See also: Russell Pearce's "Arizona Teacher's [sic] Association": Olivia Cortes Part 2? (w/Updates) See also: Russell Pearce Claims David Schweikert's Endorsement, Schweikert Spokesman Denies Claim See also: Russell & Lester Pearce's Hillbilly-Fest: David Schweikert Not Attending, Though Lester Thinks Otherwise (w/Updates)
Shama-lama-ding-dong. Like those Sea Monkeys sold in the back of old comic books, the so-called "Arizona Teacher's Association" is springing to life before our very eyes.
As with water added to desiccated sea brine, the scrutiny of the press has animated, in record time, this rookie organization, which has lent its "support" to recalled, disgraced pathological liar, ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce.
For instance, the ATA has a new website, arizonateachersassociation.net, its domain registration cloaked, unlike the now defunct azta.us, so that only the host company is revealed.
But at least this new site, which was created July 27, spells the name of the organization correctly, unlike the past site and the signs used by the Pearce campaign touting the support of the "Arizona Teacher's [sic] Association."
I learned of the new website from group "spokesman" Tim Horn, a former AM radio host and author of the self-published tome Ruling the Elite. He called me Monday to answer questions on the ATA's behalf.
The only problem: Mr. Horn had only just become a member two days ago, so his knowledge of the ATA was a little sketchy. Though he was sure, kinda-sorta, of his own lack of teaching experience.
"I've never really been a certified teacher," Horn explained. "I think we're all kind of teachers. But I've always had a strong interest in education."
Seems the ATA PAC is open to everyone. You need not be a teacher, just a believer in conservative principles regarding education. But does the ATA actually have any teachers currently associated with it?
Horn says yes. Very well, can he name any of them?
"Absolutely I can," Horn told me. "But I'm not going to . . . Some of the teachers we've got out there are working teachers. There's too much intimidation by the left and the unions to do that. They could get hurt by exposing who they are."
Despite his best efforts, other simple facts concerning the organization he's shilling for eluded him, such as the exact number of members (though he believes it's under 100), the number of teachers among those members (he estimates about one-third), and so on.
What about John Hedgpeth, the man listed as the "chairman" of the ATA? Is he a teacher?
"I don't know if he's a teacher or not," Horn replied. "I've never met him."
Oooh-kay, so why did the ATA choose to "support" Russell Pearce, a man who has cut mega-millions from the state's education budget?
"I wasn't involved in the vetting," offered Horn. "But Russell's been a really good conservative on education."
After all, money isn't everything, as long as the money available is directed the right way, according to Horn.
"Trying to get the dollars down to where the kids are is what it's all about," Horn explained.
Horn insisted he was not being paid for his trouble, but rather was a volunteer. He would not say who recruited him into the organization, but he did have a list of other politicians supported by the ATA, some clients of Pearce sleazemeister Constantin Querard: state Representatives Steve Montenegro and Michelle Ugenti, and state Senator Lori Klein, to name a few.
Interestingly, the ATA was registered with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office on the same day and by the same people who created the Healthcare Professionals for American Rights PAC: i.e., Caroline Condit and the elusive John Hedgpeth.
Hedgpeth is the treasurer of HPAR; Condit the chair. Their roles are reversed on the ATA. You'll recall that I spoke with Condit last week about the latter.
"I have not had time to get that one up and running," Condit, a former GOP candidate for the state House in Legislative District 15, said when I called her yesterday about the HPAR.
She related that she took the chair position on the HPAR because she's a nurse, but she could not say what Hedgpeth's education background is or is not.
"I know he was an instructor of -- I don't remember what," she said. "Forgive me, it's been so chaotic here lately. I believe he was an instructor, but I've never asked him his credentials quite frankly."
If much of the ATA remains mysterious to those involved in it, you can understand why the 30,000-member strong Arizona Education Association, the largest organization of its kind in the state, would be befuddled by the ATA.
"We don't know who the Arizona Teachers Association is," AEA spokesman Doug Kilgore stated when we spoke this morning. "We have spent a lot of time trying to check into them. We did check with our Mesa teachers, and they've never heard of them either. So it's kind of like a mystery to us who they are."
What did Kilgore think of an organization like the ATA, whose spokesman either could not or would not put forth the names of any teachers who are its members?
"I think the public can take the statement by this spokesperson and draw their own conclusions," he replied. "Especially with the history of the candidate that this is connected to."
Indeed, the history of last year's recall election was one of skullduggery and deception by the Pearce camp from to start to finish, with the sham candidacy of Olivia Cortes being the most infamous example of this duplicity.
Plus, one need only review Pearce operative Constantin Querard's shameless antics over the years -- from the meaningless "Friend of the Family" awards doled out by his two-dimensional Arizona Family Project, to a 2004 controversy concerning mailers Querard sent out to fellow GOPers, which were made to seem as if they came from the county Republican Party.
In that scandal, then-Maricopa County GOP chair Tom Liddy accused Querard of "utilizing illegal tactics to launder tax-exempt nonprofit money into politics."
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Querard sued Liddy for defamation, and lost, badly.
Is the ATA a Querard creation? Or has some aspiring Tea Party ne'er-do-well simply taken a cue from the maestro's history?
Does it really matter? As with the sham candidacy of Olivia Cortes, this ATA endorsement has backfired. Certainly, it's not the only Pearce stumble of this primary. Consider it part of the Pearce camp's vast cache of guns bent backwards to fire on the folks pullin' the trigger.
(Note: Pearce-o-philes should check out the always amusing PoliticoMafioso website, which dogs scalawags like Pearce and Querard from the GOP side of the fence, for its recent, highly-informative "Top Ten Reasons Russell Pearce Is a Hypocrite!" I thought I knew 'em all, but blogger Jeff Vath offers some examples even I'd never heard of. Good work, Jeff, as always.)