If you're political-sleaze maestro Constantin Querard, the Arizona Legislature practically is your own personal Downton Abbey.
Querard's team of taxpayer-funded butlers, bootblacks, and maids is extensive — at least 20, by his own claim — in both the upper and lower chamber.
On February 21, before the state House Reform and Human Services Committee, C.Q. had five state representatives at his beck and call.
Stephen Lemons column
This quintet of flunkies — David Gowan, Steve Montenegro, Carl Seel, Steve Smith, and Kelly Townsend — are Republicans, like the rest of his legislative toadies.
Querard appeared before the committee to pimp a bill near to his heart, one his vassals obediently voted out of committee with a "do pass" recommendation, House Bill 2551.
House Majority Leader Gowan is HB 2551's prime sponsor. Though not on the committee, he spoke on its behalf and on behalf his "friend" Querard.
Gowan and Querard are more than pals. Querard ran Gowan's campaign last year and made more than $13,000 off the legislator, according to finance reports on file with the Arizona Secretary of State.
RHS committee chair Montenegro ponied up nearly $35,000 to Querard during the last cycle, minus the $848 Querard and his wife, Lisa, donated to Montenegro's campaign.
Vice Chair Townsend paid Querard's consulting firm and printing business more than $24,000 in 2012.
Townsend's money came from the Citizens Clean Election Commission, a.k.a. welfare for politicos and their vendors.
Smith was good for $15,643 to Querard's companies, less a $424 contribution from his political papi. Seel forked over more than $20,000 to Querard.
Yep, it's good to be lord of the manse. Your minions keep the ducats flowing your way, and they'll vote for whatever you want — like HB 2551, which reads like a gift to financial pirates, deadbeat dads, and flimflam men.
The proposed law would work like this: If a judge or government entity issues a subpoena to examine someone's financial records, the financial institution cannot hand over those documents until 21 days pass.
Meanwhile, a copy of the subpoena has to be sent to the individual. The individual has 14 days to make a motion to quash the subpoena, if the release of the record causes an "unreasonable burden" or if the government entity is trying to "harass" the person.
'Cause harassing con men and corporate thieves is just plan un-American.
A financial institution would not be allowed to release a customer's records until the government agency involved "certifies in writing that it has complied with this article."
By this time, any scammer worth his grift would be taking a sunbath poolside in Puerto Vallarta.
Which explains why the Arizona Attorney General's Office reportedly has objected to the bill in the past, as has the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Also, the Arizona Department of Economic Security is worried that the bill, as is, could hamper the DES' ability to chase down money owed for child support.
Querard admitted his bill will cause headaches for law enforcement.
"I have no doubt that if you pass this bill, it will, at some level, make prosecution a little more difficult," he told the committee.
But this is about Querard and his needs. To which, law enforcement takes a back seat.
C.Q. has been trying to get this bill through a committee for years as a response to a scandal he endured from 2004-06, when the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission, the AG's Office, and Chandler attorney Tom Ryan, representing then-Maricopa County Republican Chairman Tom Liddy, exposed Querard's shenanigans for all the world to see.
Querard was fairly open with the committee about his reasons for wanting this bill to become law, describing that bygone investigation into his activities as "a fishing trip through my business," one that made "600 pages of my personal life" public record.
Querard portrayed himself as a victim, but the scandal was of his own making.
Despite his conservative pretensions, Querard is fond of milking the public tit in the form of Clean Elections cash, which, like all gub'mint handouts, comes with strings.
Clean Elections and the AG's Office are obligated to investigate allegations of wrongdoing. Querard exposed himself to an inquiry when, in 2004, he used a mailer that looked as if it came from the local GOP to obtain thousands of early-ballot requests.
Reportedly, Querard sold the data he mined from the returned mailers to his clients. County GOP chair Liddy essentially accused Querard of money laundering.
Querard sued for defamation, opening himself up to further scrutiny.
"I subpoenaed [Querard's] records as part of the underlying claim when he sued Liddy," Ryan told me recently. "I said, 'Fine, truth is an absolute defense [to a libel claim]; let's take a look at [Querard's] bank records.' Then, I turned them over to Clean Elections."
Ultimately, Querard lost his defamation suit and was revealed for the scoundrel he is.
Republican legislator and C.Q. puppet Colette Rosati was revealed to be a major ditz. C.Q. told her what committee assignments to seek, whom to back for speaker, and whether she should send out Christmas cards.
Rosati admitted to once giving Querard a blank check. An AG's investigator found that she had sent Querard lump sums of cash without disclosing what the cash was for.
Clean Elections dinged her $20,000, lowered the fine to $5,000, and finally allowed her to pay $2,500.
Another of Querard's candidates, Representative David Burnell Smith, resigned because of Clean Elections violations, though he ran again and was elected.
Despite all this ammo, the AG's Office under Terry "Do Nothing" Goddard, produced zero indictments.
During the defamation suit, more Querard shenanigans were uncovered with his nonprofit Arizona Family Project, which paid him a salary and allegedly was used to affect the outcomes of GOP primaries.
"I turned the light on, and they scattered like cockroaches," Ryan said of his work in the libel trial. "Know why? Because they're cockroaches."
Concerning Liddy's allegation that Querard had been "utilizing illegal tactics to launder tax-exempt nonprofit money into politics," the judge in the case said he believed Liddy's statement to be true and ruled against Querard.
No wonder C.Q. wants HB 2551 passed.
On the committee, Democrat Andrea Dalessandro had the temerity to ask how many of the committee's members were clients of Querard's.
Montenegro didn't like that question, advising Dalessandro to "be careful."
Of what? The truth?
"I have 20 clients in this Legislature," Querard kvetched. "It's impossible for me to find a committee that doesn't have someone I've worked with or against [on it]."
He reminded Dalessandro that he had run campaigns against her in the past and suggested the possibility that he might do so again.
"You've heard the bill," C.Q. told her. "Do you want to go back to your district and tell them, by the way, any state agency can go to your bank, take what they want to, they don't have to tell you about it, and I voted to say that was okay?"
Querard left out the part about having that little thing called a subpoena. Details, details.
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Justifying their votes, C.Q.'s servants on the committee wrapped themselves in the flag and the U.S. Constitution.
They pointed to a similar federal law that does not apply to the states and suggested this was all about protecting citizens' Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
Republican legislator Debbie Lesko also voted for the bill, though C.Q. didn't run her campaign. Perhaps that's what allowed her to voice concern over the DES' objection to the bill.
All three Dems on the committee voted against HB 2551, for what it's worth. This, friends, is our representative democracy at work — and it represents C.Q. pretty darn well.