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THOMAS' LEGAL MESS

We're far removed from the strange political/legal circus that was underway in Maricopa County while Republican Andrew Thomas was county attorney, so we're not even going to try to get into the specifics of Thomas' crusade against judges and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors—other than to say it appears to have been an extraordinary miscarriage of justice.

New details emerged last week when new Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, who was appointed to take over the job after Thomas resigned to run for Arizona attorney general, held a press conference to reveal how bad the case against the judges was.

Romley released a massive packet of information related to the grand-jury investigation into whether Maricopa County supervisors and judges broke the law in a matter related to the construction of a new courthouse.

We don't have the space to go into the details, but we'd encourage you to read what The Arizona Republic and Phoenix New Times have reported, because it reveals a shocking abuse of prosecutorial power by Thomas, who is now locked in a primary fight with fellow Republican Tom Horne.

Even conservatives like the Republic's Robert Robb and Espresso Pundit's Greg Patterson are saying that Thomas lacks the judgment to be attorney general. As Espresso Pundit put it: "I find myself in a unique position. There are plenty of people who I find charming and qualified who are not with me on the issues—I don't vote for them. And there are plenty of people who are with me on the issues who are complete jerks—I usually hold my nose and vote for them.

"But this is the only time that I have found a nice guy who is bright, isn't overtly corrupt, understands the issues and is generally with me, but whose judgment is so bad that I would vote for any other candidate."

While Thomas is trying to spin his way out of it, it sure looks to us like he's the kind of guy who relentlessly pursues his political enemies by using his power to put someone behind bars—even on the flimsiest of grounds.

Having seen what emerged last week, it's hardly surprising that Sheila Polk, the Yavapai county attorney that Thomas tried to persuade to pick up his bad cases, had this to say about him: "I am conservative and passionately believe in limited government, not the totalitarianism that is spreading before my eyes. The actions of (Maricopa County Sheriff Joe) Arpaio and Thomas are a disservice to the hundreds of dedicated men and women who work in their offices and a threat to the entire criminal-justice system."

Thomas is not the sort of guy who ought to be the state's top prosecutor.


BAILING OUT ARIZONA

Democrats in Congress passed a $26 billion aid package to state governments last week, which is mostly meant to help struggling states fund education and health-care programs.

The package will include nearly $212 million for Arizona school districts and $351 million for the state of Arizona to help support health-care programs, according to Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who voted in favor of the bill.

"This bill will prevent the layoff of teachers and help Arizona as it continues to struggle with consequences of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression," Giffords said in a statement. "With some children in Southeastern Arizona already starting school, and others set to begin classes over the next 10 days, it was crucial that the House move quickly to save essential teachers' jobs."

But Gov. Jan Brewer's press aide, Paul Senseman, told Howie Fischer of Capitol Media Services that the administration's review of the legislation showed that the state was only receiving $236 million for Medicare programs, which falls about $160 million short of what's needed to keep providing health insurance to people who earn up to the federal poverty level, as the state now does with AHCCCS.

Regular readers may recall that Republicans in the state Legislature originally rolled back that coverage so that anyone who earned more than one-third of the federal poverty level would be disqualified. (They also eliminated the KidsCare program that provided health insurance to children up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line.) That would have meant that if you're a single mom with two kids, you lose your state-subsidized health insurance if you earn more than $6,103 per year.

Arizona lawmakers had to reverse themselves on the health-care cuts, because under the Obama administration's health-care reform package, they risked losing all of Arizona's federal health-care dollars if they reduced eligibility levels.

While the Brewer administration wants more money from the federal government, Arizona's congressional Republicans want to provide less. Both Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl voted against the aid to the states—and both of Giffords' Republican opponents in Congressional District 8 say they would have voted against the aid package.

That's not much of a surprise, since both Jonathan Paton and Jesse Kelly have previously said that they would have opposed the portion of the stimulus program that gave aid to the states. (That money prevented even deeper cuts to schools, universities, health-care programs and everything else the state does.)

Kelly says that "more money from the federal government to the state means more strings attached, which means we'll continue to go into bankruptcy in the future under federal control. If the federal government wants to bail out the states right now, they can get off our backs and out of our way, and let small business flourish, and let small business start hiring people. That's what Arizona needs, not another taxpayer-funded check that the next three generations need to pay back."

Paton spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said via e-mail that Paton opposed the legislation because "these bills need to be paid for; otherwise, it doesn't matter what's in them. They are bad for the country and bankrupting the next generation."

But Giffords says the bill was paid for by closing tax loopholes that encourage companies to send U.S. jobs overseas and reducing future food-stamp payments.

Scarpinato dismissed the tax increases and reductions in spending as "gimmicks."

"We don't trust their numbers," he said.


ELECTION RESULTS!

We're sorry to deliver a bit of bad news: Deadline pressures will prevent next week's print edition from having all of next week's primary election results.

But here's the good news: We'll be bringing you up-to-the-minute primary election results, reactions from candidates and more from both the Democrats' party (at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St.) and the Republican's party (at Mr. An's Teppan Steak and Seafood Sushi Bar, 6091 N. Oracle Road), next Tuesday, Aug. 24, at The Range, our daily dispatch, at daily.tucsonweekly.com.

And your Skinny scribe, Jim Nintzel, is scheduled to drop in on John C. Scott's primary election coverage on KJLL AM 1330, which begins at 7 p.m. next Tuesday. He'll also be joining Arizona Public Media's Christopher Conover on KUAZ FM 89.1 to discuss election results at 10 p.m. on Election Night.

Find early and late-breaking Skinny at The Range, our daily dispatch, at daily.tucsonweekly.com.

More by Jim Nintzel

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