I had an interesting conversation following the recent debate between state Senate President Russell Pearce and his recall opponent, Republican Jerry Lewis, at Mesa's East Valley Institute of Technology.

As I was speaking with Pearce's brother Lester, a Justice of the Peace, and listening to him apologize profusely for angrily grabbing freelance newshound Dennis Gilman's video camera just before the forum, a tall gent walked up and said something snide to me about my columnizing.

He identified himself as Summit Consulting's Chad Willems, a Republican political operative who is managing Pearce's campaign along with the notorious Chuck Coughlin of High Ground Public Affairs, the man who pulls Governor Jan Brewer's strings.

Willems is no slouch, either, as he runs Sheriff Joe Arpaio's well-funded re-election campaign.

His presence lent me the opportunity to ask him about a meeting that Lewis' campaign manager, Anson Clarkson, stumbled upon weeks back. This, before sham candidate Olivia Cortes was forced from hiding and made — through the pro bono efforts of attorneys Tom Ryan and H. Micheal Wright — officially to withdraw her candidacy

Clarkson thought he was going to a Tea Party function in Mesa but was told by Willems that the coffee klatch actually was a campaign meeting for Pearce.

At the meeting, Clarkson told me, were (among others) the senator, Lester Pearce, Willems, and Greg Western, the East Valley Tea Party chairman responsible for recruiting Cortes to run as a diversionary candidate, meant to siphon votes away from Lewis.

When I asked Willems about this gathering, he played dumb at first. But then I turned to Lester Pearce and reminded him that he was there, which he freely admitted. Willems then had to own up to being present, too, though he said he didn't remember meeting Western.

"I don't believe I talked to Greg Western," Willems said. "I know the name. I met about a hundred people that night. It was my first Tea Party meeting . . . I'm a North Scottsdale guy; it was the first one I've ever been to."

I asked Willems whether he knew about Western and his Tea Party pals' putting Cortes on the ballot.

"Not until I read it in the paper," he claimed.

Was the Cortes candidacy discussed at this meeting?

"Not that I know of," Willems said. "I was outside loading up signs. [The Tea Party people] said they were taking care of internal business at their meeting. And after that, we were the guests there. We walked in and told them we needed their support."

Nevertheless, Willems confessed that he did ask Clarkson to leave because Pearce's campaign strategy was on the agenda.

Russell Pearce has denied knowing anything about the Cortes candidacy, in spite of the fact that his friends and family members circulated petitions for Cortes.

Perhaps he does have some "plausible deniability." When the Tea Partiers discussed "internal business," Willems and Pearce supposedly waited outside. Quite convenient.

I then wondered about Willems' unique political partnership with Constantin Querard, the guy running an independent expenditure committee on behalf of Pearce and the guy whom many believe ultimately was behind the Cortes effort — though Querard has denied this.

"We usually work on opposite sides," Willems told me, adding, "I'm a Republican consultant. He's a consultant. He's got his candidates. I run mine. Often times, we're at odds. I know him; we're not friends. He's not the kind of guy I'd go and have a beer with."

And yet I suspect that all these political consultants — Willems, Querard, and Coughlin — are well aware of the shenanigans perpetrated by various members of the Pearce campaign.

It's also tough to digest Pearce's denials. After the debate, Pearce was surrounded by members of the news media. Like Willems, he said he learned of his supporters and family members' shilling for Cortes by reading the newspaper. He said he confronted his nieces, who circulated Cortes petitions, and they broke down in tears.

What about Constantin Querard's bag of dirty tricks?

In a private Facebook message from July, first exposed by Channel 12's Brahm Resnik, Querard sought to recruit LD 18 "patriots" to run in the recall election.

Querard later told Resnik he was attempting to recruit Democrats to run, though it makes no sense that he'd ask this of fellow Republicans. And in any case, Querard has operated a pro-Pearce independent expenditure committee, Arizona Deserves the Best, since February. He is prohibited by state statute from coordinating his activities with candidates.

This explains Pearce's slithery replies to my questions.

"Constantin Querard is not working on my [behalf] — that I know of," he said after the debate.

I pointed out that Querard had challenged signatures in favor of the recall, submitted by Citizens for a Better Arizona.

"I didn't organize that. He may have. You're asking if I know?" Pearce shot back as I pressed him.

"Does he have a direct connection to Olivia Cortes?" I asked.

"Ask him," Pearce said. "I don't know."

It should be noted that Querard has crowed about his access to Pearce in the past, and previously, Pearce has been overheard telling a supporter to contact Querard to help out with vetting opposition signatures.

"If laws were broken in the Cortes affair, should they be enforced?" I inquired of the state Senate president.

"If laws were broke, I'm a believer in the rule of law," he said.

"Even if it involves members of your own family?" I wondered.

"My family didn't break any laws," he replied.

Pearce, his brother, his nieces, and his Tea Party allies probably believe this Cortes business will blow over. After all, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has endorsed Pearce's re-election bid, and Horne so far has refused to look into Cortes-gate.

Yet the Arizona Secretary of State's Office dutifully is investigating the provenance of Cortes' mysterious campaign signs, and if evidence of wrongdoing is discovered, it will turn the matter over to the AG, who, you can anticipate, will sit on it 'til Judgment Day.

This is the many-tentacled octopus of corruption that is Arizona. And it is the reason such obvious election fraud is countenanced.

Recently, when I phoned Petition Pros owner Diane Burns to ask who paid her for her signature-soliciting services in the Cortes campaign, she seemed shocked.

"It's all over with, isn't it?" she asked.

Still, she declined to tell me who paid her, and she denied Querard was involved, though she had dropped the name "Constantin" when I confronted her in early September as she gathered signatures for Cortes outside the Mesa Public Library.

Tom Ryan had subpoenaed her to appear at a second hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court, but the hearing was canceled after Cortes dropped out. That is, he had tried to subpoena her. Burns purposely evaded direct service of the subpoena, according to Ryan. (Ryan says Querard similarly evaded service.)

When I queried Burns about having dodged Ryan's private detective's attempt to hand her a subpoena, she hung up.

Other sources have suggested that Cortes, as dumb as she appeared on the stand before Judge Edward Burke, was aware that her purpose in running was to split the vote, even though she stated under oath that she was "in it to win."

Western has bragged openly of recruiting Cortes to run for Pearce's benefit, and he admitted that Cortes knew what was what, these sources say.

"Cortes maintained that this was her way of serving her country, by helping Pearce," one source remembered Western stating.

Mike Wright, Ryan's co-counsel and a Lewis supporter, recently penned an op-ed titled "Mesa's Watergate," which you can read on my Feathered Bastard blog.

He observes that the lawsuit he and Ryan brought against Cortes "served as a tool to remove a sham candidate" and that case law has held that running a diversionary candidate is in violation of the Arizona Constitution.

Moreover, Arizona Revised Statute 16-1006 makes it a class 5 felony to defraud a voter by "corrupt means or influence."

The actions of those in the Pearce camp make it plain that they knew they were doing something wrong.

"The fact that there are secret conspiring actors who are unquestionably supporters of Russell Pearce," Ryan's co-counsel writes, "and that they [choose] to remain anonymous, tells us that they recognize that what they have done is illegal or at least embarrassing."

Wright's the lawyer, but I think the emphasis should be on "illegal," as I don't think those in Pearce's craven crew are capable of embarrassment.

On the other hand, they might be afraid of breaking the law or, more likely, getting caught breaking the law — if Arizona's Attorney General had an inkling of doing the right thing.

Coughlin, Willems, Querard, Cortes, Russell Pearce, and the rest should be under the hot lights of a state investigation for their involvement in Cortes-gate. That they're not is something all Arizonans should be ashamed of.

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44 comments
Dumoudan
Dumoudan

October 17, 2011:SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Texas law enforcement officials say several Mexican drug cartels are luring youngsters as young as 11 to work in their smuggling operations.Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told Reuters the drug gangs have a chilling name for the young Texans lured into their operations.They call them 'the expendables,'" he said

Hvacrpro
Hvacrpro

Fascism at best... with a whole lotta racism.. one sided politicking for those with double standards . people need to vote out all the republican disparity and hate policies . big govt comes from red state governing. the ppl get it.

