I understand that lawyers need to make a buck, and usually I wouldn't worry about one latching onto Republican state Senate President and recall boy Russell Pearce like a lamprey sucking the blood out of an alligator, but even so, Phoenix attorney Lisa Hauser is a joke. And not a funny one.
Not that her recent court complaint on behalf of Pearce challenging the certification of recall petition signatures, collected by Citizens for a Better Arizona, doesn't afford some grins.
Instead of the "massive voter registration fraud," alleged by wingnut writer Linda Bentley of Cave Creek rag the Sonoran News, Hauser went after Secretary of State Ken Bennett, big-time, as well as Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne, who works for GOPer and County Recorder Helen Purcell.
I should point out that Governor Jan Brewer, another Republican, has ordered a November 8 recall election, as she was required to do under Arizona statute. Indeed, all the actions taken by the Secretary of State's Office and Osborne are dictated by state law.
The recall committee gathered many more than the required 7,756 signatures from registered voters in Pearce's Legislative District 18 to force a special election. Recently, Osborne re-certified 10,296 signatures as valid. There will be a recall election, as much as Pearce and his allies wish otherwise.
Pearce's anti-recall committee, Citizens Who Oppose the Pearce Recall, pored over the signatures collected, hunting for evidence of fraud.
What did they find? People who signed but whose addresses have changed. Entries in which the handwriting for addresses did not match the signatures (some folks print these, instead of writing in cursive). A couple of petition circulators with niggling problems on their petition sheets.
Zero evidence of fraud. So what's the basis for Hauser's lawsuit?
Hauser's number-one complaint is about the affidavit filled out by each circulator, swearing that, as far as the circulator knew, the signatures on each petition sheet were from qualified voters.
The language of that affidavit, prescribed by statute, is determined by the Secretary of State's Office, not the recall committee. In fact, the Committee for a Better Arizona got the format of the petition sheets from the Secretary of State.
But Hauser argues that the Arizona Constitution mandates that the circulator "make and subscribe an oath on said sheet, that the signatures thereon are genuine."
Hauser alleges the Secretary of State's recall petitions are not in line with the Constitution and, therefore, all the signatures, legitimate or not, are invalid and must be tossed.
This is where I must restrain hysterical laughter. I do so because Hauser's tack is insulting and attempts to disenfranchise fellow citizens, nullifying their legal right to recall Pearce.
Such anti-democratic malarkey, on behalf of a politician who claims he can handily win a recall election in his longtime district, should annoy the public.
It's not the first time Hauser's gone there. Her résumé on the website of her law firm, Gammage & Burnham, notes that she "represented 'Bush for President' before the Broward County [Florida] canvassing board during the 2000 presidential election recount."
Ah, Florida in 2000, when the Repugnants stole the presidential election from Vice President Al Gore and ushered in an era of backwardness and foreign-policy disasters by President George W. Bush.
At least we know what kind of attorney we're dealing with.
Hauser has a couple of other big problems with the recall petitions. She doesn't like the recall committee's statement of the grounds for the recall. She claims it doesn't advise signers that their signatures could result in a recall election.
This, despite the fact that the statement was vetted by the Secretary of State's Office and that "Recall Pearce" was at the very top of the petitions.
Moreover, Secretary of State spokesman Matt Roberts told me, "The petition can say anything it wants at the top."
Recall organizer Randy Parraz observed the same, noting that there's nothing in state statute ordering how the recall statement must read.
"We could have said, 'We don't like Russell Pearce, he has a big nose, and wears Ronald McDonald shoes,'" he scoffed. "As far as telling people when there will be an election, the governor tells them that when it happens."
As dumb as Hauser's line on the recall statement is, she doubles down on her dumbness by asserting that if one of the signatures on a recall petition is deemed invalid, the entire sheet must be tossed.
Both county elections and the Secretary of State's Office disagree, and they are prepared to defend themselves in court over this waste-of-time and waste-of-tax-money lawsuit.
Were Hauser correct (which she is not), that would mean every signature-gathering effort — whether it put a politician or a proposition on the ballot — should be retroactively annulled.
Think about it: If you sign a petition, and the person three lines down has his or her sig scrubbed, why should your signature follow suit? Particularly if you signed properly and are a qualified elector.
The specious reasoning Hauser uses reveals her lawsuit for what it is: a sham, a delay tactic on the part of a politician afraid to face voters.
Fortunately, all of this has to go in front of a Superior Court judge, with Hauser on one side and the Secretary of State's Office, county elections, and the recall committee on the other.
