the full complaint below.

CORRECTION: A previous version incorrectly stated monetary damages sought by the plaintiffs.

SKMBT C284e18101716261 (Text)

Recent rebate rule benefits patients and pharmacists


Independent pharmacists and pharmacy owners witness Medicare Part D’s convoluted and opaque prescription drug rebate system in action every day. However, the true victims of this broken rebate distribution system, Medicare beneficiaries, are often unaware of the impact it has on them at the pharmacy counter. These beneficiaries are often the most vulnerable, relying on affordable access to prescription medications and trusting that the system will produce a fair price for the drugs they need.

Teresa Dickinson (Photo by Alabastro Photography.)
Teresa Dickinson (Photo by Alabastro Photography.)

As the past president and current member of Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency, we have proudly advocated for exactly that — greater transparency in the drug pricing system for the benefit of American physicians, pharmacists, and most importantly, patients. As an organization of independent pharmacists and pharmacy owners who are passionate about exposing the dangers of the anti-competitive nature of pharmacy benefit managers, it is critical that we support initiatives that would hold these bad actors accountable and better the drug rebate system for all. Pharmacy benefit managers serve as middlemen who place unnecessary barriers between patients and their ability to pay for their prescriptions.

Recently, there have been a variety of proposals aimed at lowering prescription drug prices and health care costs overall. Without a doubt, one of the most impactful has been the recent proposal by the Trump administration to amend the drug rebate system in order to streamline the process for patients. This proposal would not only serve to increase transparency in the rebate distribution process, but would also achieve a critical goal — putting money back into the pockets of beneficiaries. Pharmacy benefit managers market themselves as partners in the drug rebate system, when, in reality, they are a $300 billion industry that creates additional barriers to accessing affordable prescription medications for beneficiaries.

The administration, with its recently announced rebate reform proposal, would not only lower out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries, but would also fundamentally alter the rebate system by preventing middlemen from utilizing rebates for their own benefit. Our priority is transparency, and initiatives to improve rebate distribution under the Medicare Part D program contribute to furthering this critical undertaking. The proposed rule, if implemented, would fix the broken drug rebate system by ensuring that savings created via Medicare rebates are put directly into the hands of the beneficiaries who need them.

It is our hope that the administration’s proposal to streamline this convoluted process is swiftly enacted and enforced, for the sake of American patients nationwide and those who care about their health and wellbeing.

Teresa Dickinson, owner of Melrose Pharmacy, is past president of Pharmacists United for Truth and Transparency.

Rep. Trent Franks calls for special counsel’s resignation


A conservative House Republican is calling on special counsel Robert Mueller to resign, citing what he says is a conflict of interest because of Mueller’s “close friendship” with fired FBI Director James Comey.

The argument from Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, a member of the Judiciary Committee, echoes that of President Donald Trump in an effort to question Mueller’s credentials for the job. Mueller, appointed after Trump abruptly fired Comey, is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump’s campaign.

Franks said in a statement that Mueller “must resign to maintain the integrity of the investigation into alleged Russian ties.”

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

Mueller and Comey, both known for their integrity and self-assuredness, served closely alongside each other in the Bush administration’s Justice Department, and Comey has described Mueller as “one of the finest people I’ve ever met.” But there’s little evidence that they are close friends.

David Kelley, who succeeded Comey as U.S. attorney in Manhattan and has known Comey and Mueller for years, told The Associated Press in June that the two men have had a handful of meals together but their relationship is professional.

“Jim has never been to Bob’s house. Bob has never been to Jim’s house,” Kelley said.

As president, Trump could demand that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein fire Mueller by citing a conflict of interest, but Rosenstein has said he wouldn’t follow any order that he didn’t think was lawful or appropriate and that he had seen no legitimate basis to dismiss the special counsel. Rosenstein, who has also known both men for years, appointed Mueller after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe.

Comey was selected by President Barack Obama in 2013 to succeed Mueller as FBI director. At a White House ceremony, Mueller praised Comey as a man of “honesty, dedication and integrity,” and Comey repaid the favor minutes later by joking that he “must be out of my mind to be following Bob Mueller.”

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Treason, Trump, Obamacare at issue in Sinema, McSally debate

Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema face off Oct. 15, 2018, in their only debate for U.S. Senate (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)
Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema face off Oct. 15, 2018, in their only debate for U.S. Senate (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Hoping to remind voters of her foe’s history, Republican senatorial contender Martha McSally said Monday that Kyrsten Sinema, her Democratic foe, is guilty of supporting “treason.”

Near the end of the hour-long debate on KAET, McSally brought up a radio interview Sinema did in 2003 during her anti-war days. Asked if it was OK to fight for the Taliban, she said “fine, I don’t care if you want to go do that.”

Much of the campaign against Sinema has been focused on who she was more than a decade ago, including her opposition to war in the Middle East. McSally hopes to convince voters that Sinema, who since being elected to Congress in 2012, is not the moderate that she proclaims.

After the debate, Sinema brushed aside the questions of what she said years ago.

“Martha’s chosen to run a campaign that’s based on smears and attacks and that’s her choice,” she said. And what happened in the past, Sinema said, is history.

“Over time I think it makes sense for individuals who are willing to learn and to grow,” she said.

But Sinema wasn’t the only one on the defensive as the pair, in a virtual dead heat to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Flake, each sought to score points with the perhaps 10 percent of Arizonans who say they are undecided.

Sinema accused McSally of being an “apologist” for anything that the GOP – and Donald Trump in particular – want. And McSally was defensive about questions about her views on President Trump and her open support of him this year, versus her refusal to endorse him two years ago.

“Nothing’s changed,” she said.

McSally, first elected to represent Congressional District 2 in Southern Arizona in 2014, said she was focused on representing her district.

“But he’s in office,” she said. And that, McSally said, means she needs to work with him, as she said she did to preserve the A-10 attack aircraft that the Obama administration had tried to scrap.

She was a little less straightforward when asked if she was proud of Trump.

“I am proud to be working with him to provide more opportunities and to make sure we keep our country safe,” McSally said.

And she made it clear that she backs much of what the president has done.

“He’s a disrupter,” McSally said of Trump. “He went to D.C. to shake things up and he’s doing that.”

It is that attitude, she said, that has led to him make major strides like trying to remove nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula and updating old trade policies.

But Sinema said the flip side has been a trade war.

“That is devastating for Arizona’s businesses and for our agricultural community,” she said.

And the effects, Sinema said, trickle down to everyone else. She cited the increase on tariffs on aluminum, something that will make cans more expensive.

“That’s something we all can agree on: Beer should not be more expensive,” she said.

McSally defended her votes to scrap the Affordable Care Act even as she conceded that the law she voted to repeal has made insurance available to some who did not have it before.

“We cannot go back to where we were before,” she said. But McSally said the program, known as Obamacare, just does not work as constructed and is financially unaffordable.

That, however, still leaves the hot-button question of what would happen to those now enrolled.

While the program has proven controversial, there is widespread support for a key provision: a requirement for insurance companies to provide coverage irrespective of preexisting medical conditions. Sinema charged that the GOP efforts to repeal the law would have once again left those people without insurance.

McSally said that while she wanted to scrap the Affordable Care Act she supports such a requirement. The problem, she said, is that “Obamacare was the wrong approach.”

Sinema, however, said the alternatives offered by McSally and Republicans would return the country “to the time when people couldn’t afford health insurance.”

“The solutions Martha has voted for actually make the system worse and hurt Arizonans,” Sinema said.

The issue of abortion underlined one of the stark differences between the candidates.

Sinema said that issue should be strictly between a woman and her doctor. McSally defined herself as “pro-life.”

But McSally sidestepped the question of whether she wants the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the historic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized the right of women to terminate a pregnancy.

