Dems run from Juan Mendez, who quietly admits to plagiarism

PHOENIX — Democratic elected officials and campaign groups are keeping themselves at arm’s length from State Senator Juan Mendez this week after their colleague publicly admitted to plagiarism.

The admission came after two articles on this website revealed that the state senator had plagiarized a 2014 committee speech while in the Arizona House of Representatives and a 2016 candidate questionnaire while running for the Arizona Senate.

The Arizona Republic independently compared Mendez’s questionnaire answers and committee speech to the third-party sources. When the newspaper tried to contact him (repeatedly) for comment, Mendez refused to answer. Other Democrats did the same.

“Mendez did not respond to multiple messages left on his cellphone,” the Arizona Republic reported. “Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, who leads the chamber’s Democratic caucus, declined to comment on the accusations against Mendez. The state Democratic Party also declined to comment.”

Mendez eventually was pressured to respond, which he quietly did on Twitter — but not before putting a figurative asterisk on the apology by claiming that he was “in a rush” at the time.

“Anything I’ve said truly represents my viewpoints,” he wrote. “However, I will put forth a greater effort to put ideas I support into my own words. While I am often in a rush, that is no excuse to not properly cite my sources. I sincerely apologize for my lapse in due diligence & judgement.”

You can view substantiating research for the respective articles here and here.

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Democrat groups abandon Hiral Tipirneni in CD-08

PHOENIX — Groups affiliated with the Democratic Party have largely abandoned Hiral Tipirneni’s uphill congressional bid, the most recent indication that the party no longer believes it can win Arizona’s conservative eighth district.

Tipirneni, long seen as an underdog in the race against Republican former state senator Debbie Lesko, has suffered from several missteps in recent weeks. The Democrat hosted a campaign event in the wrong district in mid-March and, during a subsequent televised candidate debate, dismissed the pay increases benefiting American workers as a result of tax reform.

Tipirneni’s claim that $1,200 bonuses are “not going to cover anything” was widely ridiculed by Republicans, who called the wealthy Democrat out-of-touch and compared the response to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s “crumbs” gaffe from a few months earlier.

Now, the Democratic Party seems to have noticed — and its willingness to entertain such a candidacy appears to have waned.

In recent weeks, groups affiliated with the party “have left [Tipirneni] to fend for herself,” according to a new article in the Arizona Capitol Times. “All the while, there has been nothing but crickets from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — or at least from its pockets,” the article continued.

The Democratic Party’s decision to step away from the congressional race echoes comments made by Laurie Roberts, a liberal columnist at the Arizona Republic, who called the state party’s chairwoman “delusional” for trying to convince people of the “pipedream” that Democrats could win.

Tipirneni painted herself as a moderate Democrat throughout the general election but was criticized for her liberal position on immigration — she said that a border wall is “not the answer” — and support for a “universal coverage” health care system.

“How are you going to pay for this?” Lesko asked at a recent debate, referring to Tipirneni’s position on health care. “You can’t just say, you know, ‘Oh, I want to give free things to everybody’ and not have a way to pay for it.’”

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Exclusive: State Senator Juan Mendez plagiarized committee speech from conspiracy website that called Sandy Hook massacre a “hoax”

PHOENIX — State Senator Juan Mendez, while serving as a member of the Arizona House of Representatives, plagiarized a committee speech explaining his opposition to “right to try” legislation in 2014, according to new research being shared by Arizona Democrats Exposed.

On Tuesday, this website revealed that the Democratic lawmaker had plagiarized large portions of a candidate questionnaire as he campaigned for his position in the state senate. Several answers submitted by Mendez were copied-and-pasted paragraphs of text from already-published sources but were presented by the lawmaker as his own words.

Those published sources included media outlets, a state agency in Arizona, Planned Parenthood, and a U.S. Supreme Court decision written by an associate justice, among others.

Upon further review, Arizona Democrats Exposed can now report for the first time that Mendez’s plagiarism was not exclusive to the candidate questionnaire in 2016; he also plagiarized at a committee hearing two years earlier during his time in the Arizona House of Representatives.

In 2014, state lawmakers considered “right to try” legislation that, if approved by voters, would allow eligible, terminally ill patients access to certain investigational medications.