Forty90970
Forty90970

Corrupt politicians for corrupt politicians, they should be marched to the wall

AnotherMesaVoter
AnotherMesaVoter

Letter writing campaign to seek a state investigation? Who do we send the letters to?

Dumoudan
Dumoudan

Let us resolve this issue once and for all by doing what is right.Should immigrants who chose to go through the normal immigration process and those who cross the border illegally be treated the same? How is that fair and just to one and all?

loushow
loushow

Let us resolve this issue once and for all by doing what is right.Should Coughlin, Willems, Querard, Cortes, Russell Pearce, and the rest, be under the hot lights of a state investigation for their involvement in Cortes-gate? That they're not is something all Arizonans should be ashamed of.

Hvacrpro
Hvacrpro

Its just not about migrants, its about all Americans the Cancerous Conservatism hate and racist policies are effecting. In fact, it is why the economy is still tanked, thank midterm republicrap majority congress, a fine example for americans to know whats coming if they are elected to deny the rest of America anything equal in profits not just sharing their debts due to their failed corporate favored kickback policies and deregulation. we must fight them with our votes and where we spend. end of story.

BAFP
BAFP

If there were a "line" or "process" they could go through, perhaps. But there is no line. US policy is simply awful. Employers need workers, Mexicans need jobs, but still, not line ....

Dumoudan
Dumoudan

You need to learn more about the UD immigration policy. There is a "line" and there is a quota system. We do not have the means to support an unlimited number of people entering the US without going through the legal entry process. You people can't seem to comprehend that.

Bobunf
Bobunf

What is the quota for unskilled, un-related, non-refugee Mexicans to enter the US and work?

You must not know that the number is -0- (that's zero, as in nada, zilch, none) or you wouldn't post such absurdities. Or maybe you do, and are attempting to fool others for your ideological purposes.

You do know that's called "lying" as in "Liar, liar, pants on fire."

So, which is it, a liar or a fool?

Ellie
Ellie

Your "this issue" is just a straw man since illegal immigrants aren't treated the same as people who have immigrated legally. It's also utterly irrelevant with respect to the criminal acts that were likely committed by those who tried to deceive Arizona voters with a sham candidate.

Banphotoradar
Banphotoradar

Which one of those guys runs Sonoran Alliance?

Tina
Tina

Stephen, thanks for adding so much more dimension to your already outstanding investigative reporting. The Diane Burns behavior of secrecy is particularly interesting, as his her denial of the Constantin connection when she herself asked the other guy something about whether he would be seeing Constantin in your presence in front of the library on Sept. 8, as they were so busily getting Cortes' signatures.

tromy
tromy

These people have destroyed the credibility of our State. They will be the downfall of everything here.Please people look for leaders with integrity and honesty. Not just who hates the most or loudest.

Lee
Lee

Is there a legal basis for the U.S. Department of Justice to undertake a federal voter fraud investigation?

Jason
Jason

Russell Pearce is nothing more than a sleazy old man for his role in the Cortes "campaign."

As for state Attorney General Tom Horne, when hell freezes over, Horne will "investigate" his good buddy Pearce. Horne is as mentally sick as Pearce. Horne is supporting Pearce in the recall election.

Then, there is Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. I read somewhere that Monty is a Desert Storm veteran. But when it comes to actually growing a pair and doing his job, Monty runs and hides, probably for fear of the MCSO shurf.

Pearce is REALLY scared. And he rightly should be. The people of LD18 desperately want and need representation in the state Senate. And Jerry Lewis is the man for the job. Pearce is being fired yet again from a job, this time by the voters of his own LD. Vote Lewis on November 8.

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

Watching the Hendy testimony today at the disbarment hearing, I'm amazed how much Hendy reminds me of pearce. They spew, spin, spit, and sputter and never can remember the 'truth'...

Jason
Jason

I couldn't be there, I have to work until 6 tonight. Is Blimpie babbling incoherently about the grand conspiracy between the four judges, the MCBOS, senior county management, Tom Irvine and Wade Swanson?

Or is he babbling about how he made the decision to arrest Stapley outside the statute of limitations?

Conde Jodido
Conde Jodido

What about Pearce's triple dipping pension gravy train?

