I'm more than a little concerned by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's announcement today of a "probe" into the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which will be holding a public meeting today at 6 p.m. at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix.
That meeting already promises to be a real donnybrook, with enraged Teabaggers threatening to take over the meeting, in a move reminiscent of the antagonistic health care town halls, where anger and hatred rather than civil discourse triumphed.
So General Horne will pardon me when I look at his brief statement and see gasoline being poured onto the pyre.
The press release reads:
Attorney General Tom Horne has authorized his office to conduct an initial investigation of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission based on reports that raise questions about the Commission's compliance with Arizona's Open Meeting Law and procurement laws when it recently entered into a contract with Strategic Telemetry to provide mapping consultant services.
"I need to emphasize very clearly that this is an initial investigation that will attempt to determine if any violations actually occurred," Horne said."I am concerned about reports that have raised questions about some of the procedural actions taken by the commission, and I am committed to finding out whether those concerns warrant any further investigation. If this initial investigation finds that laws have been violated, we will proceed accordingly."
Now, if the AG wants to do a probe, do a probe. What's the point of making such an announcement, other than to further intimidate the members of the commission charged with redrawing the boundaries of Arizona's legislative and congressional districts?
Second question: Why announce this today, hours before the commission is set to meet?
And third, will the AG also investigate the threats toward the AZIRC flying around the Internet, some of which have the flavor of mob rule and violence about them?
I've asked the AG's office for a response to these questions, and they have yet to get back to me. (Note: Please see update below.)
Right-wing Republicans are not happy with the AZIRC's chair Colleen Mathis, an Independent, whose nomination to the chair was seconded by Republican Richard Stertz, and unanimously approved both by the two GOPers on the commission, and the two Democrats.
But we all know that Indies are just secret Dems, right? So the wingnut blogs have been working overtime to discredit her.
The AZIRC voted to select the DC firm Strategic Telemetry as a consultant on mapping the new districts, and as Steve Muratore over at The Arizona Eagletarian blog has duly noted, the firm received a higher total score from the commissioners than the other entries.
Strategic Telemetry even received high scores from the GOPers on the AZIRC, though they didn't end up voting for the company, as they favored another over ST.
All of which might sound rather boring if it were not for the classic, hysterical Teabagger propaganda, egged on by Republicans such as state Senator Frank Antenori, who sees himself in Congress come January, 2013.
Antenori is leading the Teabagger charge to remove Mathis and ultimately scrap the AZIRC altogether, via a ballot proposition repealing the constitutional amendment approved by Arizona voters in 2000.
"Not to drag in a Lori Klein analogy," Antenori told the Capitol Times' "Yellow Sheet" of the drive to axe both Mathis and the AIRC, "but the gun is loaded and it's just figuring out what target to point it at and when to pull the trigger."
Nice. Why does it always go to guns when the democratic process (with a little "d") doesn't go the Teabaggers' way?
Add to this some of the "action alerts" Muratore quotes on his blog, telling Teabaggers to be there and to sneak in their yellow Don't Tread on Me flags, do-rags and T-shirts because the Republican "supermajority" in the Arizona legislature is at stake.
Jeez, Louise. Seems like nothing less than a full-on dictatorship will appease these nudniks. What are they afraid of, competitive districts? Heaven forbid, a Democrat might win an election once in a blue moon. And we can't have that, now, can we?
Update: Horne's spokeswoman Amy Rezzonico got back to me with the following statement after I posted this blog:
"There has been a lot of public interest into the IRC. The AG's office has received numerous phone calls and letters concerned about procedures surrounding the commission. In order to alleviate those issues, the AG thought it would be best to put those issues to rest. Look into the allegations and then let the public know what we did or did not find."
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