Before it reached the ballot, though, House Concurrent Resolution 2005 made its way through the standard legislative process at the state capitol, including being considered by the appropriate standing committee. So, on February 13, 2014, HCR2005 was reviewed by lawmakers at a hearing of the House Reform and Human Services Committee.

One of the members of that committee — and one of the most vocal opponents of the legislation — was Juan Mendez.

About 50 minutes into the hearing, Mendez requested a chance to explain his vote. The state representative said that he would be voting ‘no’ and told his colleagues — elected members of the legislature — that he had “consulted experts who have issues with legislation like this.” He provided the name of someone he claimed to have consulted: Dr. Dean Gesme of the Minnesota Oncology Hematology Professional Association.

Gesme, Mendez told his colleagues, “has charged efforts like this bill as attempts to generate false hope in patients when the reality is that less than 10 percent of drugs beginning Phase I safety trials are eventually adopted as viable treatments. Among these, most provide only incremental benefits; very few are life-savers.”

There was one problem. The first 60-or-so words of Mendez’s testimony weren’t his own. They were plagiarized almost verbatim from a conspiracy theory website.

Whereas Mendez’s candidate questionnaire was plagiarized from a gun violence speech delivered by President Barack Obama months after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, his committee speech at the “right to try” hearing was plagiarized from a website that has called the shooting a “hoax” and implied that no one at the school really died that day.

Gesme, the conspiracy website wrote in 2008, had “charged that the rules will engender false hope in patients, when less than 10 percent of drugs beginning phase I safety trials are eventually adopted as viable treatments. Among these, most provide only incremental benefits; few are life-savers.”

Much like the plagiarized candidate questionnaire, Mendez subtly altered words and phrases in his committee speech — such replacing “engender” with “generate” and adding redundant language to the middle of the paragraph — in what may have been an attempt to evade detection by plagiarism-checking services.

In addition, the next full minute of Mendez’s committee speech is plagiarized — this time from a Wikipedia post that was published in 2008. Mendez criticizes the “right to try” proposal for providing “almost unfettered legal access to experimental drugs by terminally ill patients,” claiming that doing so would be “radically altering the conduct of clinical cancer research, as patients would then have little incentive to enter Phase II and Phase III clinical trials.”

Archived records show that, six years earlier, a user named “WhatamIdoing” added almost identical text to a Wikipedia page about another court case related to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

That Wikipedia page also refers to a lawsuit that would have provided “almost unfettered legal access to experimental drugs by terminally ill patients” and would have “radically altered the conduct of clinical cancer research” and affected patients who “would then have little incentive to enter Phase II and Phase III clinical trials.”

One of the only differences, perhaps, was Mendez’s decision to transpose certain clauses and change the verb tense of “altered” to “altering.”

During his speech, Mendez appears uncomfortable reading the plagiarized text and possibly confused by the difference between the words “efficacy” (effective) and “efficiency” (efficient). While the Wikipedia page he plagiarized refers to “the efficacy of new drugs,” Mendez pronounces the term as “efficiency” during his speech.

After claiming several sentences from the Wikipedia page as his own, Mendez transitions into a new paragraph — back, again, to plagiarizing from the conspiracy theory website.

“False hope for unapproved drugs can also erode the clinical trial system by substituting clinical enthusiasm and wishful thinking for evidence-based medicine,” Mendez told his colleagues, claiming words that were attributed to Gesme in the aforementioned website as his own.

In closing, Mendez said that he refused to “exploit the sympathy of voters” and urged members of the state legislature to reconsider their votes. Proposition 303 appeared on the ballot that November and received approval from 78.5 percent of Arizona voters.

You can view the substantiating research at Arizona Democrats Exposed.

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Exclusive: State Senator Juan Mendez plagiarized candidate questionnaire

PHOENIX — State Senator Juan Mendez plagiarized significant portions of a candidate questionnaire that he filled out while running for his current position in the state legislature’s upper chamber, according to new research being shared by Arizona Democrats Exposed.

Mendez, a Democrat, who was then serving as a state representative for Arizona’s 26th legislative district, submitted answers to a candidate questionnaire sent to him by the Arizona Republic in 2016. The questionnaire was intended to help residents across the state “vote with confidence,” as the newspaper’s editorial board wrote ahead of the election.

However, further review of Mendez’s submission has found that a significant portion of the document was plagiarized from other sources — ranging from President Obama to the Arizona Department of Water Resources and various media outlets — while being presented as his own words.

The plagiarism, which has not been previously reported, includes large blocks of text copied and pasted from third-party other sources, often stolen word-for-word and occasionally reorganized to give the appearance of originality.

For example, in response to a question about whether the state of Arizona should legalize marijuana, Mendez answered that the “war on drugs” had not been successful in ending “the popularity or use of cannabis.”

“Nor, after decades of common use, has cannabis been proved to be the evil weed of ‘Reefer Madness,’” he wrote. “We would all be better off had we dedicated our resources to education and treatment rather than, through prohibition, to empowering criminals and cartels, not to mention ruining our youth’s lives, systematically creating second class citizens with results that put Jim Crow Laws to shame.”

That paragraph was copied almost verbatim from a column published by Kathleen Parker, a writer at the Washington Post, two years earlier.

“Nor, after decades of common use, has it been proved to be the evil weed of ‘Reefer Madness,’” that Washington Post columnist wrote in 2014. “How much better to have dedicated our resources to education and treatment rather than, through prohibition, to empowering criminals and cartels, not to mention ruining young lives with ‘criminal’ records.”

The differences between the questionnaire submission and the column are negligible, with Mendez comparing the “war on drugs” to Jim Crow laws, something that Parker, the columnist, did not do.

This excerpt of Mendez’s submission represents a broader pattern of the state representative plagiarizing large blocks of text while injecting handfuls of his own words and phrases as commentary.

In another example, the questionnaire asked the candidate whether Arizona needs additional regulations on abortions.

Mendez criticized the state for “requiring new HVAC systems” and “the requiring of widening hallways,” calling the rules “not only entirely unnecessary but also a flatout obstruction to basic health care.”

His answer closely echoes an article that had been published in the Austin Chronicle, an alternative weekly newspaper in Texas, citing the same requirements and characterizing an ambulatory surgical center (ASC) rule as having been “deemed not only ‘entirely unnecessary’ but an impediment to basic health care.”

Similar to the Washington Post example above, the only significant difference between the questionnaire submission and the previously-published news article is Mendez’s decision to subtly replace the Austin Chronicle’s description of the rule (“an impediment”) with his own colorful description (“a flatout obstruction”) in the middle of the sentence.

It is unclear if Mendez added his own commentary in order to customize the plagiarized paragraph to his liking, or to manipulate the original material just enough that his decision to copy-and-paste would not be detected by plagiarism-checking services.

In the same answer to the question about his stance on abortion, Mendez criticized Republicans’ actions on the issue and wrote that “neither of these provisions offers medical benefits does not justify these undue burdens on a woman’s right to choose.”

That, too, was copied almost verbatim from a U.S. Supreme Court decision in which Associate Justice Stephen Breyer wrote: “. . . neither of these provisions confers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes.”

While Breyer wrote that the provisions do not “confer” benefits, Mendez wrote that the provisions do not “offer” them. The rest of the sentence is largely identical.

Mendez concluded his answer by saying that a “woman, not politicians, should make the informed decisions when it comes to her own pregnancy.” That text comes directly from the website of Planned Parenthood Action Fund — the political action committee affiliated with the eponymous women’s health organization — meaning Mendez plagiarized from three separate sources in response to a single question on the questionnaire.

Those examples are only two of the seven separate questions for which Mendez responded with plagiarized answers.

Regarding water policies in Arizona, the lawmaker stressed that “no single strategy can address projected water supply imbalances across the state,” adding that it’s important to “recognize the uniqueness of the regions throughout Arizona and their varying challenges.” This text was first published by the Arizona Department of Water Resources in 2014 as part of a “strategic vision” outlining the agency’s long-term sustainability plan. The strategic vision document refers to “the various regions throughout the State,” while Mendez’s answer removed the word “various” and replaced “the State” with “Arizona.”

The state representative’s answer on gun violence also was pulled from a speech that President Barack Obama delivered at the White House in April 2013. Here, Mendez took several quotations appearing in different spots during the president’s 13-minute Rose Garden speech and combined them to form one paragraph.

Similar portions of Mendez’s answers about empowerment scholarship accounts, income tax rates, and even his favorite place in Arizona were plagiarized from an Arizona Republic op-ed, an Arizona Capitol Times article, and the U.S. Forest Service, respectively.

