Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce Spews Falsehoods on Horizon, Recall at 9,414 Valid Signatures

They say all politicians are by definition liars, but I'm beginning to believe state Senate President Russell Pearce could teach a college course in it.

Sand Land's Professor of Prevarication was on KAET's Horizon Thursday to discuss the recall effort against him with host Ted Simons. Almost from jump, he began dishing falsehoods and misinformation.

"The folks who lead [the recall effort], you know, in reality make their living off this," he told Simons. "You got the one guy who's a failed Democrat leading it, [a] failed Democrat candidate for the U.S. Senate against [U.S. Senator from Arizona Jon] Kyl. The other is an immigration attorney. People have to understand who these folks are."

Randy Parraz, the main organizer of the effort, is a Berkeley Law School grad with a work history in labor organizing. He ran in the 2010 Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate seeking the nomination to take on U.S. Senator John McCain. 

He has never run opposite Kyl, or for a nomination to do so.

Initially, Parraz says he was living off of his savings as he was pursuing the recall of Pearce. According to Parraz, he put a couple of thousand dollars into the effort to jump start it. 

He tells me he's now receiving some compensation through the monies raised by the effort, as is one other person on staff at the recall group Citizens for a Better Arizona. Parraz says he's taken a huge pay cut from what he would normally receive as a consultant.

"Believe me, this is not a moneymaker for me," he said of the recall.

CBA Chairman Chad Snow is a lawyer, but not in immigration law. His specialty is worker's compensation, as is noted in his listing on the State Bar of Arizona's website. He's continued to practice as he participates in the recall drive. 

He says he's never practiced immigration law, and he's not paid to be CBA's chairman. Nor is he remunerated for the time and money he's donated to the cause.

"I don't know anything about immigration law," he told me of Pearce's claim. "You probably know more about immigration law than I do."

On the show, Pearce asserted that CBA scored its signatures because it used paid petition circulators. As I've previously reported, most of those gathering signatures for CBA were volunteers. 

CBA did employ the Arizona company Sign Here Petitions to help with the effort, but the owner of that company informed me that her people gathered around 6,000 signatures of the ones submitted to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, or one-third of the total.

Simons correctly noted in the program that using paid circulators is pretty standard stuff.

During the broadcast, the Senate President insisted that the people of Legislative District 18 "know" him. 

Perhaps that's why only about three percent of his 2010 campaign contributions came from within LD18.

To rebut Pearce's contention that it's people outside of LD18 who support the recall, we need only look at the current count from the Maricopa County Recorder's Office of those signatures that have been validated or invalidated.

As of this morning, of the 16,949 signatures forwarded to the county by the Secretary of State, 9,414 are valid, according to county elections spokeswoman Yvonne Reed.

Reed said 6,195 sigs have been deemed invalid. There are 1,340 left to review. If this current rate of 55 percent validation continues, the final count may top 10,000.

That's 10,000 residents of LD18, qualified voters who "know" Pearce all too well.

Cataloging and refuting each whopper Pearce lays on Simons during his appearance would probably take another couple of blog posts, so I'll just pick some highlights.

Regarding former Senate Majority Leader Scott Bundgaard, Pearce's one-time right-hand man, who now faces charges of reckless assault and endangerment in a February freeway-side fracas with his then girlfriend, Pearce claimed that he waited until all the information was in before supporting his pal publicly.

Wrong again, Senator.

Less than a week after the incident, and before he'd read the police report, Pearce had this to say of his lieutenant:

"I know what is going on...I think he is a victim of this whole thing. I feel bad for him. He certainly has paid the price."

Simons and Pearce also go over the Fiesta Bowl scandal. The bottom line here is Pearce took free football tickets and trips to Chicago and Boston with members of his family, all on the Fiesta Bowl's dime. 

I know other legislators did so as well, including Dems, but for Pearce to characterize these trips as "educational" is outright hooey.

Finally, the pair rehashed the debacle of the governor's recent special session where all the Legislature had to do was change one word in state law to keep federal money flowing into Arizona's economy via an extension of unemployment benefits. 

Pearce claimed all he wanted were additional "safeguards" to prevent fraud, and that his fellow GOPers demanded a jobs package.

In fact, the Republicans are ideologically opposed to the extension, despite the economic benefit to the state of $3 million a week it represented. Moreover, there are already safeguards to prevent fraud, and the state's unemployment rate is still more than 9 percent. Which means it's tough landing work out there.

Steve Meissner, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Economic Security, which distributes federal unemployment money, explained that recipients of the extra 20 weeks of benefits would have been required to show that they did something concrete to look for a job two days out of the week. 

Not one day, as Pearce stated on Horizon.

DES also would have had to do spotchecks of a percentage of those getting additional unemployment. Meissner said DES employees might, for instance, go to a workplace, and confirm whether or not a benefit recipient came in to apply for a job.

Pearce portrayed his remark to a reporter that, "I have natural concerns about paying people to sit at home," as taken out of context.

Whatever the context, it's an absurd statement. You'd have to be pretty bad off to want to stay home for around $200 a week. People, that's $10,400 per year. Anyone surviving on that is one check away from being homeless.

Simons did a better job than usual in questioning Pearce. Still, Pearce remains an ever-flowing font of deception. It's difficult buying anything that emanates from that man's mouth. Sometimes, I even wonder if we should start fact-checking his name.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons