Tom Ryan, the crusading Chandler attorney who in 2011 exposed the shenanigans behind the diversionary candidacy of Russell Pearce's fave Latina Olivia Cortes, is calling foul on news that Cortes-attorney Anthony Tsontakis has just scored a plum gig working as a legal beagle for the Republican-led state Legislature.
Tsontakis defended the clueless Cortes against an action Ryan brought last year in superior court. He recently Tweeted that he was leaving his short-lived private practice for "a warm offer" to be an attorney for the Arizona Legislative Council.
Apparently, Tsontakis told a reporter with the Arizona Capitol Times' Yellow Sheet that, "his new job, which he started today, is in no way connected to his pro bono work for Cortes."
You'll recall that Cortes, a bumbling-but-useful idiot, was run as a candidate by local Tea Partiers, Pearce supporters and Pearce family members in an attempt to "dilute" the vote in Legislative District 18.
This, in the hopes of helping then-state Senate President Pearce beat off a challenge from recall candidate and fellow Republican Jerry Lewis.
Cortes bowed out before a second hearing could occur, where Constantin Querard --the political operative many believe to have been behind the Cortes candidacy -- was to have been subpoenaed.
Never at a loss for words, Ryan had this to say of Tsontakis' appointment:
"While Mr. Tsontakis is hoping that no one will connect the dots between his new job and his work on behalf of the Sham Candidate Olivia Cortes, honest rational people will see this for exactly what it is...a payoff."
I've attempted to get a response from Tsontakis, but have so far been unable to connect with him. If he replies, I'll update this blog post.
During the hearing mentioned above, Cortes stated that she would be paying Tsontakis herself, though Tsontakis later depicted his services as being "pro bono."
Confusing things further is the fact that Cortes' campaign finance disclosure on file with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office shows that Cortes paid Tsontakis $515 for "legal fees," which seems an incredibly low rate to pay any lawyer, even for the most meager of services.
Tsontakis' announcement comes on the heels of a letter from Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores to SOS Ken Bennett, informing Bennett that Flores found further legal action against Cortes "unwarranted."
See, the matter of who paid Cortes' professional signature-gatherer Petition Pros had been sent to Flores for review. Flores said she queried the SOS office and got no response. She also indicated that she asked Tsontakis, but that Tsontakis could not produce an answer either.
And so the Cortes scandal remains unpunished, while Pearce schemes to become First Vice Chair of the state GOP, Querard continues to manipulate the far-right Republican base, and Tsontakis takes a step up the career ladder.
True, Pearce lost by 12-points in the historic recall election, in no small part because of the shenanigans engaged in by his followers, friends, family and campaign operatives.
But there is the problem of the 277 votes cast for Cortes, the laws flouted and the people deceived in the process. Justice, in this case, remains elusive.
UPDATE 1/21/12: Tsontakis got back to me via e-mail, and had the following response:
"The only clarification for your readers I would put forward concerns the $515 paid to my office by the Olivia Cortes campaign. I represented her pro bono, meaning I did not receive any compensation for my legal services. However, my office did incur costs in connection with the representation. These are fees charged by the Courts when you file documents. My office incurred $515 in such costs in connection with Ms. Cortes's case, and the campaign reimbursed the office for those costs."
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FURTHER UPDATE 1/22/12: I had a follow-up to Tsontakis' response. My question and his reply are below.
My question: Since the campaign incurred the cost of the court fees, wouldn't your pro bono services be, essentially, an in-kind contribution to Cortes? So, why are the services you rendered not listed as such?
"That's a good question. The campaign committee did reimburse my office (and hence had to and did disclose the expenditure), but the campaign did not itself incur any costs. Under the law, the Olivia Cortes campaign committee is treated as a legal entity that is distinct from Olivia Cortes the person. In this instance, Olivia Cortes the person was sued, not her campaign committee. Accordingly, Olivia Cortes is the person who incurred costs and on whose behalf my legal services were rendered, not the campaign committee. I hope that clarifies the issue."