Mendez was named the chair of the Arizona Legislative Latino Caucus for the 2016 legislative session and is running for reelection in 2018.

You can view the substantiating research at Arizona Democrats Exposed.

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Hiral Tipirneni: A $1,200 tax reform bonus is “not going to cover anything”

PHOENIX — Congressional candidates Debbie Lesko and Hiral Tipirneni faced off in their first televised debate Sunday, locking horns on issues ranging from immigration to health care to tax reform.

Lesko, a Republican, was the first to speak. She introduced herself to viewers by highlighting her bipartisan record in the state legislature.

“I have a long history — 20 years — of being involved in the West Valley, and I have a strong track record of working with both Republicans and Democrats to get things done,” she said.

Tipirneni, a Democrat, meanwhile, painted herself as an outsider who can fix the problems facing Washington, D.C.

Both candidates were asked — in different ways — about their support (or lack thereof) for President Donald Trump. Lesko told the host that, while she doesn’t agree with everything that the president does or says, “our economy is doing good” and “consumers are very confident” under the new administration.

“I do think he’s followed through on his promises to the American people and he’s doing a good job,” Lesko said.

One of the promises she cited was the tax reform package that the president signed into law in 2017.

“A lot of our businesses have given raises to their employees, and I think that’s a really good thing,” Lesko said, adding that “businesses are booming” across Arizona as a result.

Tipirneni called the tax reform package “a Trojan horse” and disagreed with Lesko’s assessment that middle-class families benefited from the resulting tax relief and pay increases.

“If you have $1,200 back a year, that’s about $100 a month — and, with the increase in premiums and child care costs that most middle-class families are struggling with, that’s not going to cover anything.”

Many observers criticized Tipirneni’s dismissive claim — that $1,200 is “not going to cover anything” for families — as out-of-touch, citing her family’s significant wealth. The Democrat’s mountainside home, estimated to be worth more than $1 million, is outfitted with solar panels, a swimming pool, and a personal tennis court.

(Click Here To Watch The Exchange.)

Others compared the gaffe to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s characterization of workers’ $1,000-plus tax-reform bonuses as “crumbs.”

Asked whether she is a progressive Democrat or a moderate Democrat, Tipirneni responded that she is the latter. She described her position on immigration as being close to that of Senator John McCain but doubled-down on her opposition to the construction of a border wall between the United State and Mexico. She has called a border wall “not the answer.”

“The wall — although the idea makes us feel safe — we know that it’s not legitimately going to make us any safer,” the Democrat said during Sunday’s debate.

Lesko also criticized Tipirneni’s health care proposal, which she characterized as “a Bernie Sanders Medicare-for-all plan that both sides said would cost enormous amounts of money.”

“More government bureaucracy — really radical,” Lesko concluded. “Not a fit for this district at all.”

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Business organizations slam Tom Steyer ballot proposal: “Take your risky scheme somewhere else”

PHOENIX — Three business organizations — Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Arizona Manufacturers Council, and Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce — came out swinging Friday against the controversial ballot proposal tied to Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer.

In a joint statement, Arizona Chamber president Glenn Hamer and AMC executive director Allison Gilbreath said that job creators in the state “strongly reject” the California billionaire’s “risky scheme” that would require utilities in the state to source half of their energy from renewables by 2030.

The organizations shared cost estimates showing that corporate and industrial energy rates would increase more than 100 percent under the proposal. Residential ratepayers in Arizona would suffer from $1,250 in annual billing hikes (on average) as well.

“It would cost jobs and hurt Arizona ratepayers, but Steyer wouldn’t have to live with the consequences,” Hamer and Gilbreath said in the statement. “Steyer should take his radical agenda and head back to California. Arizona is doing just fine without him.”

Todd Sanders, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, concurred.

“This measure, funded by an out-of-state billionaire, has the very real possibility of having a negative impact on Arizona’s businesses and hardworking citizens by dramatically increasing the cost of energy,” Sanders added in another statement released separately. “Arizona’s utility providers have provided residents and businesses with reliable and affordable energy for more than 100 years. This initiative would substantially weaken our economy and we stand firmly against it.”

House Bill 2005 — aimed at protecting ratepayers — was approved by both chambers in the state legislature this week despite a fierce lobbying campaign by the political group tied to Steyer. The legislation was introduced earlier this year by Republican State Representative Vince Leach, who said Thursday that “the consequences of complying with these unrealistic mandates would be catastrophic to Arizona.”

