Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Print Battles With Andy Thomas Will Have More Episodes Than A Soap Opera

Apologies for the light posting recently, I'm now three columns behind, but I've been travelling. In fact, this column comes to you from Istanbul, where raki is the answer that doesn't depend on the question.

This column is now part of a series, in response to a mention of Andrew Thomas in a prior column which rated a response from his office, and unfortunately for both readers and me, it's marred by a factual error; Joe Arpaio didn't endorse anybody in 2004, he was friends with the "instant Democrat" who took the nomination. As the column that ran this past Sunday notes, I had 3 political junkies read my comments and none of us remembered it that way. So that gave the other side a chance to respond, and I needed to address it two weeks later (the week in between I was in Philadelphia with a bad wi-fi connection, so it had to wait until I returned home. Actually, it had to wait until the night before I left for Istanbul, and I only got to pack after I wrote the column.) But if Andrew Thomas (and Barnett Lotstein) want to waste their time in a pissing match with me, I'm delighted to oblige.

Here's what the Tribune archives (not available online) had regarding 2006, nothing later than early June; this will be relevant for the 7/20 column:

Publication: Tribune 2003-Current; Date:2004 Jun 04; Section:East Valley News; Page Number: 7

Ex-prosecutor plans run for county attorney


Former prosecutor and judge Don Harris held a news conference Wednesday to launch his Democratic campaign for Maricopa County attorney, an office he held for five months in the 1970s.

"The morale in the county attorney’s office is at an alltime low, and I plan on restoring the office to the way it once was," Harris said. The first thing he would do if elected is clean out the "deadwood," he said.

Harris, who was appointed county attorney from 1976 to 1977, also served in the county as a prosecutor from 1967 to 1969 and as Maricopa County Superior Court judge pro tem in 1998. He said that in all he has more than 40 years of legal experience, including private practice.

Harris, a former political independent, described himself as friendly with Republican Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio on Thursday said he has not endorsed Harris or any
other candidate for county attorney.

"When I endorse somebody, the world knows it," Arpaio said. "I’ve known him for 24 years, he’s a good lawyer."

Harris joins Republicans Andrew Thomas, Andrew Pacheco, Rick Poster, Mike Bailey, Jerry Landau and Tom McCauley and fellow Democrat Jonathan Warshaw in seeking to replace outgoing County Attorney Richard Romley, who will leave the post in January 2005. Romley, a Republican, has said he is interested in running for governor in 2006 after serving four terms.

The Democratic primary is Sept. 7.

My suggested headline was "DISCLOSURE: I REALLY DON'T LIKE ANDREW THOMAS" but the editor went off in a different direction. I think the newspaper version is available here but I've either got too a weak wi-fi connection, or else it's older than 2 weeks and dropped from the Tribune website.

And of course, the original column, about the Bush Justice Department, has been superceded by yet another Inspector General report, which shows that the Bush administration put politics ahead of the so-called war on terror, rejecting an experienced career prosecutor because his wife was (gasp!) a Democrat. It's good to know she's being represented by John Dowd, who also represented Fife Symington in his bank fraud trial. Seems fitting somehow.

East Valley Tribune, Jul. 13, 2008

Last month, in a 689-word column attacking the Bush administration’s politicizing of the Justice Department, I included a 39-word slam on Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. I didn’t note, as the conventions of journalism apparently require, that Tim Nelson, one of the two Democrats vying for the nomination to oppose Thomas in November is married to one of my law partners, and that I’ve contributed to his campaign. (29 more words)

Even a part-time opinion columnist needs to make these disclosures in print, even though you can search my political contributions at several websites, and my partner is listed on both on our firm and the Arizona Corporation Commission Web sites, too. But I knew it, I blew it, and if I caused Bob Satnan or Le Templar any embarrassment, I regret it because it was my fault, not theirs.

But this disclosure business is truly odd, because I apparently needn’t disclose that I’ve known Tim Nelson longer than I’ve known his wife; he volunteered for my 1994 campaign. I apparently don’t need to disclose that my wife, who has a different last name, contributed to Tim’s campaign. I also apparently didn’t need to disclose that I worked for Terry Goddard when he was Mayor of Phoenix 24 years ago, even if six years ago Goddard’s opponent for state Attorney General was Andrew Thomas.

For his part, Thomas doesn’t need to disclose anything, apparently. He first ran for county attorney in a crowded GOP primary and got the coveted Sheriff Joe Arpaio endorsement, which is a pretty significant political debt to carry. But anytime Thomas does Arpaio’s bidding, he needn’t disclose that. Such a world we live in, where standards for part-time opinion columnists are stricter than for public prosecutors!

These conventions give you exactly the information you don’t need. Do you seriously think I’d be happy with Andrew Thomas’s job performance if only Tim’s spouse worked elsewhere? But you might want to be reminded of Arpaio’s endorsement in understanding why Thomas gave the investigation of New Times for publishing his home address demanded by Arpaio to outside lawyer Dennis Wilenchik. Then when the public learned of the investigation’s “breathtaking abuse of the Constitution” (that’s New Times’s phrase, but given that Wilenchik had them arrested, they get the call), Thomas -- suddenly free of his supposed conflict that required him to send the case to Wilenchik originally -- halted the investigation.

So, did Thomas have a conflict (in which case he shouldn’t decide whether to drop it) or not have a conflict (in which case he shouldn’t have sent out the case to his former employer)? Or did he really think that the case wasn’t worth pursuing -- but Andrew Thomas has too big a political debt to Arpaio to say “no,” so he referred it out? Now [ital] that [unital] you might want to know.

Thomas and his chief lieutenant, Barnett Lotstein, also think I have a “conflict” in writing about Thomas because I’m a friend of Gov. Napolitano and my law firm has done work for the state. Lotstein says that Napolitano is Thomas’s political enemy, and anybody close to the Napolitano administration can’t ethically write an opinion column about Thomas because he and she are such bitter political rivals.

Whether Napolitano sees things that way isn’t the point; Thomas and Lotstein see Napolitano as a political threat. Yet they see no problem in using their office’s powers against the Napolitano administration. Just to name two, Thomas and Lotstein announced criminal investigations of the state Veterans Home, and that they would sue the state over shifting funding from Arpaio (there he is again!) to a statewide fugitive task force. Napolitano is such a bitter enemy that as her supporter I can’t write about Thomas -- but Thomas can investigate her at will.

So let me disclose: that makes absolutely no sense. Imagine for a moment Andrew Thomas announcing a criminal investigation of a political ally. Do it quickly, though; I wouldn’t want your head to explode.

Do you miss Alberto Gonzales? You shouldn’t. We’ve got Andrew Thomas!

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