Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The Daily Agenda: The Least You Can Do

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2022 at 11:15 AM

click to enlarge The Daily Agenda: The Least You Can Do
The GOP Communists in the Arizona Senate censured Sen. Wendy Rogers, so now she has to personally destroy them.

The first censure in the Arizona Legislature (we think) ... All the Republicans who love early voting like the rest of us ... And another round of subpoenas.

Wendy Rogers became the first Arizona senator to be censured yesterday after 24 of her colleagues voted in favor of a condemnation of her behavior.

You can call the censure historic, but that’s about all you can call it. It carries no penalties. She’ll continue to hold her office. She very much did not apologize. She likely won’t change. We expect the “sweet grandma” will only get worse from here.

The censure itself is timid. It doesn’t call out Rogers’ racism, anti-Semitism, white nationalism. Instead, it seemed her threats against other senators — like saying she’d “personally destroy any Republican who partakes in the gaslighting of me simply because of the color of my skin” — were what did her in.

An earlier draft of the censure resolution, which Rogers posted on the right-wing social media platform Telegram, did include stronger language: It mentioned racial and religious discrimination, as well as her comments on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The version read on the Senate floor called out her statements “encouraging violence against and punishment of American citizens,” and her threats of “political destruction” for those who disagreed with her views. 

Democrats who voted in favor of the censure mentioned Rogers’ repeated discriminatory statements, and they noted that her behavior isn’t new. Some wanted to see more action against Rogers, like an expulsion — and some opinion writers think the situation warrants expulsion, too. 

But the appearance at the America First Political Action Conference and her swings over the weekend were the final nail for her GOP colleagues. Only Republican Sens. Nancy Barto and Warren Petersen voted against the censure (and Sens. David Gowan, Kelly Townsend and Victoria Steele were absent). 

Rogers, though visibly shaken while making her floor speech in stark contrast to her bluster online, said she wouldn’t apologize and was disappointed in the Republicans “for colluding with the Democrats to attempt to destroy my reputation.”

“Freedom of speech is one of the most precious rights we have under heaven, and this censure is nothing more than an attempt to limit my speech,” she said.

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Censures are used more frequently by political parties against officials, but there isn’t past precedent for a censure in the Arizona Legislature. The body expelled four members since its inception, and a censure was discussed for a couple cases, but the State of Arizona Research Library could not find any instances of censures. If there was a censure in the past, no one seems to be able to find it, so we’re saying this is the first one.

What good is a censure, though? Very little. Senate President Karen Fann wouldn’t say whether Rogers will lose her committee assignments. When the U.S. House of Representatives recently censured Rogers’ friend, U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, he lost his assignments. That's at least something.

But it’s not courageous to functionally do nothing, and not even fully articulate why her behavior crossed lines. And that’s to say nothing of the profile in courage that is Gov. Doug Ducey, who ignited a shitstorm with his defense of Rogers and then said nothing more until he released a statement yesterday that did not mention Rogers by name and did not address his financial support of her campaign.

We often struggle as journalists with how much we cover the fringes of state politics because that alone would be a full-time beat, and it detracts from the kinds of policy and government stuff we should be covering — the kinds that affect your day-to-day lives as Arizonans. It’s clear that outside attention feeds this type of behavior. It’s helped Rogers amass hundreds of thousands of followers who only know her because of her as a far-right keyboard warrior, not because of her legislation. 

But we can’t ignore it, either, and it’s clearly no longer a sideshow. The extremism, and the way it’s tolerated, shows where the GOP stands today. And while the Arizona Senate may have given one of its members a slap on the wrist, the growth of these views needs to be reckoned with more seriously. 

Nearly every Republican state lawmaker has used an unconstitutional method to vote, if you buy the bogus argument in the Arizona Republican Party’s lawsuit alleging early and mail-in voting is unconstitutional.

So has the person behind the lawsuit: AZGOP chair Kelli Ward

After the AZGOP filed a lawsuit claiming that the system of no-excuse mail-in early voting that Arizonans have enjoyed since 1991 violates the Arizona Constitution because the constitution doesn’t explicitly allow early voting, we dug up some records showing which lawmakers have used an early ballot and when.

Unsurprisingly, almost all lawmakers are on the early voting list and automatically receive mail-in ballots at their homes. And many of those who aren’t on the list have cast an early ballot in recent years, either in person or through the mail. Ward used an early ballot as recently as November 2020, according to public records. (For lawmakers in Maricopa County, we used records from the county recorders’ office that local public records hound Dillon Rosenblatt had requested recently. For those outside the county, we used records from the VAN, a privately owned voter database that Democratic campaigns use, which is based on local county records.)

Rather than list every Republican lawmaker who has cast a ballot unconstitutionally, according to their party, it’s a lot quicker to list those Republican lawmakers who as far as we can tell aren’t on the list and haven’t voted early in recent years: Reps. Regina Cobb, Lupe Diaz, Kevin Payne and Michelle Udall.

And here are the lawmakers who aren’t currently on the early voting list but have cast an early ballot in recent years: Reps. Leo Biasiucci and Neal Carter and Sens. Sonny Borrelli, David Gowan, Rick Gray, Gail Griffin. Ward is also on that list.

Surely, this will change her mind: The House Democratic Caucus, which doesn’t have a formal vote on the Rogers censure, called on Rogers to resign over her racist and anti-Semitic comments. In a press release, the caucus said the Senate censure should’ve included rebukes for spreading anti-Semitism and hate. Rogers “​has brought dishonor to the Legislature where she serves, and to the United States military, where she served previously,” House Democratic Leader Reginald Bolding said. 

We watched The Sopranos, this scheme could be an episode: Former mobster Frank Capri, who scammed people out of millions of dollars when he tried to open Toby Keith and Rascal Flatts restaurants, will get five years in federal prison. The sentencing comes after investigations by the Republic’s Robert Anglen into the failed restaurant ventures and Capri’s background as a former made man who then entered witness protection. 

Hello to our FBI agents: FBI officials flagged online comments by an Arizona Department of Public Safety detective who was on Ducey’s Border Strike Force, ABC15investigative reporter Dave Biscobing writes. Ashton Shewey’s comments on YouTube videos last summer were flagged as violent, racist and threatening, and DPS conducted an internal investigation after the FBI brought the comments to their attention. Shewey resigned before he could be fired, but said he wouldn’t have acted on his comments. He is not yet on the Brady list, though DPS officials said he should be added to it. 

Someone’s gotta pay these bills: The attorney fighting on behalf of the Republic to access public records from Cyber Ninjas related to the Senate audit wants to add Doug Logan and his wife to the suit since the company itself is defunct, Arizona’s Law reports. The Ninjas have yet to turn over the records, despite the $50,000 per day fine levied by the courts. According to the @NinjasTracker Twitter account tallying the fine totals, the Logans are knocking on the door of $200K for their document-hoarding. 

We gotta pay these bills, too. Our operation doesn’t require $50K a day to pay for our court malfeasance; we only need a few thousand subscribers to pay $80 per year. Not bad in context, right? We want to pay ourselves more than the Arizona Legislature gets paid.

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The lawmaker salary IS really low: Arizona Rep. and would-be secretary of state Stop the Stealer Mark Finchem is running three separate crowdfunding campaigns — in addition to fundraising for his actual campaign — to fund a lawsuit against Democratic Rep. Charlene Fernandez, fund his defense of a subpoena from the January 6th committee and pay off the costs of the 2020 meeting at a Phoenix hotel about election grievances, the Republic’s Mary Jo Pitzl reports. His defamation case against Fernandez goes to court in Yuma this week. All the fundraisers are on the Christian site GiveSendGo.

Speaking of subpoenas: The January 6th committee wants to talk to OAN “journalist” and audit propagandist Christina Bobb. The committee cited Bobb’s involvement in drafting an executive order about seizing voting machines in multiple states and her presence in Rudy Giuliani’s war room on Jan. 6. 

Not an Arizona case, but it has big Arizona implications: The U.S Supreme Court will hear a case against the Indian Child Welfare Act after a Texas couple argued the act discriminates on the basis of race, Cronkite News’ Reagan Priest reports. When placing an Indigenous child with an adoptive family, the act requires child welfare agencies to give preference to Indigenous adoptive families. The Texas couple wanted to adopt a Navajo boy, but the Navajo Nation intervened and found a Navajo family to place him with instead, though the couple did eventually succeed in adopting the child. 

Cleaning house worked: After an investigation by Republic reporter Anne Ryman showed massage customers weren’t protected by the state board overseeing massage therapists compelled Ducey to replace the entire board, the board is taking more aggressive action when allegations of sexual misconduct come before them, Ryman reports. 

Your daily housing roundup: The end of the federal foreclosure moratorium didn’t lead to a wave of foreclosures as feared because people are buying houses like crazy. Still, mortgage assistance is slow to reach homeowners in need, which the Arizona Department of Housing blames on paperwork delays with banks, which must agree to participate in the program. All while a luxury gated townhome development could go in near the west side of Steele Indian School Park, which has neighbors and activists concerned about density and park access. (There’s no standard definition of the term “luxury” in regard to housing, and the majority of new apartments call themselves luxury. If everything is luxury, then nothing is luxury, but it all costs too much.)

Rough primary ahead: Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer announced he will run as a Republican in the newly created Congressional District 2. Democratic incumbent Tom O’Halleran is running unopposed, but Lizer will face several GOP candidates first, including Arizona Rep. Walt Blackman, QAnoner Ron Watkins and a handful of others.

The Great Unionization: Liz Alanna, a union organizer at the Mesa Starbucks that recently won its election for union representation, spoke with KJZZ’s Lauren Gilger about the fight to unionize the store. The pandemic helped spur the unionization effort, Alanna said, because workers wanted more protections against the virus. She said the union helps the company hear the voices of its baristas on operations, wages and benefits.

Baseball is canceled: Well, no, not baseball, but Opening Day is canceled, as the Major League Baseball lockout of players over a labor dispute continues. 

Yelp bandits, beware.

The Arizona Senate approved a strike-everything amendment to a bill that would add social media messages to the definitions of theft by extortion.

The striker to Senate Bill 1001 from Republican Sen. Vince Leach received unanimous approval in the Senate Appropriations Committee and passed the Senate with only two votes against it.

Leach told the committee last week that the bill arose from East Valley business groups, which reported seeing increases of small businesses being visited by people demanding something for free, and that they’d write a negative review online if they weren’t given it.

Democratic Sen. Sean Bowie echoed the concerns, saying he’d heard from small business owners about the problem, too.

“This is happening, this is a real deal,” Leach said.

Yesterday was not a particularly funny day in Arizona politics, but, in case we’re the only place you get your wild animal news, we wanted to update you that Hank the Tank, who we briefly mentioned in relation to Phoenix’s runaway llamas, is actually three bears. Hanks the Tanks, if you will.

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