Americans United for Separation of Church and State

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Church State Issues

Government bureaucrats frequently use government resources for religious purposes

Jul 23, 2012

Arizona Republic

There are lots of laws forbidding mixing government with the private sector, but they are rarely enforced as this article points out.

I guess many of our elected officials, appointed bureaucrats and life time government employees think they are royal rulers who own our government resources and consider all government property to be their property.

It is pretty naive to expect our government masters to arrest themselves when they break these laws. Which is why citizen groups constantly have to sue our government masters when they refuse to obey the Constitution.

The article points out politicians frequently use government resources to help themselves get reelected. They also routinely mix government and religion. And of course they also routinely give government money, resources and special rights to themselves and the special interest groups that helped them get into power.

Source

Arizona campaigns often in gray area financially

Lines blur for work on public dime

by Mary Jo Pitzl - Jul. 22, 2012 10:14 PM

The Republic | azcentral.com

It sounds simple enough: Don't use anything taxpayers paid for to benefit your political campaign. If you're on the state payroll, don't do campaign work on the taxpayers' time.

But Arizona candidates for political office and public staffers frequently cross the line, and it's a bright line at that, political insiders say.

There's little reason not to. The state Attorney General's Office said it can't find any instances of a candidate being penalized for using state resources to advance a campaign.

The issue bubbled up most recently last week, when Rep. John Fillmore appeared alongside Rep. Brenda Barton at a news conference where Barton complained about alleged verbal abuse from Sen. Rich Crandall over a dispute involving campaign signs.

Crandall happens to be Fillmore's opponent in an increasingly testy race for the GOP Senate nomination in the new Legislative District 16, which covers east Mesa, Apache Junction and parts of Pinal County.

Barton and Fillmore insisted their news conference had nothing to do with the Senate race, even though their beef with Crandall centered on campaign signs and they displayed a poster featuring the disputed signs.

"This is not about me," Fillmore said. Rather, he said, it's about what he considers inappropriate treatment of one lawmaker by another.

But it also appeared to be an inappropriate use of state resources, especially as the news conference -- staged in a state Capitol building and advertised by a state-paid legislative spokesman on state time -- took on the tone of a campaign event.

Crandall, Fillmore said during the news conference, "is not fit to be in the Senate." He said he would support Barton's ethics complaint, which had not been filed as of Friday.

Tim Fleming, an ethics attorney for the state House of Representatives, said no one asked for his guidance before the Barton-Fillmore news conference. He hesitated to weigh in on the propriety of the event, saying it's a gray area.

"I don't think there are any cases that give us guidance on it," he said.

But generally, he said, there is a "bright line" that distinguishes campaign work from state work. Last week, he circulated a memo to House staffers reminding them they are strictly prohibited from campaign or political-party activity during work hours. They risk dismissal if they do such work, the memo stated.

Attorney General's Office spokeswoman Amy Rezzonico said the law prohibits using state resources for campaign work. That means no use of state-issued phones, whether landlines or cellphones, no computers paid for by the state, no e-mail lists, and on and on, she said.

It's clear, she said, such tools must be kept separate from campaign activities.

Unlike other states, Arizona doesn't have an overarching ethics commission. Legislative ethics panels handle complaints about legislative behavior. State-employee violations go to the Attorney General's Office, although Rezzonico said she could not find any such records.

The Secretary of State's Office receives complaints about campaign violations, but it has no enforcement power, so it forwards complaints to the attorney general.

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission, which oversees Arizona's public-campaign-finance system, has enforcement authority.

Clean Elections is the only Arizona member of the national Council on Governmental Ethics Laws, an umbrella group that links such statewide organizations as the Indiana State Ethics Commission and the Arkansas Ethics Commission.

And Clean Elections is the only oversight agency that has flexed its regulatory muscle in the past decade, forcing two lawmakers to resign for finance violations.

Capitol observers say the use of state resources for campaigns is a perennial complaint, and one that usually goes nowhere. Despite the talk of a "bright line," there is a lot of gray area.

Earlier this month, supporters of a ballot measure that would abolish Arizona's partisan primary-election system and replace it with an all-in election thought they smelled a rat when the Senate's chief of staff circulated talking points critical of the measure.

But Wendy Baldo, the chief of staff, said the memo was background material for a potential special session.

"Our members were asking for reasons why we were going into a special session," she said. The memo outlined the reasons at least some senators were pushing for an alternative to the ballot proposal, she said.

Such memos are "what policy advisers do," Baldo said.

The special-session plan collapsed.

Senate ethics attorney Stacy Weltsch said the talking points weren't a concern and didn't amount to a clear-cut case of crossing the line.

But she's rejected other moves, such as a request for new business cards to reflect a senator's new district number because of redistricting.

That clearly fell into the campaign category, she said, as the new numbers only come into play because of the upcoming election. Weltsch wouldn't name the lawmaker.

In the House, Rep. Fillmore's member page on the state's legislative website as recently as Wednesday noted he is the only veteran in his race, a clear reference to a campaign.

When asked about it, Fillmore said it was a holdover from his 2010 bid for the House and should have been removed. Two dayslater, it was gone.

Earlier this year, the Senate spokesman defended a news release he issued announcing the re-election plans of Sens. Al Melvin and Steve Smith as a way to let constituents know the lawmakers' plans in the wake of redistricting.

No one filed a complaint.