“I would support appointing justices that are looking independently at the Constitution and the laws that we make,” McSally said.

McSally also gave a full-throated endorsement to the decision of President Trump to nominate Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and the Senate vote to confirm him.

“He is highly qualified and he has shown I think what we need to be looking at in judges and justices, which is that they’re not going to be activist but they’re actually going to interpret the Constitution and the laws that we make in Congress,” she said.

Sinema was less direct in her answer, calling the confirmation hearings “a circus” in which both political parties participated. And she questioned both his demeanor and whether he lied during the hearings, ultimately saying she would have voted against confirmation.

McSally, whose congressional district includes a large stretch of the international border, said Sinema, whose district covers parts of Phoenix and Tempe, does not understand the issue of security. McSally said this is not just about illegal immigration but also drug and human smuggling.

Sinema said she did support a $1.5 billion border security appropriation which included money for Trump’s border wall

“I’m fine with a physical barrier being part of a total solution she said. But Sinema said it also requires more than “an 18th century solution to a 21st century problem.”

The questions McSally raised about Sinema’s fitness were not limited to her anti-war activities.

She pointed out that Sinema had accepted $53,000 in donations from the owners of Backpage.com, a now-defunct web site that prosecutors say was a front for prostitution. Sinema eventually donated the money to charity.

And McSally also lashed out at Sinema for her days as a legislator when she worked to alter a bill about penalties for men who had sex with underage girls to put in a requirement that the “john” actually knew the girl was not of legal age.

“I’m not making this stuff up,” McSally said.

Trump candidates swept primary – what about November? 

Former President Donald Trump, left, gives Kari Lake, who is running for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Arizona, a hug as Trump speaks at a Save America rally Friday, July 22, 2022, in Prescott, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Trump faction of the Republican Party won big in the August 2 primary election, notching victories from the U.S. Senate race down to state legislative districts.

These victories of former President Trump-aligned candidates signal a shift in the state Republican Party and set up a distinct dynamic that could define the general election campaign.

One upshot of the wave of Trump victories, some Democratic strategists say, is a better shot of general election wins for Democrats in November, an election widely expected to favor Republicans.

“Arguably you have the most extreme set of Republican nominees from top to bottom that we’ve ever had in modern state history,” said Chad Campbell, a Democratic consultant. “From a Democratic perspective, there’s a bigger opening there for Democratic candidates,” he added later.

Democratic consultant Tony Cani acknowledged that the Trump-endorsed candidates he views as “wildly out of touch” with voters have platforms that Democrats can highlight to more liberal constituents and possibly help them, but he is wary of celebrating. “I think that the danger for democracy is way too severe.”

At the top of the GOP primary ballot, where U.S. Senate candidates vied for the opportunity to take on U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly in November, tech executive Blake Masters was leading with 39% of the vote, as of late August 3. Masters was endorsed by Trump and his campaign was supported by millions of dollars in funding from Trump-adjacent technologist Peter Thiel.

In the gubernatorial race, former Fox 10 anchor Kari Lake held a lead over developer and former Arizona Regent Karrin Taylor Robson late August 3, though the margin was narrow: Lake was sitting at 46.2% and Taylor Robson at 44.4%. Lake earned Trump’s endorsement last year and made it a central feature of her campaign.

“MAGA had the best night probably since November 8, 2016,” said Republican consultant Barrett Marson.

The victories for Trump endorsees continued down the ballot: Mark Finchem cruised to victory with over 40% of the vote in the GOP secretary of state primary; Abe Hamadeh emerged from a crowded six-candidate field for attorney general nd was leading with 32% of the vote; in Legislative District 10, former Sen. David Farnsworth beat out Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, who took a stand against Trump’s election lies when he testified before Congress’ January 6 committee; in District 9, incumbent Sen. Tyler Pace, R-Mesa, fell far behind challenger Robert Scantlebury.

Chuck Coughlin, a Republican consultant, said he saw the results as a big loss for moderates on both sides of the aisle. Besides the wins for Trump-endorsed candidates, he pointed to moderate Democrats in the Legislature like Morgan Abraham, D-Tucson, who also lost primary battles.

“Progressives won on the left, and populists won on the right,” Coughlin said.

Among the Trump-endorsees, Lake and Finchem’s apparent victories were particularly poignant because their opponents had support from Gov. Doug Ducey. The governor gave his endorsement to ad executive Beau Lane in the secretary of state race, calling out Finchem (though not by name) for sowing doubt about the integrity of the primary election. Ducey also backed Taylor Robson, hitting the campaign trail with her and her highest-profile endorser, former Vice President Mike Pence.

The Trump candidates are young and old, political veterans and political neophytes. What unites them all is a focus on claims of alleged fraud in the 2020 election – something that so far hasn’t been backed up by any evidence.

That unity was apparent during the primary campaign. Trump-endorsed candidates from around the country endorsed one another, often appeared together at events, and propped each other up on occasion with campaign donations. The national attention helped bring in cash from groups and individuals outside of Arizona.

“We present a united front; we Trump endorsees,” said Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, on the Flyover Conservatives podcast on June 19. Rogers outraised her opponent Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, ten times over, but most of her contributions did not come from Arizonans.

With the primary election in the rearview mirror, an open question is whether the wider Republican Party will display the same unity that the Trump candidates did in recent months – or whether it needs to do so.

Marson said that he and other Republicans will wait to see how Trump-endorsed candidates shift during the next 90 days before deciding if they’ll vote for their party’s nominees.

At a news conference on August 3, Lake said that she wants to be a unifying candidate. “I want to bring the Republican Party together. … We’re one big, happy, sometimes dysfunctional family, but we can come together,” she said.

Coughlin said he doesn’t think that means making any compromises. What that message from Lake means, he said, is “Get in line!”

“I don’t see her being conciliatory,” he added.

Barry Aarons, a longtime Capitol lobbyist, said that a move back toward the moderate center would be the best strategy for right-wing Republicans who earned the GOP nomination this week.

“Most primary candidates tack. If they’re Republicans to the right, if they’re Democrats to the left. And then if they want to be successful, they tack back to the center” in the general election, Aarons said.

Of the Trump-endorsed candidates, Aarons added, “I think it is advisable for them to aggressively talk about issues that are going to attract the folks who… aren’t necessarily Trump supporters.”

But Coughlin said he thinks many of the candidates in this crop of Trump-endorsed politicians can’t or won’t shift their stances.

“I don’t think the word pivot is in Mark Finchem’s vocabulary,” he said.

Lake in particular should bring herself back to the center, according to Aarons. “If she’s going to be successful in the general, she’s got to carry those votes over and attract votes on issues like the economy, and water, and other kitchen table issues, to pick up the Republicans who voted for Karrin Taylor Robson and to pick up the independents who lean center right.”

Lake seemed to reject that approach in her comments on August 3.

“I’m not going to change,” she said. “Because I won doesn’t mean I’m going to now pivot and try to become a Democrat. Absolutely not. It was conservative ideals that this country was founded upon, and it is conservative policies that will get us out of this mess we’re in.”



Trump defends decision to pardon Arpaio

President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump speaks during a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Donald Trump on Monday defended his decision to pardon Joe Arpaio, calling the former Arizona sheriff a “patriot” who loves his country.

Asked about his controversial pardon during a joint press conference with the president of Finland on Monday, Trump insisted that “a lot of people” believe he made the right call. He said Arpaio had done a “great job for the people of Arizona” and argued that he’d been treated “unbelievable unfairly” by the Obama administration.

“He’s done a great job for the people of Arizona. He is very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration. He is loved in Arizona,” Trump said.

Trump’s decision drew criticism from both sides of the aisle, and renewed allegations that he has little respect for an independent judiciary.

