Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) has finally followed up on the secretive GOP redistricting organization FAIR Trust that Steve Muratore and I have been posting about and exposes the organization today in FAIR game? - Arizona Capitol Times (excerpts):
FAIR Trust’s attorneys say they want to help the commission adhere to the legal requirements that govern the high-stakes, once-in-a-decade political remapping process, and the group’s name suggests it is interested in fairness.
But what FAIR Trust’s attorneys refuse to say is that they’re actually representing a group of incumbent Republicans from Arizona’s congressional delegation and the state Legislature.
The legal arguments FAIR Trust makes aren’t presented to the redistricting commission as serving the interests of those politicians, but the recommendations they’ve made would create safe districts for the four Republican members of Congress who will seek re-election in 2012: U.S. Reps. Trent Franks, Paul Gosar, Ben Quayle and David Schweikert.
And if the incumbent politicians behind FAIR Trust decide the final maps don’t meet their desires, the group’s role will likely shift from lobbying to litigating. Led by a team of high-powered attorneys, a lawsuit by the group would take months or years, costing tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
And if they have it their way, the group’s financial backers will remain a secret.
Little is publicly known about FAIR Trust, and that’s exactly what its members want. They’ve gone out of their way to hide who is involved and who is paying for the cadre of costly attorneys. And so far the group has done a good job keeping that information away from the public.
The group is a legal trust, which is essentially a banking vessel that allows people to anonymously deposit money into an account and others to take money out. The only formal document required for such a trust is an agreement that belongs to the bank and the principals of the account.
Campaign finance laws don’t apply to legal trusts, state lobbying disclosure rules don’t apply to the redistricting commission and FAIR Trust’s attorneys have repeatedly told the commission, members of the public and the media that their clients have forbidden them from saying who they represent.
It’s not surprising to see a group like FAIR Trust emerge in Arizona, said Justin Levitt, a Loyola University Law School professor who studies redistricting.
Similar groups have surfaced in other states where voters have authorized an independent redistricting commission, instead of the Legislature, to draw political lines.
* * *
An email obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times sheds light on at least a partial list of who might be involved in the group.
Steve Twist, a longtime Republican operative in Arizona, sent the email on June 9 to top staff from every Republican member of Arizona’s congressional delegation, top staff for Republicans in the state Legislature and two FAIR Trust attorneys.
U.S. Rep. Trent Franks confirmed to the Capitol Times that Twist is at the head of FAIR Trust, but Twist has refused to discuss anything about the group.
* * *
The email is short on details, but in it Twist tells the legislative and congressional staffers that the first agenda item they need to discuss is attorney-client privilege — the way in which communications between attorneys and their clients can be legally kept secret.
The email addresses used for every recipient on the list except for the two FAIR Trust attorneys are non-official email addresses, which avoids creating a public record of the email and avoids opening any state employee from accusations that they’re using public resources for partisan political activity. Although there are numerous exemptions, broadly speaking, such activity is illegal.
All of the legislative staffers listed on the email either denied having participated in the call, said they don’t remember participating in the call or said they wouldn’t answer any questions about it.
None of the congressional staffers included on the email returned a request for comment.
* * *
A public records request submitted to both chambers of the Legislature requesting telephone records for the staff members included on the email was denied, because the telephone records are not archived more than 120 days. Initially, House staff told the Capitol Times that they might get to the request by mid-November.
One of the email recipients, John Mills, a “legislative special projects” staffer for the House Republicans, has attended most of the redistricting commission’s meetings and often sits and talks privately with FAIR Trust’s attorneys. Mills also sometimes reviews technical mapping software with FAIR Trust’s attorneys on his laptop.
Mills has said his attendance at the commission’s meetings is not related to FAIR Trust, that he doesn’t work for the group and that he hasn’t been on any FAIR Trust conference calls.
* * *
Instead, Mills has said he has been monitoring the IRC in preparation for the formal review that the Legislature is constitutionally entitled to submit on the commission’s maps. He delivered a detailed account of the commission’s recently adopted draft maps and the progression that led to them at a recent meeting of the ad hoc Joint Legislative Committee on Redistricting. That committee is currently reviewing the commission’s plan.
* * *
Linda McNulty, one of the two Democrats on the commission and an attorney herself, interrupted David Cantelme, a FAIR Trust attorney, during his Sept. 16 public testimony to say that she knows attorneys pick the arguments that suit the interests of their clients, and that she was skeptical of FAIR Trust because they won’t say who their clients are.
“If you’re going to come in here and you’re going to make very detailed comments about things but you won’t tell us on whose behalf you’re making those comments, I can only assume that those comments are based on and motivated by self-interested individuals who won’t disclose themselves,” McNulty said.
José Herrera, the other Democrat on the commission, joined McNulty during the meeting in criticizing the group for not disclosing who they work for.
“They’ve not been open about who they are,” Herrera later said of FAIR Trust. “I approach their advice with skepticism.”
Despite the Democrats’ criticisms, Cantelme reaffirmed the fact that FAIR Trust is not required to disclose who they represent and that he would not do so.
The Arizona Capitol Times names names on the Swift email:
Recipients of Twist’s email
Wendy Baldo, Arizona Senate Republican caucus chief of staff, said she was in San Diego that day and didn’t take part in the call.
Greg Jernigan, Arizona Senate Republican caucus general counsel, said he can’t remember if he was on the call and that even if he could, he wouldn’t answer the question.
Victor Riches, Arizona House of Representatives Republican caucus chief of ctaff, said he wasn’t on the call.
Peter Gentala, Arizona House of Representatives Republican caucus general counsel, said he wouldn’t comment on it.
John Mills, Arizona House of Representatives “legislative special projects” staffer, said he wasn’t on the call.
Matt Specht, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, did not respond to request for comment.
Randy Kutz, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, did not respond to request for comment.
David Sheasby, legal counsel for Franks, did not respond to request for comment.
Rob Robinson, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, did not respond to request for comment.
Anthony Smith, district legislative assistant for Gosar, did not respond to request for comment.
Renee Hudson, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle, did not respond to request for comment.
James Ashley, deputy chief of staff for Quayle, did not respond to request for comment.
Oliver Schwab, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, did not respond to request for comment.
Kevin Knight, director of coalitions and outreach for U.S. Rep. David Schweikert, did not respond to request for comment.
Mike Liburdi, FAIR Trust attorney, refused to talk about the call.
David Cantelme, FAIR Trust attorney, refused to talk about the call.
At least two Legislative staffers, Greg Jernigan, Arizona Senate Republican caucus general counsel, and John Mills, Arizona House of Representatives “legislative special projects” staffer, are already the subject of a complaint to be filed by Democrats for their partisan testimony before the Tea-Publican Committee to Interfere With the AIRC last week. GOP staffers cross the line at Tea-Publican Committee to Interfere With The AIRC:
Schapira and Campbell, who were watching the committee hearing from the hallways of the Legislature, said they plan to file a formal complaint.
The two said Jernigan, and perhaps House Republican legislative staff member John Mills, may have broken a rule that bars state employees from getting involved in partisan or election-related activity.
What we need now is a Department of Justice lawsuit like the one currently in litigation in the state of Texas where the DOJ has subpoenaed emails in addition to correspondence and telephone records through litigation discovery to make its case of intentional discrimination by state Republicans. DOJ: Texas redistricting maps intentially discriminate against Hispanic voters, and The E-Mails The Feds Say Show Texas Lawmakers Trying To Limit Voting Power Of Hispanics | TPMMuckraker.