The Daily Agenda: If you don't like it, sue us

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These lawsuits all start to sound the same ... Some of you have too much

money to throw around ... And there's plenty of hypocrisy to go around, too.


Editor's note: The Arizona Agenda is a Substack newsletter about Arizona government and politics run by Rachel Leingang and Hank Stephenson. You can find their archives and subscribe at arizonaagenda.com.

It was a busy Friday for the courts,
as the Arizona Supreme Court knocked down the referendum against Gov. Doug Ducey’s historic income tax cuts, the federal courts received another anti-voting lawsuit and Attorney General Mark Brnovich again sued Secretary of State Katie Hobbs

And if all this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because we are, in fact, living in a time loop.

Let’s start with the tax cut referendum, brought to you by many of the same folks who donned red shirts to march on the Capitol four years ago. This is the third time the Arizona Supreme Court (complete with five Ducey appointees out of seven justices) has shot down a #RedforEd measure, having killed #InvestInEd versions 1.0 and 2.0.¹

The referendum was a #Don’tDisinvestFromEd campaign, sprouted as a backlash to the backlash to Prop 208. After voters approved Prop 208, lawmakers attempted to minimize the impact on the rich with tax breaks to high-earners. The referendum would have forced that policy to a vote of the people.


The Arizona Constitution prohibits voters from forcing a referendum against a budget (because, obviously, that would shut down the government), but the Arizona Supreme Court stretched that provision by ruling it also prohibits voters from referring a tax cut to the ballot (which would not shut down the government).

We’ve now got a tax rate that, as The Republic’s conservative columnist Robert Robb points out, was “not approved in any democratic process” considering the tax cuts were only supposed to be implemented in response to Prop 208, which no longer exists. Robb argued the root of this “sorry saga of democratic usurpation” dates back to Ducey stacking the Supreme Court (a point his liberal colleague, E.J. Montini agreed with), and offered some words of commiseration for the justice who has to defend the court’s actions.

“I pity the poor sap on the court who draws the short straw and has to write the majority opinion on this one,” Robb wrote.

Meanwhile, in fantasyland, Kari Lake and Mark Finchem are clinging to debunked conspiracies in their latest attempt to stop Arizona from using machines to tally votes. They filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the machines are vulnerable to hacking and that the government can’t use technology built by companies to count votes because that’s a government function. 

The case, which has hints of Krakenism, puts Brnovich, who is named as a defendant, in a position to defend the state from the nonsensical claims or kowtow to the “elections don’t have consequences” crowd once again.

Perhaps losing out on former President Donald Trump’s endorsement will embolden our formerly election-theft-denying attorney general, though his recent history isn’t encouraging. Brnovich is hardly alone in propping up election fraud claims to try to win Trump’s support. But as the Washington Post noted over the weekend, he “stands out for his shift over the past year and a half.”

“Critics say Brnovich has caved to conspiracy theorists for political gain in the Republican primary. Calculated choices to keep fanning Trump’s grievances mean more misinformed voters, more distractions for election workers and more questions about who will stick up for democracy in the future,” the Post wrote.

Finally, Brnovich teamed up with the Yavapai County Republican Party (yes, that is weird) to sue Hobbs and try to force her to write an Elections Procedures Manual that he likes, complete with new provisions about monitoring ballot drop boxes.

And if this storyline also sounds familiar, it’s because the two have been fighting over the manual for months, and back in 2016 and 2018, the secretary of state refused to update the manual.

The difference is that the secretary of state who refused to write a new manual at that time was Republican Michele Reagan, and Brnovich was super understanding about the whole thing.

Free Vladimir: Vladimir Kara-Murza faces criminal charges in Russia for speaking at the Arizona Legislature in March, 12News’ Brahm Resnik reports. The longtime Russian dissident spoke out against Russia and Putin, and the Russian government charged him for spreading false information that harmed Russia, for which he could serve up to 10 years in prison. 

The Year of Rusty continues: Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers received a “profile in courage” award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation for not trying to overturn the 2020 election results, which Bowers rightly noted was a low bar. The Washington Post then contrasted Bowers with U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy after leaked audio showed McCarthy spoke against Trump privately, but not publicly. 

Insurrection news roundup: U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar weren’t the only Arizona congressmen at a December 2020 meeting where Trump lackeys discussed how they could overturn the election results. U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko was there, too, new documents from the Jan. 6 committee show. Lawsuits to get Biggs, Gosar and Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem booted from the ballot because of their insurrection ties were unsurprisingly unsuccessful in the courts. In other insurrection news, the Republic’s Anne Ryman dives into the story of Ed Vallejo, an Arizona man facing federal charges for seditious conspiracy despite not being at the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

Debate season commences: Primary election debate season starts now, and watching them is one way to find which candidates you want to throw your support behind. The schedule for the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission debates is here, though all sorts of organizations have their own debates, too. So far, Democratic Secretary of State candidates Adrian Fontes and Reginald Bolding faced off on Arizona PBS over who was more qualified to run the office, the Republic’s Mary Jo Pitzl recaps.

Cold comfort: Gov. Doug Ducey says the 15-week abortion ban he signed into law this legislative session will supersede a previous law outlawing abortion entirely that hasn’t been enforced but still is in statute, Capitol Media Services’ Howie Fischer reports. That means, if the U.S. Supreme Court does overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion would still be legal before 15 weeks here.

Make spreadsheets great again: The candidate whac-a-mole period continues, with several candidates now successfully booted from the ballot, including noted paperwork fan Daniel Wood, who was running against Arizona Sen. T.J. Shope. Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer’s color-coded spreadsheet has the deets. 

Building the wall is harder than it looks: A group called We Build the Wall that collected millions from donors to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border did not, in fact, build said wall. Instead, they spent donations on “home renovations, a luxury S.U.V., boat payments, a golf cart, cosmetic surgery and jewelry,” the New York Times reports. And two of the men affiliated with the Steve Bannon effort pleaded guilty for the scam last week.


Can’t win if you don’t play:
 The November elections aren’t looking good for Democrats, say Democrats, who have seemingly thrown in the towel already, the New York Times reports. They’re instead pinning their hopes on 2024.

2022 ain’t over yet: Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is raking in money from big GOP donors, including Fox Corp.’s political action committee, Rolling Stone reports. Meanwhile, presumptive 2024 challenger and U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego grabbed a “long dinner and a few drinks” with Politico’s Ryan Lizza, where the congressman (and tree enthusiast) said Sinema is out to help herself while he’s out to help Democrats in general. And U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, who is actually running for Senate this year, is getting hit with ads in Spanish paid for by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Axios’ Jeremy Duda reports for his first byline in bullet-point style.

More lawsuits trying to stop things: The Tohono O'odham Nation, Pascua Yaqui and Hopi tribes want to stop Rosemont Copper’s operations from moving into the Santa Rita Mountains, the Tucson Sentinel’s Paul Ingram writes. Environmentalists want to stop a potential Interstate 11 because of potential harm to wildlife and the air, Fischer writes. 

Gotta spend water to make water: Lake Powell will get some water from another reservoir while the federal government keeps more water in the lake to head off any potential power generation problems at Glen Canyon Dam, but the fix is temporary for the ailing water levels that supply the West, the Arizona Daily Star’s Tony Davis reports. 

Where AREN’T the rents increasing?: Rents in the Maryvale parts of Phoenix have increased significantly over the past decade, and the once-affordable area now has six apartment complexes that are frequent eviction-filers, the Republic’s Catherine Reagor, Jessica Boehm and Ralph Chapoco report.

If we ever have this kind of money, you’ll never hear from us again: Republican U.S. Senate hopeful and very rich man Jim Lamon has so much money to spend on his political pursuits that he’s donating to tons of GOP candidates in Arizona and across the country in addition to self-funding his campaign with millions, the Republic’s Yvonne Wingett Sanchez reports. In other fundraising news, Republican gubernatorial candidate (and “formerly serious person”) Karrin Taylor Robson roped some people into recurring donations that they didn’t realize they signed up for, leading to more refunds than other candidates for governor, the Republic’s Stacey Barchenger reports. 

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Whoever does the editing touch-ups on the legislative portraits does a great job: No matter what happens, the Arizona House and Senate will have new top leaders next year. And in the Senate, Republicans David Gowan, J.D. Mesnard and Warren Petersen all want the top job, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Camryn Sanchez reports. 

Should Rachel write a deep dive on this whole thing?: The Tempe City Council is siding with Shady Park in the battle between the music venue and the retirement community Mirabella, which prevailed in a court ruling over noise levels at the venue, Fox10’s May Phan reports. The city said the ruling, which is being appealed, “casts into doubt Tempe’s ability to thoughtfully regulate and promote live music throughout the city.”

Get job back, start union: Three Starbucks workers in Phoenix who were fired could get their jobs back after the National Labor Relations Board said the company unlawfully fired the unionizers. 

Good luck breathing out there: The air is spicy, and Phoenix is among the worst in the nation in air pollution.

CUTE DOG ALERT: Bodie the dog and Douglas Hudspeth the human volunteer to help Sky Harbor airport travelers keep calm. 

Members of a homeowners’ association can now legally post political signs, meet in common areas and circulate petitions about their HOA elections.

Republican Rep. John Kavanagh’s House Bill 2158, which Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law earlier this month, made it clear that homeowners can express themselves through political speech and assembly related to their HOAs. Kavanagh cast the bill as a free speech issue. 

Dennis Legere, the founder of the Arizona Homeowners Coalition, told the House Government and Elections Committee in January that lawmakers have tried to pass the same bill three times. He said it stemmed from people who were trying to organize and get attention from their HOA board who were suppressed and denied the ability to use community areas to meet.

The bill unanimously passed the House and Senate before getting Ducey’s signature.

Republican gubernatorial contender Karrin Taylor Robson unearthed more contradictory social media posts showing opponent Kari Lake didn’t always have such pro-COVID-19 views. 

At one point, Lake thought that maybe masks shouldn't be lit on fire, and that coughing on people during a pandemic was a bad idea. 

It’s getting hard to find Lake’s daily dose of hypocrisy funny anymore. But it is still funny to us that Taylor Robson is attacking Lake for holding a few sane views that the base abhors. It’s the perfect metaphor for the Republican Party right now. 

When we asked Taylor Robson’s consultant Matthew Benson if she agrees with the old Lake that masks are helpful, he didn’t answer. 

“The Karrin for Arizona campaign believes in individual liberty, the power of free will and the boundless depths of Kari Lake’s insincerity,” he wrote back. 

1. For some backstory, #InvestInEd 1.0 was booted from the ballot in 2018. #InvestInEd 2.0 became Proposition 208 in 2020, which voters approved, but the Arizona Supreme Court denied from going into effect.