Arpaio shot to national fame by aggressively targeting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally using tactics that Latino and immigrants’ rights advocates likened to racial profiling. He faced a possible jail sentence on a federal conviction stemming from his refusal to halt certain immigration patrols.

“Sheriff Joe is a patriot. Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our borders and Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration, especially right before an election, an election that he would have won,” Trump said during the event on Monday. “So I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe and I think the people of Arizona who really know him best would agree with me.”

The White House’s Friday announcement came as Hurricane Harvey threatened to batter Texas with heavy winds and severe flooding and shortly after the administration outlined long-awaited details of Trump’s plan to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military. But Trump pushed back on the assumption the timing was intended to bury the news, claiming instead that he’d announced the pardon then because he knew people would be watching.

“In the middle of a hurricane, even though it was Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally,” he said.

Trump on Monday also continued to insist that Mexico will pay for his long-promised Southern border wall.

“One way or the other Mexico will pay for the wall,” Trump said, arguing that, while the project may initially be funded by United States taxpayers, “ultimately” Mexico will pay.

Trump recently threatened to force a federal government shutdown unless Congress provides funding for his wall, but said Monday that he hopes such had drastic measure is “not necessary.”

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Trump, Pence holding rival campaign events

Then-President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, Nov. 2, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Mich., with then-Vice President Mike Pence. Today Trump and his estranged vice president, Pence, are set to campaign in Arizona for rival candidates for governor. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Former President Donald Trump and his estranged vice president, Mike Pence, will hold rival campaign events in Arizona today, turning the governor’s race into a broader referendum on the Republican Party’s future.

In the Aug. 2 primary, Trump is backing Kari Lake, a former television anchor who has embraced his claims about the 2020 election along with his combative approach to his political enemies and the media. Trump was scheduled to hold an evening rally in Prescott Valley on behalf of Lake and other candidates he has endorsed.

Earlier in the day, Pence planned to appear at two events with Karrin Taylor Robson, a lawyer and housing developer who is locking up support from mainstream GOP figures growing increasingly comfortable with breaking from Trump. Her supporters also include former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey, who famously silenced a call from Trump while certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory in Arizona.

Trump and Pence have occasionally taken different sides in primaries this year, but this is the first time that they will have appeared in the same state on the same day to rally for their preferred candidates. The split-screen moment marks a more confrontational phase in their relationship as they both consider running for president in 2024.

It also comes just a day after the House Jan. 6 committee revealed new details about the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that fractured the relationship between the two men. The committee recounted how Trump refused to call off the mob attacking the Capitol as Pence, just feet away from rioters, was whisked to safety.

The committee played audio from an unidentified White House security official who said Pence’s Secret Service agents “started to fear for their own lives” at the Capitol and left messages for their loved ones in case they didn’t survive. Shortly afterward, at 2:24 p.m. on Jan, 6, 2021, Trump tweeted that Pence didn’t have the “courage” to block or delay the election results as Congress was certifying Biden’s victory.

“Mike Pence let me down,” an unidentified White House employee testified Trump telling him at the end of the day on Jan. 6.

Trump and Pence will again cross paths next week as the former president returns to the nation’s capital for the first time since leaving the White House.

The Arizona primary is among Trump’s last opportunities to settle scores and install allies to lead states that may prove decisive if he decides to run again in 2024. Trump and Pence were also at odds in the primary for Georgia governor, where the Pence-backed incumbent Brian Kemp easily defeated former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who had Trump’s support.

Arizona, a longtime Republican stronghold whose move toward the center accelerated during Trump’s presidency, was central Trump’s push to remain in power despite his loss. Trump pressed state officials to block the certification of Biden’s victory and, when he failed, his allies in Congress objected to counting the state’s 11 electoral votes.

Since the election, Trump supporters have recounted ballots and analyzed vote-counting machines in an attempt to prove something was amiss.

Federal and state election officials and Trump’s own attorney general have said there is no credible evidence the election was tainted. Trump’s allegations of fraud were also roundly rejected by courts, including by judges Trump appointed.

University of Phoenix strikes $191 million deal to settle false advertising claims

Money stack. piles of cash

A Phoenix-based national university known for promoting its programs has agreed to pay a record $191 million to settle claims it used deceptive advertising to attract prospective students.

The deal with the Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday requires the University of Phoenix to forgive $141 million in debt by former students who enrolled between Oct. 1, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2016, the period the federal agency says they were likely exposed to the school’s advertising campaigns where it claimed it had special arrangements with major national and international companies to create jobs for students. Those ads, the FTC says, also led students to believe that the school tailored its curriculum for those jobs.

The other $50 million will go to the FTC to process refund demands from students.

A spokesman for the university said there was no admission of wrongdoing.

“We continue to believe the university acted appropriately,” according to an official statement. But it said that settling the case will help “avoid any further distraction from serving students that could have resulted from protracted litigation.”

It also pointed out that the campaign occurred “under prior ownership and concluded before the FTC’s inquiry began.”

The FTC had its own take on the agreement.

“This is the largest settlement the commission has obtained in a case against a for-profit school,” said Andrew Smith, director of the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in a prepared statement. “Students making important decisions about their education need the facts, not fantasy job opportunities that do not exist.”

Rohit Chopra
Rohit Chopra

Two commission members were less reserved in their words.

Rohit Chopra said the University of Phoenix “scammed its students by luring them in with false job placement promises.”

And Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter said students make decisions to devote limited time and income into pursuing educational goals, many with the hope of landing a better job.

“The deceptive claims set out in the commission’s complaint are particularly galling to me because they sold false hope – robbing consumers of their time and money for the prospect of a job that did not exist.”

The settlement approved by a 4-0 vote of the commission – one member recused herself – follows what has been a sharp decline in enrollment at the university which has multiple campuses across the nation and is a major operator of online degree programs. University officials confirm that current enrollment is less than 100,000, down from close to 470,000 a decade ago.

Rebecca Kelly Slaughter
Rebecca Kelly Slaughter

It also comes three years after shareholders of parent company Apollo Education Group approved the sale of the firm for $1.14 billion to private investors, a price that translated out to $10 a share. By contrast, it traded as high as $89 in 2009.

According to the FTC’s allegations, first filed in 2015, the school relied heavily on advertising to attract students, including specific ads targeting military and Hispanic consumers.

One TV ad said the university was “working with a growing list of almost 2,000 corporate partners,” specifically citing Microsoft, American Red Cross and Adobe “to create options for you.”

“Not only that, we’re using what we learn from these partners to shape our curriculum so when you find the job you want you’ll be a perfect fit,” the commercial says.

“In reality, these companies did not partner with University of Phoenix to provide special opportunities for UOP students or develop curriculum,” the FTC complain says. Instead, the federal agency says, the university “selected these companies for their advertisements as part of a marketing strategy to drive prospective student interest.”

According to the FTC, the settlement will not affect the obligations of students who borrowed from the federal government or private lenders. These students, however, are eligible to apply to the U.S. Department of Education for income-driven repayment plans and, in some cases, loan forgiveness.

But Slaughter, in her own statement, had some sharp words for that agency.

“We watch what appears to be a complete abdication by the Department of Education, which has oversight of for-profit institutions and controls their access to federal financial aid,” she said.

That remark comes five months after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded a rule, imposed during the Obama administration, which sought to hold private colleges and career education program accountable by forcing them to prove that graduates were able to repay the money they borrowed. That “gainful employment regulation” required schools to disclose debt and earnings data to prospective and current students.

Slaughter said the Trump administration is engaged in “what appears to be its systemic betrayal of consumers.”

Chopra, in his own comments, said the FTC found evidence that a “senior manager” at the University of Phoenix “sounded the alarm that this marketing was misleading,” a complaint he said the company’s top executives ignored.