When the media carries water for the Arizona GOP – Redistricting Edition

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

A large part of the reason Arizona is a "red state" is because the Arizona media carries water for the Arizona GOP, from the state's major newspapers down to your local yokel evening news programs. The "liberal media" is a myth, particularly here in Arizona. We have a GOPropaganda echo chamber. When GOPropaganda is all that people see and hear and it gets reinforced in the media echo chamber, they tend to believe it.

Case in point, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC). There has been a coordinated effort among elected Republican leaders, their lobbyists/lawyers at the secretive GOP redistricting front group FAIR Trust, and the Arizona media to undermine the AIRC and to attack its credibility. AIRC chair Colleen Mathis has been unfairly demonized by Republican politicians and the GOPropaganda media, as have judges of the Arizona courts for upholding the law, in pursuit of a permanent Republican majority.

It began with conspiracy theories published by Christian Palmer who worked at the publication by and for capitol lobbyists, the Arizona Capitol Times and its sister publication The Yellow Sheet. (Palmer is now working for the billionaire bastard Koch brothers funded think tank, the Goldwater Institute).

In July 2011, Attorney General Tom Horne initiated an investigation into the commission's hiring of Strategic Telemetry, which occurred after an Arizona Capitol Times "investigation" raised questions about the process the commission used to hire Strategic Telemetry as its mapping consultant. That "reporting" has been attached as an exhibit, as if it is credible evidence of probative value, to every pleading filed by the Republican Party and its secretive GOP redistricting front group FAIR Trust to challenge the actions of the AIRC.

Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services, who behaves as if he is the publicist for Gov. Jan Brewer, published numerous stenographic reports quoting Republican elected leaders and the lobbyists/lawyers of the secretive GOP redistricting front group FAIR Trust attacking the AIRC as if every word they spoke was fact without challenge, and too often without counterpoint from Democratic elected leaders or lawyers. Since most of the state's smaller newspapers, including the Arizona Daily Star, rely on Capitol Media Services for capitol reporting they no longer provide, this stenographic reporting from Howard Fischer has an outsized influence over the content of local media in Arizona.

And then there is The Arizona Republic, which purports to be objective news reporting but frequently resembles its earlier namesake, The Arizona Republican, with regular GOPropaganda reporting. Don't even get me started about their editorial pages. The Arizona Republic(an) is and always has been the mouthpiece of the Arizona Republican Party.

With this media bias in mind, let's look at this week's news reporting about the AIRC and redistricting. On Monday, Howard Fischer reported GOP gets chance to fight redistricting in court:

A federal court is going to give Republicans a chance to argue that the state's 30 legislative districts should be redrawn for the 2014 election.

A special three-judge panel rejected arguments by attorneys for the Independent Redistricting Commission that there is no legal basis for the lawsuit challenging the lines. U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver, writing for the court, said the challengers are entitled to try to prove that the commission purposely crafted the districts with an eye on improving Democratic opportunities.

But Silver cautioned that even if foes prove partisanship, it remains legally unclear whether that, by itself, is enough to invalidate the lines. She said that issue will have to be hashed out by the attorneys after a full-blown hearing.

The ruling could eventually undo the significant gains the Democrats made this election at the Capitol, picking up four seats in both the House and the Senate. If the judges order the lines redrawn — or perhaps even does it themselves — it could put Republicans into a better position two years from now.

All that happened was that the court denied a motion to dismiss and allowed the case to proceed to a trial on the merits. Big whoop.This is usually what happens with a motion to dismiss.

Howie's extrapolation that "The ruling could eventually undo the significant gains the Democrats made this election at the Capitol, picking up four seats in both the House and the Senate" is GOPropaganda spin. As Judge Silver cautioned, "even if foes prove partisanship, it remains legally unclear whether that, by itself, is enough to invalidate the lines." Commission attorney Mary O'Grady correclty noted that "the decision does not mean the court ultimately will side with the challengers."

Howie did get this much correct:

"Regardless of what they can prove at trial, plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that the commission added to some people's votes and diluted other people's votes based only on their expected party preference,' [Silver] wrote.

But Silver conceded that, even if that is the case, the court may not be able to do anything about it.

