Longform

End of a Smear

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If you're a labor organizer, if you're a citizen with a beef about America West, do you trust that the attorney general will listen with full attention to your concern, knowing he's been taking donations from America West?

As a voter, why should you have to even think about this?
The whole process of the attorney general approaching corporations with a tin cup extended is repugnant.

No one contends that Woods and Carey protected anyone who contributed to the fund from prosecution.

The issue is one of appearance.
It is not a minor concern.
Faith in the political process is fragile among a populace in which, for example, 50percent of Americans believe in UFOs, according to a Scripps Howard News Service survey conducted last June, and 48percent of the country voted for President Bill Clinton.

Politicians represent an already suspicious electorate that depends on a cynical and deadline-driven press corps that lacks the time to research the allegations it prints. Stories devoid of detail and nuance inform the public about the conduct of officeholders.

In this shabby media environment, Caesar's wife is considered a prostitute until proven otherwise, and politicians must regard appearance as reality.

Having said that, the ten-month reign of prosecutorial terror Richard Romley inflicted on Rob Carey is a disgrace. A grand jury and a staff of investigators were not put at his disposal so he could ruin political rivals.

The media's role in this torture exposed their own venal nature.
Unwilling to tackle the complexities of the $4.6 million bid-rigging at Project SLIM (theArizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette did not even cite it in their list of Top Ten stories in 1995), the Valley press instead swallowed the greasy table scraps handed to it by Romley. Never mind the multimillion-dollar corruption wafting out of the Governor's Office--how about that Rob Carey spending $45 from the America West Airlines account to fly his bicycle back from Seattle?

Without using tax dollars, Rob Carey set up an Event Fund that, for the most part, tried to do good things for the community and the Attorney General's Office. Critics who do not believe that the lawyers and secretaries Carey worked alongside deserve recognition and the occasional holiday celebration need to get a life.

As the auditor general pointed out, the Event Fund was mismanaged. That needs to be corrected.

But Rob Carey also broke up a rural voter-fraud ring that had frustrated law enforcement and was destroying the fundamental nature of democracy in small-town America.

And he put an end to one virulent form of corruption in the state's highest office after Richard Romley whitewashed the Project SLIM bid-rigging scandal.

From Governor Fife Symington to Sheriff Moses Ibarra, Rob Carey never blinked.

And when all of these events begin to fade with time, people should remember that Grant Woods did something you seldom see politicians do.

He stood up to a scoundrel, and he stood by a friend.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey