Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce's Bane Tom Ryan on Horizon, and Ryan's Co-Counsel Mike Wright's Op-Ed

State Senate President Russell Pearce and his political hatchet-bearer Constantin Querard must have Tom Ryan dolls they push pins into at night. Attorney Ryan, who brought the lawsuit that forced sham candidate Olivia Cortes out of the recall race in Legislative District 18, is coming after Pearce and Querard like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator flicks.

"I'm an officer of the court," he told Horizon host Ted Simons last night. "And just like a judge, or a member of the state Legislature, I take an oath to preserve the Constitution and I take it seriously. This is an area I know, this is an area I love, and when I see something going wrong like that, I will not hesitate to step in."

Querard and Pearce should know better than to mess with an Irishman. Scions of the Emerald Isle and their descendants don't walk away from a fight.

By contrast, Mesa attorney H. Micheal Wright is the iron fist in the velvet glove. He's penned an op-ed and sent it to me on Cortes-gate. (See below.) Soon, he and Ryan will be turning their files over to the Arizona Attorney General's Office and other investigative authorities. 

That means AG Tom Horne is on notice: Do nothing with this case of outrageous election fraud, and you'll be forever regarded as no more than a self-serving partisan, lacking the integrity to follow through on your oath of office.


By H. Micheal Wright


            The Arizona Constitution, Article 7 section 12 charges the Legislature with the duty to "maintain the purity of elections."  Arizona caselaw has held that attempting to place a "diversionary candidate" on the ballot is illegal.  A "diversionary candidate" is one who is in the race solely to divert votes from a particular candidate so as to give an advantage to another candidate.  The recent lawsuit to have Olivia Cortes removed from the race was filed to honor the rule of law.  The trial court found that she had been placed on the ballot to divert Hispanic votes and was therefore a "sham" candidate. She was not a serious candidate, but a willing pawn in a sleazy scheme.  She is gone, although her name remains on the ballot.  But more important questions than simply whether Cortes was a sham candidate remain unresolved.

            The lawsuit served as a tool to remove a sham candidate.  But the ethical questions the lawsuit raises are larger than simply the question of whether Cortes should be a candidate in this historic recall election.  How is it that a group of anonymous people, people who are behind this sham candidacy, remain anonymous?  With all the publicity about the matter, why must there be calls for investigations?  All that needs to happen is for the people responsible for this stain on our State to come forward, confess their guilt and apologize to the voters.  But that won't happen.

            The fact that there are secret conspiring actors who are unquestionably supporters of Russell Pearce, and that they chose to remain anonymous, tells us that they recognize that what they have done is illegal or at least embarrassing.  And that should bother us.  It should bother us because if a candidate and/or his campaign advisors and leading supporters can engage in skullduggery like this, they can do the same once in office.  Persons who are willing to attempt to deceive voters can attempt to make backroom deals and pull special favors for their friends; they can line their pockets in exchange for promises to offer Bills and vote a certain way.  People with political connections who lack integrity like this can engage in piracy and favoritism and retaliations.  Concern about this is the main issue that this recent bit of political intrigue should focus on.

            Who paid to have petitions for Cortes to be circulated?  Cortes says she doesn't know; Western, Cortes' campaign "everything", testified he didn't know.  Who paid for Cortes' signs?  Who else circulated petitions to gather signatures from among their friends?  Who asked his family members to help with Cortes' campaign?  Who told the boss of the hired petition circulators to tell people that a signature for Cortes would help Pearce?  Who set up and paid for Cortes' Website and wrote the press releases?  Who coordinated all this?  Someone did - someone who knows how to run a campaign and develop a tricky strategy of getting someone on the ballot, getting some name recognition out there, and all the while remaining anonymous - someone with money and a Machiavellian mind.

            And what of Russell Pearce in all of this?  With his campaign people, his family and his Tea Party friends in on the scheme, what has he done to answer these questions?  He has not called for answers.  What has been discussed in campaign meetings where Greg Western attended, wearing two hats - Cortes' campaign advisor and Pearce campaign committee member?  What has been said at the Pearce dinner table?  Here we have an illegal scheme, done to get Pearce elected, and he pretends to know nothing.  If he were a man of truth and integrity, a candidate who meant it when he told the voters he would "run a clean campaign", he would have every one of those implicated in his office demanding that they come clean, for they have hurt his reputation.  Until the anonymous benefactors of the Pearce campaign who were involved in this illegal scheme come forward, we are left to wonder what Pearce knew.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons