Arizona is perceived to be the most corrupt state with respect to illegal corruption, according to a 2014 Harvard study. In terms of legal corruption, Arizona fared much better; with respondents believing that legal corruption was only “slightly common.”
For the purposes of the study, illegal corruption involves “the private gains in the form of cash or gifts by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups. It is the form of corruption that attracts a great deal of public attention.” Legal corruption involves “the political gains in the form of campaign contributions or endorsements by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups, be it by explicit or implicit understanding.”
The Harvard study found that respondents believed that illegal corruption was “very common” in the executive and legislative branches. Illegal corruption was considered to be “slightly common” in the judicial branch.
Respondents found that legal corruption was only “moderately common” in Arizona’s executive branch, while it was “very common” in the legislative branch. Legal corruption was considered to be “slightly common” in the judicial branch.
The study relied on the opinions of members of the media, and there is unquestionable bias by the liberal media against republican government officials, so the study does seem to favor blue states. That bias however; does not change the fact that Arizona’s government is dirty. Very dirty.
In the Arizona Eagletarian, Steve Muratore holds the press partly responsible for Arizona’s sorry shape. He wrote: “In Arizona, all lying pols have to do sometimes is call up editors and publishers and accuse the reporters. The bean counters in those organizations HATE the possibility of losing either advertising revenue or access. So, reporters are reeled in and we get the Ryan Randazzo type who does nothing but kiss the asses of people like Trash Burner, former Commissioner Bob Stump or APS president Don Brandt.”
Bob Stump is a former member of the Arizona Corporation Commission. It is well-known that the Corporation Commission does the bidding of the utility companies and not the rate payers they are supposed to serve. Don Brandt is Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of Pinnacle West and APS (Arizona Public Service).
In his article, Arizona’s Legal Ethics, Public Corruption And Lawyer Discipline’ Sui Generis’ Or A National Pattern?, Arizona attorney Jack Levine explores the power of APS and its influence over elected officials. He writes, “Over a number of years, two of Arizona’s largest law firms have gradually taken over control of the state’s two largest public utilities by placing their firm members, former firm members and relatives on their governing boards and executive offices, while at the same time each serving as their law firms. It is also a matter of some irony that while these law firms were taking control of their public utility clients, members of one of these law firms served for many years as the State Bar’s Chief Ethics Counsel.”
Since 2014, the Governor’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, and the State Board of Education have paid nearly $1.5 million to the same law firm for services rendered.
Justice for some
In July 2016, the ADI reported on a case involving members of the Snell and Wilmer law firm. Documents obtained through a records request showed that in April 2015, the Chief of the Criminal Division of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Don Conrad, gave final approval for the prosecution of attorneys from the firm. At the time Conrad approved the prosecution, agents and attorneys in the Horne administration had already obtained 5 plea agreements from conspirators lower on the food chain in that case.
“Because Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich had benefitted greatly from the support of attorneys with the firm during his campaign, any other action by that office would have been considered unprofessional at best,” reported the ADI. “Despite the fact that Conrad and Andy Rublacava, Chief of Special Investigations approved proceeding with charging Snell and Wilmer attorneys and taking the case to the State Grand Jury by executing a Fraud and Special Prosecutions (FSP) case open document on May 5, 2016, Brnovich’s office did not immediately hand the matter over to another jurisdiction. In fact, rather than taking the appropriate action, the Office went to the extreme and tried to shut down the case altogether. Those extreme measures included firing several staff members with knowledge of the case.”
As the ADI predicted in that article, because the Attorney General’s office came under scrutiny, Brnovich handed the matter over to Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles. Voyles, who is currently under investigation by the FBI, made the case go away. Allegedly the Attorney General’s Office made it easy by withholding key information from Pinal County prosecutors.
The entire case had to be undone in order to ensure that the mastermind conspirators could breathe easy. Due to the fact that voters only replaced Voyles in the 2016 Republican County Attorney Primary with Kent Volkmer; a less attractive version of Voyles, the case was sure to die. In January 2017, a Pinal County attorney asked a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to vacate all of the plea agreements. She did as asked, but with hesitation. She had little choice. She would not agree to dismiss the case with prejudice however.
A sliver of hope
The judge’s ruling in the matter might have been a death knell for justice. Fortunately for the many victims in that case – which now include former Attorney General staff members – the FBI opened an investigation into the matter. As a result of the actions by public officials in the case, what started as an investigation into civilians’ criminal acts, morphed into one that included public corruption allegations.
The aforementioned case is not an isolated instance. There are at least two other instances in which the Arizona Attorney’s Office took steps to protect politically connected subjects from prosecution.
Check back tomorrow for more.