The Arizona Republic inexplicably endorses Mark Brnovich for Attorney General


Some of the nastiest campaign ads running on television have been those airing against Democratic candidate January Contreras for Attorney General. Arizona’s attorney general race has drawn national attention. Here’s why:

January Contreras

Spending on attorney-general races nationally could top $100 million this year, according to the Washington Post, with the Republican Attorney General Association investing heavily in defending its incumbents.

“The Democratic Attorney General Association is involved, too, but DAGA just does not have as much money,” said Bernie Nash, co-chair of Cozen O’Connor’s State Attorneys General practice.

The firm analyzes attorney-general races and has rated Arizona’s contest as “Leans Republican.”

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Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has taken heat for involving Arizona in divisive national fights, such as the 20-state effort to repeal part of the Affordable Care Act. Here is the Complaint (.pdf). January Contreras argues that what Brnovich calls an issue of constitutionality is a dangerous move that would hurt vulnerable Arizonans with pre-existing health conditions.

Keep in mind that the Attorney General cannot join this lawsuit without the tacit approval of the Governor. So both Governor Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich have signed off on the Texas lawsuit that seeks to hold the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, which would invalidate all of its patient  protections including those prohibiting discrimination against persons with preexisting conditions. Polling suggests that this is the top political issue for voters in this election. They are both on the wrong side of this issue.

January Contreras “said that ‘on Day One,’ she would remove Arizona from that lawsuit and join a concurrent one [by Democratic Attorneys General] that aims to keep protections for people with pre-existing conditions in place.”

Other politically motivated cases Brnovich has pursued include his defense of Governor Jan Brewer’s denial of state drivers licenses to DACA eligible “Dreamers,” even after repeated losses in the courts. Supreme Court rejects Arizona’s effort to deny driver’s licenses to “dreamers”.

There is also Brnovich’s politically motivated lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) attempting to shift the blame for high tuition costs at the state universities from the GOP-controlled Arizona legislature, which is actually responsible for the tuition increases by cutting funding to the state universities, to ABOR. Report: Arizona saw biggest post-recession tuition increases in nation. This frivolous lawsuit was quickly rejected by the courts. Arizona university tuition lawsuit dismissed by court – a defeat for attorney general. But Brnovich says he will continue to pursue this frivolous claim.

The Arizona Republic, to its credit, has made a big deal about the influence of “dark money” in Arizona elections and has supported citizen initiatives seeking transparency and public disclosure. Outside money played huge role in Arizona elections (2014). Republic columnist Laurie Roberts pointed out APS betting big on Mark Brnovich (and here’s why) (2014).

In 2018, Brnovich has returned the favor. Brnovich’s office changed the description of Prop. 127, the initiative on the ballot to mandate that most electric utilities get at least 50 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030. Prop 127 supporters target Brnovich for blitz of negative ads:

State law requires the Secretary of State’s Office to come up with descriptions of all ballot measures, with the Attorney General’s Office given final review. But by the time Brnovich’s office was done, the wording was altered to say that the mandate, if approved, would apply “irrespective of cost to consumers.”

“It’s not something we wanted to do,” said campaign spokesman D. J. Quinlan of the commercials.

Unfortunately, the attorney general made the unprecedented step of manipulating ballot language,” he continued. “We felt it was imperative for us to subsequently warn Arizona voters that the language they’re going to read on their ballot is not actually with this proposition.”

Brnovich defended the language, saying it is factually accurate. He said that the measure, which would amend the Arizona Constitution, moves away from existing requirements of how the Arizona Corporation Commission, which now has purview over issues like this, sets rates.

But state Elections Director Eric Spencer, who crafted the original explanation – the one without the additional wording – had his own thoughts.

The Prop 127 language is certainly eyebrow-raising because it cites information exogenous to the ballot measure itself,” Spencer wrote to the AG’s office in an email, using a term to mean that the words in the explanation were not taken from the ballot language itself but from outside factors.

“But, I’m sure you’ve calculated the legal and political risks of adding that,” Spencer added.

Again, The Republic’s Laurie Roberts, AG Mark Brnovich swoops in to help APS in fight against Prop. 127:

Arizona Public Service is calling in its political I-owe-yous as it furiously (desperately?) works to defeat a proposal to boost renewable energy requirements.

The state’s powerhouse utility already has spent an astonishing $11 million to defeat Proposition 127 – even going so far as to try to capitalize on the Red for Ed movement by warning it’ll be bad for teachers.

Now APS is marshaling political muscle to put a rather sizable thumb on the scale to help defeat the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona initiative.

Meet the thumb: Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

Brnovich’s ‘eyebrow-raising’ move

It seems Brnovich’s office changed the description of the clean-energy initiative in what appears to be a clear signal to voters to kill the thing.

The Republic’s Ryan Randazzo reports that even state Elections Director Eric Spencer was surprised by the AG’s additions to the description of the ballot initiative.

The Prop. 127 language is certainly eyebrow-raising because it cites information exogenous to the ballot measure itself,” Spencer wrote in an Aug. 29 email to the AG’s Division Chief Brunn Roysden. “But I’m sure you’ve calculated the legal and political risks of adding that.”

Also likely added to the calculation: the fact that APS contributed $425,000 to the Republican Attorney General’s Association in 2014, money that made its way into RAGA’s independent campaign to get Brnovich elected. And another $50,000 thus far this year for his re-election campaign against Democrat January Contreras.

Now it’s time for payback.

The Republic’s Laurie Robert again, Mark Brnovich left himself wide open to $3.6 million attack by helping APS campaign against Prop. 127:

Attorney General Mark Brnovich put his thumb on the scale to help Arizona Public Service in its mega-million-dollar campaign to defeat a proposal to boost Arizona’s renewable-energy requirements.

Now, Brnovich is finding scorch marks on that thumb, and possibly on his until-now fairly decent reputation.

Now he’s finding there is a cost to carrying the water for APS: a $3.6 million independent campaign accusing him of corruption.

Cue the commercial: “If you want to clean up corruption and bring down energy bills, vote no on Brnovich and (Gov. Doug) Ducey,” a newly released ad says.

Ducey has long been tight with APS.

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Brnovich’s office has said the language “can reasonably be regarded as an attempt to provide necessary and appropriate information to the voting public.”

It also can be – should be – reasonably regarded as information that belongs in anti-Prop. 127 campaign ad. Information the state’s attorney general added to the state’s official description of Prop. 127.

Five words that sure smell like payback to APS.

APS, through its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., contributed $425,000 to the Republican Attorney General’s Association in 2014, money that made its way into RAGA’s independent campaign to get Brnovich elected.

This year, the utility has thus far contributed another $50,000 to RAGA for Brnovich’s re-election campaign against Democrat January Contreras.

Despite all of this, The Arizona Republic editorial board inexplicably endorsed Mark Brnovich, glossing over all of these issues. Have politics ruined the Arizona Attorney General’s Office? Not exactly. WTF?

You should note that the editorial does not even mention the substance of the nasty attack ads running against January Contreras running on television. This was apparently not a factor in the editors’ decision.

The Republic likes to talk the talk, but fails to walk the walk when it comes to the GOP culture of corruption in Arizona and “dark money.” Could it be all that sweet advertising revenue it gets from APS that influenced its decision? They are part of the problem, not the solution with endorsements such as this.

Voters should make their own decision. If you want to break the long-term GOP culture of corruption in Arizona you have to elect Democrats to office, or nothing will change.

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