And Hauser hasn't had the best record of late. She's complained twice to the Secretary of State on other matters related to Pearce's recall. On both, she was shot down, first by state Elections Director Amy Bjelland and, later, by Solicitor General David Cole.
In 2009, Hauser's application to sit on the Arizona Supreme Court became a matter of local derision when it was published, following its submission to the committee overseeing judicial appointments. The application was riddled with typos and was nixed summarily.
So, too, should this suit be 86'd from court, like a mean drunk on a bender from a Scottsdale bar.
Is it any surprise that the Sonoran News, the loony, right-wing fish wrap that pretends to be a newspaper in Cave Creek, has failed to print a retraction or a correction to "reporter" Linda Bentley's ignorant and flat-out wrong article about U.S. citizen Benita Lantigua?
Um, no. Even after I outlined in a previous column how badly Bentley botched her story, which turned out to be no story at all ("Wrong Way Bentley," June 30).
Bentley apparently was helping the anti-recall effort review signatures submitted to the county elections department, and she used Lantigua's voter registration as proof that the petitions were filled with invalid signatures.
Lantigua has lived in this country for decades. She has married, divorced, and remarried, thus earning herself three changes in name: her maiden name, her married name, and her name under her new marriage.
She changed her voter registration accordingly, but the county never consolidated the separate entries. As elections director Osborne confirmed to me, Lantigua never voted under an inappropriate name, signed the recall petition correctly, and did absolutely nothing wrong.
Bentley never bothered to call Osborne about the matter (at least, Osborne never fielded such a call), and she never bothered to ring Lantigua.
If she had, she maybe would not have used Lantigua as an example of alleged fraud.
But when your boss is Sonoran News publisher/editor Don Sorchych, a man notorious for his petty, tin-pot tyranny in the Cave Creek/Carefree area, I reckon anything goes.
Sorchych even wrote a follow-up editorial based on Bentley's,um, research, stating that Lantigua was "likely an illegal," with zip to back up that contention save for his own prejudices.
Lantigua is a naturalized U.S. citizen, she has a U.S. passport, she's registered to vote, and she's gainfully employed in banking.
But Bentley and Sorchych hardly care. Her name is Hispanic so she must be in the United States illegally, right?
Sean Larkin, Lantigua's attorney, tells me that the Sonoran News has not responded to his entreaties, asking for a correction/retraction. And he's now in the process of drafting a libel suit against the paper.
When I spoke with Lantigua, she complained of "the stress the situation has caused me," with everyone from customers to members of her own family wondering whether Bentley's allegations are true.
You hardly need further examples of why Bentley is a menace (thanks to the Internet, which disseminates fact and inaccuracy alike), but along comes recently retired Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe, famous as a victim of ex-County Attorney Andrew Thomas' reign of error.
Bentley recently wrote an article accusing Donahoe of telling a "fib" during a picayune civil case and suggesting that his June 30 retirement was in some way brought about by the attendant controversy.
The "fib" was nothing of the kind. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne was named as a defendant in the case, which alleges plaintiff James Houston was incorrectly denied certification as a teacher by the Board of Education while Horne was Superintendent of Schools.
Because Donahoe supported Horne's 2010 Democratic rival, Felecia Rotellini, and had made that support tangible by writing her a check for $200, he disclosed this fact in open court and asked both the attorney for the AG's Office and Houston, who was representing himself, whether they had a problem with it.
Neither did. The case continued, but not to Houston's liking, so he tried to get Donahoe booted from the case, supposedly because Donahoe was "less than honest" about the contribution (Bentley's words). It didn't work. Houston was unsuccessful in scoring a change of judge.
What was improper about Donahoe's coming clean on the check? Nada. Rotellini's staff never cashed the check, apparently losing it after it was dropped into a basket at a fundraiser.
Donahoe didn't know the check was never cashed, and believing he had contributed to Rotellini, wanted to be upfront about it. But Bentley paints this as evidence of corruption, and that Thomas had been right about Donahoe when his office falsely charged the judge with bribery.
The charge was later dropped, and the State Bar of Arizona is seeking Thomas' disbarment over this incident and his many other misdeeds while county attorney.
In fact, the Bar's investigator believed Thomas' targeting of Donahoe was criminal, one reason why it's part of the Bar complaint.
Donahoe, whose retirement had been anticipated, told me he had been planning to step down in 2009, but that's when Thomas began his vendetta against him and other judges and county 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!
So he stuck it out, so as not to give Thomas and his henchwoman, former Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon, the pleasure.
True to form, Donahoe says Bentley never talked to him.
"She's trying to show that the court is corrupt and that I'm corrupt," he said, laughing, "which is just a bunch of lies."