"Under existing Supreme Court precedent, it is unclear whether pure partisanship is an arbitrary or discriminatory purpose and would therefore be an impermissible basis for population deviation,' the judge wrote.

Conversely, Silver said the court has to decide whether the voter-approved state law that created the commission even allows the panel to consider partisanship. [That would be the "competitiveness" criteria, judge.] And she pointed out that, no matter what federal law allows, "the Arizona Constitution mandates equal population in the redistricting process.' [Congressional districts are preempted by federal law.]

* * *

There are two other legal challenges to the redistricting process in the works, though both involve the lines for the state's nine congressional districts.

In one case also in federal court, Republican state lawmakers contend that the U.S. Constitution requires that congressional districts be drawn only by the Legislature. They said that makes the actions of the commission invalid, even though voters amended the Arizona Constitution to create the panel.

No hearing has been set in that case.

The other, in state court, charges the commission with misconduct in crafting the maps. A judge threw that case out but gave challengers a chance to refile.

The Arizona Republic(an) begins this report with GOPropaganda spin Election adds to debate over redistricting:

Arizona's redrawn political map is still sparking controversy, even after the first election using it has been settled.

The results, particularly in the U.S. House races, have added fuel to complaints that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission was rigged to favor Democrats. Others, however, point to close races in three toss-up districts as an indication that the commission did a balanced job.

All three toss-up House races went for Democrats. As a result, the state's delegation to Washington will be led 5-4 by a rare Democratic majority.

Critics argue that the three districts were configured to give Democrats the advantage.

The report does get this much correct well down into the report:

Arizona's senior Democratic congressmen, meanwhile, acknowledged to The Arizona Republic this week that losing some of their left-leaning strongholds to the toss-up districts helped their party dominate races for Congress this year.

But independent observers and supporters of the commission's map argue that the slim congressional victories demonstrated that the competitive districts were drawn fairly. The races were so close, they weren't decided for days. Republicans have a good chance of winning in the future, analysts say.

* * *

The redrawn political boundaries almost certainly played a role in breaking the Republican supermajority at the state Capitol. The GOP still has the majority, but with smaller margins in both the House and Senate, where Democrats picked up four seats in each chamber.

Democrats point to the tight outcomes as evidence that the commission did its job.

The fact that Democrats put up superior quality candidates and worked harder than their opponents who relied more heavily on dark money independent expenditure committees to do the work had nothing to do with it, according to this report.

That's not how Republican Timothy La Sota looks at it. "Notice how all these supposedly competitive districts just managed to swing to the Democrats?" said the Phoenix attorney, who led a group critical of the redistricting panel. "I think there's a clear Democratic edge in all of them." ["It's a conspiracy I tell ya!"]

Rep. David Schweikert, a Fountain Hills Republican who served on the state Legislature's 1991 redistricting committee . . . blasted the redistricting commission, arguing that the maps were gerrymandered to crowd Republican voters into a few safe districts, giving Democrats advantages in the competitive races. GOP voter registration, however, was higher in two of the three competitive districts. [Don't trouble him with inconvenient facts.]

* * *

"Part of the great scam that was committed on the Arizona voters is not only were these districts designed to perform Democrat, the future growth in population was also very carefully designed to keep it that way," Schweikert said.

Arizona's senior Democratic congressmen also said the maps were drawn in ways that benefited Democrats.

The report goes on to suggest that Congressmen Pastor and Grijalva had more influence over redistricting than they actually did, portraying them as the boogeymen of GOP conspiracy theories and paranoia. The naive reporter did not realize that the Congressmen were yanking her chain for having asked about GOP conspiracy theories, again. Making districts more competitive was the only benefit to Democrats — and to Arizona voters.

Jennifer Steen, who teaches political science at Arizona State University and has studied redistricting, downplayed the congressmen's take on the process.

"They were not on the commission," she said. "They certainly had input, and there was a lot of stuff that happened behind the scenes. But for either one of them to use the first person and suggest (drawing the maps themselves is) what they were doing is strange. … To say it was set up for Democrats is not credible when you look at the election results."

She added that Schweikert's prediction of future population changes is impossible to make.

Instead, Steen praised the commission for meeting the goal of competitive districts.

And on this last point, I would agree.

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