“I’m proud to stand up for Arizonans by standing up to California billionaire Tom Steyer,” Leach said.

Passage came after contentious debate in the Arizona Senate.

Republican State Senator Sylvia Allen said that Arizona would be “stuck with the higher costs … [and] higher taxes” associated with Steyer’s proposal if it were adopted, and Republican State Senator Steve Smith agreed with her, saying the language “will cause a constitutional conflict” in the state.

Prior to the full senate vote, the legislation was reviewed by the Senate Government Committee. A government affairs representative from Arizona Public Service explained to the committee members that the ballot proposal would “devastate rural Arizona by closing power plants and killing thousands of jobs” — in addition to risking $38 million in tax revenue for education.

Arizonans for Affordable Electricity launched in February to fight Steyer’s initiative. The organization’s spokesman appeared on television soon after and dismissed the proposal as a “feel-good measure” that would put Arizona’s electricity grid at risk if adopted. A physics professor at Arizona State University similarly criticized Steyer’s effort as “a scam,” arguing that such a mandate could make the state even more dependent on fossil fuels.

State Senator Robert Meza and State Representative César Chávez — Democratic members of the state legislature — recently penned an op-ed in the Arizona Republic announcing their opposition to the ballot proposal.

“How unfair it would be for the rest of us to heap new charges onto their electric bills, forcing seniors and other vulnerable residents to make painful choices between cooling their homes in the summer and other basic necessities?” they wrote. “Arizona families will get stuck paying the bill for generations to come.”

UPDATE: This post has been updated to include the press release from the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

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Union-led teacher walk-out falls flat as parents scramble for options: “It bothers me a lot”

PHOENIX — Families across Arizona were forced to scramble for day-care and babysitting options this week as a union-led teacher walk-out suddenly became reality.

Parents in Glendale received an unexpected automated robo-call from Pendergast Elementary School District late Tuesday evening informing them that their children’s school might be closed because of a union-led walk-out. It was discovered that teachers were planning to “call in sick” as a way to protest education funding issues.

Not the next month or the next week — the very next day.

“If some teachers choose to participate in this event,” the voicemail warned, “our school will be understaffed and we will be unable to properly supervise all students safely.”

Thousands of families’ schedules were no longer doable, and parents were forced to scramble for last-minute daycare and babysitting options for their kids or work alternatives for themselves.

The Arizona Education Association union — already under fire for unnecessarily politicizing grassroots education events — has been egging on a teachers strike for weeks. But the protest fell flat for those families whose lives it negatively affected.

“It bothers me a lot,” one grandmother told KTVK on Wednesday. “You know, there’s a lot of kids that would have to go — either their parents would have to call in sick or they would have to go to a day-care, which would cost the parents money.”

(Click Here To Watch The Segment.)

One student’s mother told the TV station that she’s worried the strike could end up lasting even longer.

“What about tomorrow?” she asked. “What about next week? What about if this happens again and for how long? That’s what’s concerning.”

Another parent wondered aloud to KSAZ how the strike would affect her child, who, as a result, is getting one less day of schooling.

“I think that the teachers do need help, but I do feel like it takes away from the kids, you know?” she said. “From a mother that has a child who struggles, you know, I feel like now my son gets a little bit of the repercussion.”

(Click Here To Watch The Segment.)

Former Governor Jan Brewer weighed-in on the walk-out, too, largely taking the same position as the parents.

Asked her thoughts on the issue during a radio appearance, Brewer responded that she didn’t believe public employees should strike. She also criticized the last-minute nature of the demonstration.

“[W]hat they did last night by notifying all the parents by robo-calls that they’re going to close down their schools — when people go to work and they don’t have places where their kids can go — it sets a very poor example for their students,” Brewer said.

(Click Here To Listen To The Interview.)

Beth Lewis — chair of the anti-school choice group Save Our Schools Arizona — cheered-on the walk-out but admitted on the radio that she did not participate because she was “in Tempe,” located about 15 minutes from the Arizona State Capitol.

The strike came only two weeks after Democratic House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios warned that a teacher strike would be “a frightening prospect” and said that, “no,” she did not support one.

Senate Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley, also a Democrat, responded during the same interview that it was “hard to tell” if a strike might even be counterproductive.

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