EDITOR’S NOTE: The article has been updated to reflect comments by Rep. Alex Kolodin, vice chair of the House Municipal Oversight & Elections Committee.
It is a familiar occurrence in Arizona politics of late – claims of copious amounts of evidence has been compiled pointing to election fraud and other crimes. But the evidence hasn’t been turned over to law enforcement because they too are in on the misconduct.
The scenario played out most recently on Feb. 23 during a joint meeting of the Arizona Senate Elections and House Municipal Oversight & Elections committees. Although this time lawmakers seem to be distancing themselves as far as possible from one of the presenters, Jacqueline Fine-Breger.
During her 40 minutes at the microphone, Breger referred to dozens of people she names who allegedly have “falsified deeds” on file, all stemming from efforts going back decades by Mexican cartels to influence Arizona politics.
With the exception of Gov. Katie Hobbs and Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, Breger provided no evidence to support her claims, and what she claimed was evidence connecting Fontes and Hobbs to her Cartel conspiracy has been overwhelmingly discredited.
But it is not just elected or appointed officials on the list. Many of the people are judges, attorneys, and police officers, who just happen to have professional connections to an attorney for whom Breger works as an investigator.
That attorney, John Harris Thaler, is awaiting a March 6 court date in Maricopa County Superior Court where is charged with felony evading law enforcement. He is also the subject of numerous complaints filed in the Mesa Municipal Court in 2020 and 2021, one of which he appealed and is now being heard by another Maricopa County judge.
Thaler is also a party to three family court cases stemming from his former marriage. Coincidentally, his ex-wife was the central character in Breger’s presentation to the legislative committee.
Breger, an insurance agent, stated she had “receipts” to prove the ex-wife and her mother are involved in corruption, including a list of dozens of elected and appointed officials she asserts have been involved with falsified deeds.
Those deeds, according to Breger’s unsworn “testimony” at the recent committee meeting were in support of bribes associated with Mexican cartels and intended to influence Arizona politics. Or to facilitate money laundering.
There is also instances in which Thaler’s ex-wife purportedly engaged in loading falsified court documents into the Maricopa County Superior Court database. And she somehow was involved with the filing of what Breger’s presentation refers to as a false Oath of Office form filed by Maricopa County Supervisor Thomas Galvin.
Another target of Breger’s unsubstantiated corruption comments was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those comments led to a strong retort from Rep. Alex Kolodin, who heard from several LDS members who felt personally attacked by Breger’s accusations.
Kolodin, who is vice chair of the House Municipal Oversight & Elections Committee and is Jewish, said no one should feel like less of an ally in the fight for election integrity simply because of the creed to which they adhere.
“The house in which I serve is your house too and I stand with you,” he said in a statement directed to LDS members. “We are all Arizonans and we are all Americans. I would also add that the evidence produced thus far has fallen far short of what one might expect to be produced in support of such extraordinary claims.”
So how did Breger come to be given an open microphone to make her public accusations to a meeting of Arizona lawmakers who were told they would be hearing about election matters?
According to Sen. Wendy Rogers, it was Rep. Liz Harris (R-LD17) who asked several weeks ago to host “an elections presentation.” This was approved, Rogers said in a written statement released Sunday, by both chambers to take place Feb. 23.
Rogers, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Elections, said Harris invited Breger, who was described during her presentation as an “expert witness” called to “testify” about election fraud. However, Breger’s comments were not given under oath.
“Any claims as serious as those presented to us should have been immediately turned in to Arizona law enforcement officials and not brought before the Legislature,” Rogers’s statement reads. “This was not the appropriate venue to discuss what could potentially be criminal activity.”
The senator’s statement added that there was no indication any of the people named by Breger “had charges filed, have prosecutions pending, nor had any convictions made against them.”
But if Rogers hoped to quell the outcry about how she allowed the meeting to be hijacked by a clearly unvetted speaker, it did not work.
First, critics called Rogers’ statement too little, too late, noting she ignored the controversy for more than 72 hours. And when the senator did comment, it was on a Sunday evening.
Others were quick to note Rogers failed to offer even the slightest of apologies to the people whose reputations and possibly their jobs are in the crosshairs because of the public platform Breger was provided by Rogers.
In fact, Rogers leaves open the possibility Breger’s comments were legitimate despite no proof they are. She noted that “if any of the allegations presented are in fact true and there’s evidence to support these claims, the Legislature most certainly is not the proper authority to pursue charges.”
Also left unchecked by Rogers’ statement is an assertion included in Breger’s written report to the joint committee that former Gov. Doug Ducey was given more than 3,000 pages of “documentary evidence” nearly a year ago about corruption among Arizona officials.
The claim is contained in a four-page “Summary of Report” under Thaler’s name. It states a report was “provided to” Ducey in May 2022 after the governor “requested” evidence of the corruption claims.
However, Thaler’s summary makes no mention of when or how the governor reportedly made such a request. And although Thaler states Ducey received “several notebooks” comprising the voluminous evidence, he again provides no specifics as to exactly when nor even where the items were provided to the governor.
So, what does Breger and Thaler’s accusations about the conduct of Thaler’s ex-wife have to do with Arizona elections? That was a question that lawmakers appeared to be asking themselves throughout Breger’s presentation.
Eventually Breger revealed that in October 2020 people connected with Thaler claimed to have “discovered” about 25,000 falsified ballots along with “a significant sum of cash “ inside a private residence. The residence was purportedly rented by Thaler’s former mother-in-law.
And the ex-wife along with her mother have long been involved in facilitating illegal transfers of funds to candidates, campaigns, and political action committees, according to the presentation.
One of the first things a simple Google search would have revealed is that Thaler is currently suspended from practicing law in Arizona. He also agreed last year to a one-year term of probation with the California State Bar.
Another easy to find fact about Thaler is that he initiated a federal lawsuit in California in 2021 against several entities and persons, including his ex-wife and her mother. A judge there transferred the case to the U.S. District Court in Phoenix, noting none of the defendants were citizens of California.
Once the case was in an Arizona court, U.S. District Judge Douglas Rayes issued an order of dismissal with prejudice, meaning the case cannot be refiled. The judge further criticized Thaler’s “frivolous,” lawsuit, noting it “weaves a delusional and fantastical narrative that does not comport with federal pleading standards.”
The dismissal order also noted Rayes’ concerns with the “potentially harassing nature of Mr. Thaler’s filings” but the judge declined a request from the defendants at that time to declare Thaler a vexatious litigant.
A vexatious legal action is one deemed by a judge to have been brought solely to harass another party, either through a frivolous lawsuit or by filing unwarranted motions in an ongoing case. Such conduct is considered an abuse of the judicial system, and can lead to an order barring a party from making any filing in a specific court without prior authorization from a judge.
In the federal case heard by Rayes, the judge noted in June 2022 that he did not believe Thaler’s conduct to date justified a vexatious litigant label. But he left the door open.
“However, should Mr. Thaler continue filing similar delusional and fantastical complaints against Ms. Thaler, this order may serve as part of the record that might one day support issuance of an abusive litigant injunction,” Rayes wrote.
And why was Thaler not at the Feb. 23 legislative meeting? According to Breger, there have been six attempts on Thaler’s life.