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

Employees contribute to their pension, as well as the employer. Once the pension is 100% 'vested' it belongs to the employee... regardless of where they work in the future, or even if they are convicted of a felony and sent to prison. Hendershott, however, is a really good example of what should be illegal 'double dipping'...

teknik1200
teknik1200

I can't understand how this doesn't anger "fiscal conservatives"..

..oh wait, conservatives tend to be a walking contradiction, don't they..

Reggie VV
Reggie VV

Of course you are correct. The more insane the idea in Arizona, the more likely it is to be implemented, especially if they have been told to do it by ALEC and the Koch Brothers. If it was Warrren Buffetts idea, its bad. Maybe Horne will do something, if he assigns it to his international extredition expert.

Dumoudan
Dumoudan

Should immigrants who chose to go through the normal immigration process and those who cross the boreder illegally be treated the same? How is that fair and just to one and all?

Jason
Jason

You must really like hearing yourself talk, don't you?

We need tighter and tougher border security, and that's what Obama is doing. So STFU, will ya?

Jenna
Jenna

Dumbo: You asked the same question at AZ Central on the page with Hendershott testifying. Are you capable of having only one thought per day, or what?

Coz
Coz

Dumbo is only capable of 1 thought ever.

Dogbiter
Dogbiter

Hopefully Pearcer will be a gonner in early November! Otherwise, Cortes-gate worked like the charm Pearce lacks.

mikefrombisbee
mikefrombisbee

The reason why all these underhanded shenanigans go on is that there is no political entity with the will or desire to stop it. The AG's office is in the hands of a right-wing nutjob who gets his jollies playing Cato ("Carthage must be destroyed") when discussing TUSD's MAS curriculum, a wimp county attorney in the pocket of fat cats, a governor's office that serves as a revolving door for corporate lobbyists, a state legislature that displays all the characteristics of a behavioral health group home and a sleazy, egotistical sheriff who more than likely masturbates while looking at a mirror. Such is the state of politics here in the state of Insanity. Our state motto should be, instead of God Enriches, "God Enriches All the Sleazy Sons of Bitches." Anyone care to tackle that one in Latin?

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

This is as close as I could get:

"Deus Augeo Totus Sleazy Sons of Bitches"

mikefrombisbee
mikefrombisbee

Now we need a redesigned state seal - instead of honest but drunken George Warren it should have one of Jan Brewer's senior staffers taking a bag of money from a CCA lobbyist. Or RuSSell Pearce taking a dump on a copy of the constitution.

Jason
Jason

Then we need a new state flag.

The Stars and Bars comes to mind. Or the Nazi flag.

Vic
Vic

No doubt Tom Horn will at least wait for the results of the election next month to evencomment on this.

Coz
Coz

If you are going to depend on Horne for Justice, there will never be any.

mikefrombisbee
mikefrombisbee

The only pair Horne has is jiggling on his chest.

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

Kinda like those you might see hanging from the rear of a pickup truck in cowboy country, eh Mike?

WhoKnows
WhoKnows

Now is the time where we will see if Tom Horne has a pair or if we need to take up a collection so he can got to "Fantasies" and buy a strap on!

Oblivious Cortex
Oblivious Cortex

Turn it all over to the Justice Department and give them three years to investigate.

Tommy Collins
Tommy Collins

["He said he confronted his nieces, who circulated Cortes petitions, and they broke down in tears.']

I suppose it's possible the girls broke down in tears of joy when Uncle Russell handed each of them large amounts of cash for their time and efforts. That would explain why they might break down in tears. Otherwise, if they were doing nothing wrong, why would (1) he confront them, and (2) why would it bother them enough to cry about it?

It's just another product of the pearce spin machine..

Eleanor
Eleanor

You got that right, Tommy.

Follower_of_the_ONE
Follower_of_the_ONE

Intimidation could have been a factor Tommy...was he wearing his wife beater t-shirt during the "confrontation", [the red dyed ones... very intimidating!]? Instead of the word "CONFRONTED" perhaps "talked with" would have been a more appropriate reply. To "Confront" someone ... a method that often leans towards harsh outcomes. I'm not saying or implying that Russell Pearce would beat a woman but...several people have including his wives!.

Not surprised
Not surprised

"Not until I read it in the paper"

They all went to the same deny/deflect seminar, didn't they?

 
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