An Arizona Politico Makes Us Proud Again

Arizona based consultant Nate Sproul has gotten caught committing voter registration fraud again. I mean allegedly, of course.

The Republican National Committee has sacked his firm, but this sort of thing seems to be Sproul’s raison d’être. At some point people have to stop giving organizations that hire Sproul the benefit of the doubt. He gets hired precisely because of shenanigans like this.

And in Other News…

Oh what fun, look at the Capitol Times:

Federal authorities are investigating Attorney General Tom Horne over allegations that he illegally collaborated with an independent expenditure committee that spent more than a half-million dollars on negative ads against his Democratic opponent in 2010, the Arizona Capitol Times has learned.

Apparently the whistle blower on this was Don Dybus, who oddly enough was one of the billboard lobbyists I complained about last week.

Oh, by the way: Nathan Sproul involved in something shady? I’m shocked.

Bad Initiatives, Part I

So, what exactly do you call an initiative that guts the initiative process, anyway?

You can call it “Majority Rules – Let the People Decide,” since it hasn’t yet been given a number.

Here’s what it does, from the text of the initiative:

TO PRESERVE AND PROTECT THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY THROUGH TRUE MAJORITY RULE, AN INITIATIVE MEASURE THAT ESTABLISHES, IMPOSES OR RAISES A TAX, FEE, OR OTHER REVENUE, OR MANDATES A SPENDING OBLIGATION, WHETHER ON A PRIVATE PERSON, LABOR ORGANIZATION, OTHER PRIVATE LEGAL ENTITY OR THIS STATE SHALL NOT BECOME LAW UNLESS THE MEASURE IS APPROVED BY A MAJORITY OF QUALIFIED ELECTORS THEN REGISTERED TO VOTE IN THIS STATE.

So, in other words, no matter how much an initiative wins by, if the election has a low turnout, forget it. Heck, even with a relatively good turnout, this would be a problem. The turnout in 2006 was 60.4%, which would mean that an initiative would have needed around 85% of the votes cast to pass. Needless to say, none of the initiatives or referenda on the ballot that year would have passed under these circumstances.

I always thought that the term “democracy” was from a Greek phrase meaning “Rule by People Who Bother to Show Up.” This initiative would basically give a veto to people who don’t think it is that important to vote. Heck, it would give a veto to the dead, folks who have moved away and possibly thousands of other un-purged non-voters on our state’s rolls.

The money behind this is interesting. It is backed by $50,000 from the Lincoln Strategy Group, which is the firm of Nathan Sproul. You may remember that he is the one that led the failed “Protect Marriage” effort in 2006, the only such effort to fail nationwide. Maybe he is bitter about the initiative process after that, who knows?

(So, is the firm called “Lincoln” because of their embrace of the policies and ideals of Abraham Lincoln, or is it called that to invoke Charlie Keating’s old company, Lincoln Savings?)

Another source of money is $50,000 from Services Group of America. These guys are led by Tom Stewart, who you may remember was the one who was run out of the state of Washington for selling tainted meat and giving illegal campaign contributions. Of course, he’s now found a home in Arizona funding right wing projects here.

Other contributors on the list include the Beer and Wine Distributors of Arizona. Yes, the usual suspects.

The talk I’ve heard is the people behind this initiative are now paying more than $5.00 a signature to get this thing on the ballot. This means that they are far behind, which I am perfectly okay with.

George CunninghamA bit of an addendum here: this invocation of “true majority rule” is reminiscent of a stunt that Governor J. Fife Symington tried to pull a bit more than a decade ago. Several initiatives passed in 1996 that weren’t to the governor’s liking, including a medical marijuana law, and he actually proposed that he could veto them based on the fact that these initiatives didn’t draw a majority of the votes cast (there Bill Risnerwas a drop off from the top of the ballot) even though there were more yeses than nos. This led to a rather funny exchange at a Democratic convention between the newly elected Sen. George Cunningham, who was giving a legislative report, and Tucson attorney Bill Risner, who was asking him questions from the floor:

Cunningham: The Governor believes that the statute says that an initiative has to get a majority of the votes to pass.

Risner: Senator, only a pinhead would read the statute that way.

Cunningham: Mr. Risner, Governor Symington and the legislative leaders are pinheads.

Republicans Clean House, Well, Senate, Really

As reported in the Arizona Daily Star yesterday, newly elected Senate President Tim Bee has gotten rid of four staffers: Greg Jernigan, Rob Dalager, Mark Swenson and Nick Simonetta. One capitol observer also told me that another staffer has also been let go, but I haven’t been able to confirm this.

A couple of things are going on here: one thing is the obvious, Bee would like to hire his own allies. This is natural and expected. Bee also needs to show that his leadership will be different than that of Ken Bennett, and this is the best way to show it right away.

There was dissatisfaction with the control that these staffers had over legislation. For example, Swenson (a former Tucson reporter) was often refered to as “Senator 31″ because of the virtual veto power he had over legislation, often exercised on the narrowest ideological grounds. Many Senators were unhappy that unelected staff were making decisions that should have been left to those that had been elected.

Even though Bee is showing backbone here, some at the capitol are already saying that he wouldn’t have done this without the consent of newly elected majority leader Thayer Verschoor.

I’m wondering if this is the first of many staff decimations on the Republican side. I have heard complaints from Republicans about two long time, high profile consultants, Constantine Querard and Nathan Sproul. Querard consulted with campaigns in LD 26 and Randy Graf’s congressional campaign, all of which were Republican seats that went Democratic. The style of the campaigns were cookie-cutter Maricopa County conservative campaigns that would have been sucessful had they not been waged in more moderate, albeit still Republican, areas in Southern Arizona. Sproul was the one of the architects of Proposition 107, the anti-gay marriage measure that was supposed to bring Republicans to the polls but its language was so broad that it narrowly lost. The campaign for the measure was nearly invisible and had little effect on Republican turnout. One blog, Arizona 8th, called for Sproul’s exile last week. Both of these consultants have been touched by scandals over the last couple of years as well.

CLARIFICATION – I had spoken to an activist in Phoenix who named an Alan Richardson as someone else who was terminated. I put his name as one of the people who Bee cut in my original post. I recieved an e-mail from a capitol staffer who told me that he’d never heard of the guy. I took his name off of the post. I then recieved an e-mail from Richardson, who refered to himself as “low-level” (which may be why the other person didn’t know who he was) and said that he had submitted a letter of resignation before the election.