If the plot to give 12 point-loser and former state Senate President Russell Pearce $260,000 is squashed (and I'm not convinced that it has been), it will be because of the efforts of Randy Parraz and Citizens for a Better Arizona, the folks that made the Pearce recall a reality in 2011.
Sure, before today, a couple of publications had written about the conspiracy to help Pearce cash in, with the Capitol Times being ahead of the pack, but it had raised little dust elsewhere.
So late last week when the Pearce welfare train looked like it was approaching the station, Parraz planned a press conference for today at the state Senate.
Every media outlet was present, and most importantly, the TV cameras were there en masse, soaking up a stunt where Parraz and his fellow CBA-ers attempted to present state Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs -- a Pearce loyalist and leader of the effort to reimburse him -- with a resolution calling on Biggs and his colleagues to stay true to their small government, Tea Party roots, and just say no to welfare for Russ.
Biggs, of course, would not come out of hiding to meet with Parraz, and the Senate doors were locked to all but lobbyists, so Parraz had the dozen or so CBA members present sign the resolution. Then he slid it under the Senate doors.
"This is another embarrassment," Parraz said after leaving his little present for Biggs. "[Pearce] got beat by 12 points, so he should pay us all back...You don't get recalled for doing your job. You get recalled because you didn't do your job."
Outside on the Senate lawn, Parraz, the CBAers, and attorney Tom Ryan were joined by state Senators Leah Landrum-Taylor and Steve Gallardo, as well as state Representative Martin Quezada.
In front of the microphones and the cameras, they began to lay into Pearce and the unholy notion of granting him a $260K retirement bonus.
CBA members held up a chart showing the donations to Pearce from lobbyists and political committees, as well as photos of the some of the illegal signs posted in Mesa during the recall. There was also a pic of Greg Western, sham recall candidate Olivia Cortes' Svengali, dropping off signatures to put Cortes' name on the ballot.
Gallardo noted that the legislators who want to give Pearce $260K are the same ones who want to repeal Arizona's Clean Election law. He called it "unconscionable" that this massive, taxpayer funded donation to Pearce would even be considered when the legislature was slashing education to the bone and not finding cash for programs like KidsCare.
Senator Taylor said she was "disgusted" and "disturbed" that handing Pearce a quarter-million dollars would even be discussed. She spoke of some of her constituents who are disabled and have been cut off AHCCCS, and yet, some GOPers wanted to make this check out to Pearce.
"This would be going too far," she said of the plot. "We need to stop this. It has not happened yet, and it needs to stop."
Tom Ryan, the Chandler lawyer who hauled Pearce-shill Olivia Cortes into court and ultimately forced her withdrawal, recounted all the dirty tricks pulled by the Pearce forces in the recall.
"I want to tell you about the campaign they want to reimburse," he intoned. "I was there on the front lines. I saw the class five felony fraud being conducted by the Pearce campaign. They ran a sham candidate. Her name is Olivia Cortes."
He said Pearce's fingerprints were all over the Cortes candidacy, which was meant to dilute the vote in the election, a class five felony under Arizona law. He decried the fact that prosecutor after Arizona prosecutor took a pass on doing a real investigation of the case.
And he had some choice words for a certain neo-Nazi-hugger from Mesa.
"I say we take this triple-dipping pig at the trough with government pensions," Ryan said of Pearce, "and don't let him have a fourth shot at the trough...You want to run for office, run without taxpayer money."
State Representative Martin Quezada was last at bat to express his outrage. But he had one of the more memorable quotes:
"In the words and in the beliefs of the former Senator Russell Pearce," he said, "I would ask him to follow his guidelines, and say, `What part of illegal do you not understand.' This is illegal. There is no statutory authority to reimburse Russell Pearce for this recall election."
To that point, the Associated Press has reported that Biggs is claiming the $260K transfer to Pearce's wallet will not happen via the budget, but that the issue will be addressed later in the week, with a bill that would enact a provision in the Arizona Constitution that allows the legislature to reimburse recalled officials.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
The Republic's Laurie Roberts has blogged that House GOP flack Ray Torres promised that whatever bill is passed, it will not be retroactive.
All this backpedaling began to happen very quickly after today's press conference.
Thing is, no one lies quite like a Russell Pearce Republican. So I won't believe a word till sine die (the session's end). Even then, we'll have to double check the fine print on whatever's passed this week to make sure that $260K isn't buried in the reams of paperwork.