Longform

End of a Smear

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After all was said and done, that investigation proved not one whit of real wrongdoing.

Not a single penny in taxpayer money was wasted by the Attorney General's Office. All of the funds Romley had investigated were donated by businesses.

Not a single corporation or law firm has stepped forward and complained that it had been ripped off.

These donations were willingly given.
Even Romley's contention that these funds were raised for one purpose and spent for another is cockeyed.

Steve Betts, one of the earliest contributors to the Event Fund when it was begun in 1992, said he was told from the start that his donation would go into a general fund that would serve a variety of purposes.

Betts, then an attorney with Streich, Lang, Weeks & Cardon, authorized a contribution from his law firm in 1992, after talking directly to Carey.

"I recall they were looking to fund a broad range of things you shouldn't charge the state for and that you can't tap campaign funds for," said Betts last week.

Now a member of the Gallagher & Kennedy law firm, Betts said he introduced Carey to an executive for one of his clients, Valley National Bank. The pitch remained the same, Betts said.

"The focus of the discussion was the border conference," said Betts, "but it was clear that the money was going into a fund for a range of activities."

Fund-raising letters underscore the multiplicity of events Carey envisioned.
The Event Fund file at the Attorney General's Office is full of letters that begin like the one sent to Dial Corporation chairman John Teets.

"The Attorney General's Office is in the process of setting up the attorney general's Trust Fund. This fund will allow us to promote and participate in events that help this Office do its job and allow Arizona to show some leadership on topics ranging from drug trafficking to cooperation on border crimes ... by enhancing law enforcement abilities--international, interstate and local--the Trust Fund gives us a chance to shape the future of Arizona."

International, interstate and local. That seems plain enough, and broad enough to encompass whatever the attorney general hoped to finance. Yet Romley and the auditor general ignored the wide scope of the fund's intent.

The county attorney claimed that the attorney general's handling of the Event Fund constituted some kind of corruption.

He stated that Carey raised money for worthy causes but spent it on himself.
To highlight his contention, Romley utilized a wall chart that set out all the questionable expenditures, like airline flights for the two young prosecutors.

The county attorney compared it to Carey raising money for the Red Cross but spending it to build himself a cabin up north.

Which only proves how far Romley will go to distort the facts and how little he knows about Woods and Carey.

When you step off the second-floor elevator at the Attorney General's Office, you encounter a bit of a vanity wall with citations honoring Woods, including a framed story about his selection by his national peers as the Attorney General of the Year.

But the largest object on that wall, by far, is a framed poster of Martin Luther King Jr. Ask yourself how many white Republican politicians in Arizona decorate their offices in such manner.

Inside Woods' office, pictures of Robert Kennedy are hung. There is also a startling number of photographs in the conference room of sports legends, including a picture of Vince Lombardi that will speak inspirationally to you if you just push the button.

That's our attorney general: equal measures of heartfelt idealism combined with a sportslike competitiveness wedded to the juvenile conviction that when you have a conference with the state's top prosecutor, Wilt Chamberlain is an appropriate wall motif.

Here are the horrible things that Woods and Carey did with the money they supposedly misused.

They sponsored civil rights luncheons in a state with a national reputation for its racism.

They hosted an international gathering of lawyers and government officials to examine the legal issues that cause friction between Mexico and Arizona.

They organized a Breakfast and Books program to promote inner-city literacy.
They gave inexpensive kachina souvenirs to fellow prosecutors at a national conference.

They ran a retreat for the office's lawyers to advance their continuing legal education.

They recognized state employees at luncheons and held a holiday party.
This was the evil that was foisted on the State of Arizona.

How, then, did Rob Carey end up in such trouble?
Essentially, he wandered into a gray area of the law that Romley wanted to read in black and white--and mostly in black.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey