Tom Steyer compares himself to Martin Luther King, pledges “to get rid of” Donald Trump

PHOENIX — California billionaire Tom Steyer this week compared his political work to the civil rights work of Martin Luther King, Jr., and bragged about the “fantastic return” on his political investments.

Steyer, who is funding a campaign to impeach President Donald Trump, appeared on POLITICO’s “Off Message” podcast Tuesday. The Democratic billionaire spoke with host Isaac Dovere about the controversial origins of his wealth and the goals of his political operation.

Asked why other Democratic donors haven’t embraced his impeachment efforts, Steyer responded that may Democrats have benefited from Republican policies.

“There are lots of people who are quite happy with the way things are,” he said. “And there are lots of people who are Democrats and liberal-leaning who love to have their taxes reduced.”

Steyer said that it is “impossible to answer” whether Democrats will actually move forward with impeaching the president if the party retakes the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2018 but admitted that, if personally given the power, he would do so tomorrow.

“We have a president who is lawless and reckless and is threatening our democracy and making us unsafe, and we need to get rid of him.”

The host asked Steyer about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s contention that talking about impeachment is a “gift” to Republicans during the mid-term elections. The Democratic mega-donor responded that impeaching him is “upsetting the status quo” and compared his efforts to those of civil rights-era leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Any time in American history that there has been an attempt to upset the status quo, there have been people within the status quo, within the establishment, saying, ‘It may be true. It may be something we should deal with. It may be important. But not now,’” Steyer continued. “So, if you look at the civil rights movement, I mean the pushback was not, ‘You’re not telling the truth.’ The pushback was, ‘We’re dealing with it in time.’ You know, ‘Stand down so we can deal with it in time.’”

The California billionaire also is funding a controversial ballot proposal in Arizona that, if implemented, would force the state’s utilities to obtain half of their energy from renewable sources by the year 2030.

Protesters lined the streets of Tucson last week when Steyer landed in southern Arizona to talk about it at an event hosted by the Pima County Democratic Party. The group behind his proposal is facing several controversies, including serious allegations from former employees who claim that they were subject to illegal signature-gathering quotas.

Critics contend that the renewable mandate would significantly increase families’ monthly electricity bills. They have also questioned whether the billionaire would profit from such a mandate.

“When you say that there’s no return on my investment, of course I think that’s wrong,” Steyer said on Tuesday’s podcast. “Because I think there’s a fantastic return on my investment.”

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Arizonans protest Tom Steyer in Tucson: “He’s ruined California. Now he’s coming … to ruin Arizona.”

PHOENIX — Arizonans flocked to Tucson in droves Saturday to protest California billionaire Tom Steyer.

Steyer is funding a controversial ballot proposal that would force Arizona’s utilities to obtain half of their energy from renewable sources by the year 2030. Critics — including elected officials, business organizations, and many others — contend that such a mandate would lead to higher utility bills for families across the state.

The Democratic mega-donor visited the Desert Diamond Casino in Tucson Saturday for the “7th Annual Udall Dinner & Spirit of Arizona Awards” hosted by the Pima County Democratic Party. Steyer is listed as the “Keynote Speaker” on an official invitation and was expected to speak about his ongoing ballot campaign.

But the annual event didn’t go as planned.

Instead of receiving a warm welcome, the streets were lined with Arizonans pushing back against the billionaire’s political agenda and his involvement in the state’s 2018 mid-term elections.

“He’s ruined California,” one protester told KGUN. “Now he’s coming to Arizona to ruin Arizona.”

Arizonans in the crowd chanted “Send Steyer Home” and held signs with phrases like “Steyer Needs To Retire” and “Say No To California Energy Prices.” Other signs highlighted the hypocrisy of the mega-donor’s wealth. (Steyer’s hedge fund, Farallon Capital Management, was heavily invested in domestic and foreign coal operations.)

“They have no idea that this is going to cost Arizonans, raise the price of homes, [and] raise your energy bills,” David Eppihimer, chairman of the Pima County Republican Party, told the station.

No other Democrats were named on the official event invitation, but various social media posts indicate that Arizona Democratic Party chairwoman Felecia Rotellini and Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema were in attendance.

In addition to his green-energy proposal, Steyer has spent millions of dollars trying to impeach President Donald Trump. The campaign has received some support from Democrats in Arizona — including Tucson City Council member Regina Romero — but has otherwise been met with skepticism from national Democrats who fear it could increase Republican turnout in November.

The political leanings of Pima County — historically seen as “bluer” than other areas in the state — have begun to shift in recent years as the region benefited from policies spearheaded by Republican officials. Reforms to the teacher certification process, for example, helped Vail School District start the 2017 school year with zero teacher vacancies, and economic development strategies continue to attract new jobs and investments to a county where the unemployment rate topped 10 percent in 2010.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi traveled to Arizona earlier this year to make the Democratic Party’s case against the 2017 tax reform legislation. However, she skipped the Tucson portion of the tour — in what some suggested was a sign of the legislation’s increasing popularity among Democrats and Republicans.

For his part, Steyer doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The billionaire is pushing ahead with his impeachment campaign and is backing green-energy proposals in several states. An affordable energy coalition is spearheading an effort to stop the mandate in Arizona while Steyer’s committee works to collect the required number of signatures for it to appear on the 2018 mid-term ballot.

So far, not a single Arizonan has financially contributed to the green-energy campaign.

A version of this article appears at The Farley Report.

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Smoking gun appears, as former employees of Tom Steyer-led campaign come forward

PHOENIX — The controversial ballot proposal tied to California billionaire Tom Steyer is facing increased scrutiny this week after former employees came forward alleging illegal campaign signature quotas.

The ballot proposal, if implemented, would require Arizona’s utilities to obtain half of their energy from renewable sources (not including nuclear) by the year 2030. It has received widespread criticism from the business community and others as a threat to the state’s economy. Critics of the proposal say that it will lead to significantly higher monthly utility bills for families and a burdensome mandate on businesses looking to expand in the region.

The committee overseeing the initiative is in the process of collecting signatures required for it to appear on the November 2018 ballot — but its signature-gathering operation has fallen under a dark cloud of suspicion.

Arizonans for Affordable Electricity (AFAE), an organization fighting the mandate, filed a complaint Wednesday asking the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office to investigate the committee and its signature-gathering vendor after former employees came forward with allegations of impropriety.

AFAE says that it is aware of at least five former employees of FieldWorks, the signature-gathering vendor, who claim that they were wrongfully terminated. (The committee overseeing the ballot proposal paid FieldWorks more than $589,000 in the first quarter of 2018 alone; NextGen Climate Action, another political group tied to Tom Steyer, also provided the committee an in-kind contribution of more than $141,000 that was itemized as petition-gathering assistance though the same vendor.)

The former employees signed declarations confirming that they faced signature-gathering quotas while employed by FieldWorks ranging from 65 to 68 signatures during each eight-hour shift. Those performance standards, AFAE says, are prohibited in Arizona and constitute “yet another example of the initiative campaign and its billionaire benefactor Tom Steyer playing fast and loose with the law.”

“Election fraud is a serious matter, which is why lawmakers and Governor Ducey acted in 2017 to prohibit exactly these kinds of activities on the part of initiative campaigns,” said Matthew Benson, a spokesman for the affordable-energy coalition. “Signature gatherers who know they must meet an established quota in order to keep their job are incentivized to commit fraud.”

The complaint sent to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office is requesting that all signatures gathered by FieldWorks petition-circulators subject to the quota be deemed invalid, a major possible blow to the group’s goal of appearing on the midterm ballot.

The revelation comes less than one month after State Representative Vince Leach and State Senator John Kavanagh expressed concerns about “an alarming interference with the proper functioning of Arizona’s ballot initiative system.” The legislators said that the committee, by flooding the registration system with an excessive number of petition-circulators (“who will never collect a signature”) was “purposely creating a burden on the State.”

State Election Director Eric Spencer subsequently issued a criminal referral to the office of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich for his review of the potential violations.

The committee overseeing the ballot proposal has faced near-constant criticism for its ties to Steyer, a Democratic Party mega-donor who is spearheading a national campaign to impeach President Donald Trump. All of the green-energy committee’s funding so far comes from NextGen Climate Action, another San Francisco-based political group funded by the California billionaire. Arizonans have not contributed a single cent to the effort, according to the newest campaign-finance reports.

The proposal met the disapproval of Arizona lawmakers in recent months, who warn that the mandate would have devastating economic impacts in their districts. A physics professor at Arizona State University also posited that such a mandate would actually make the state more dependent on fossil fuels than it is today without the assistance of nuclear energy, which the proposal excludes.

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Democrats held mid-term “Happy Hour” hours after voting against 20% teacher pay raise

PHOENIX — Only hours after Democratic lawmakers tried to block a 20 percent pay raise for Arizona’s teachers, the state Democratic Party held a “Happy Hour” event to prepare for the mid-terms.

Republican Governor Doug Ducey recently approved significant new investments in Arizona’s education system, including a 20 percent pay raise for the state’s teachers by the 2020 school year.

“This is a real win for our teachers, for our kids, for our educators in the classroom,” Governor Ducey said before signing the annual budget.

The 20 percent pay raise passed both chambers of the state legislature — but not without opposition from the vast majority of the Democratic caucus. Thirty-four Democratic lawmakers voted against the legislation. The Arizona Democratic Party and one of its candidates for governor opposed it. Hiral Tipirneni, the party’s candidate in Arizona’s eighth congressional district, opposed it as well.

The 34 Democrats voted to block the teacher pay raise on the morning of May 3. Only hours later, though, the Arizona Democratic Party hosted a “Happy Hour” at an uptown Scottsdale restaurant to prepare for the upcoming elections.

An invitation posted online shows that the state party hosted the mid-term event on the evening of May 3. It also posted photographs bragging about the event, which was attended by Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego. (Gallego was widely criticized earlier this year for calling the president “a psychopath.”)

The state Democratic Party hosted a similar “Happy Hour” event in Tempe less than one week later on the evening of May 9.

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VIDEO: Democrat Minority Whip Lupe Contreras Complains About His Job For 5 Full Minutes

PHOENIX — After Democratic State Senator Lupe Contreras voted against a 20 percent pay raise for Arizona’s teachers Thursday morning, he dismissed people criticizing him and said that they should try to do his job.

Contreras delivered a similar speech exactly one year ago today — except it was much longer.

On May 4, 2017, the Democrat taunted Arizonans from the floor — “come and do my job and then let’s talk” — and complained that “they’re not the ones having to push these two little buttons up here.”

The speech went on for 4-5 full minutes, so we decided to post the video and partial transcript as a new #FlashbackFriday segment.

TRANSCRIPT:

CONTRERAS: “I have a message for any one of you, any lobbyist that’s been in my office or any other person who has spoken to me about this vote that we’re doing today: Come and do my job and THEN let’s talk. It’s NOT as easy as everyone thinks it is . . .

“The calls we’ve gotten. The emails we’ve received. The people stopping us in the hallways telling us certain things, that we have to vote a certain way. Sorry, it’s NOT right.

I don’t care who you are — if you’re in this body or if you’re one of the lobbyists around here, wherever you’re at — it’s NOT right. If you think my job’s easy, COME DO IT. There’s an election every two years.

“If you want to make $24,000 a year, come do it. Leave your six-figure income or you’re high 60-, 70-, 80-, 90-thousand dollars a year income, and come down here and work for 24-k. Let’s see how you like it then.

“I’m getting a little tired of people trying to tell us how to do our jobs. But they’re not the ones HAVING TO PUSH THESE TWO LITTLE BUTTONS up here. I’ve kept quiet all night, and it comes to a point where we can’t be quiet anymore. I’ve had sleepless nights the last three days, missing my kid’s ball games because I’m having to deal with the stuff that’s going on over here, dealing with the emails, dealing with the calls, dealing with everything else and putting my family aside for this. TO BE RIDICULED? It’s not cool. It’s not right.

I’m getting a little a tired of this DISRESPECT we get as a body coming down here working hard for all of Arizona. And, for people just to look at us and say ‘Well, you’re the minority party. You gotta vote a certain way’ — no, I don’t. So that red button that I pushed up there. That’s for me, and that’s for EVERY person that said I had to do something a certain way. I don’t have to do it a certain way.”

Source: Senate Floor Session Part 12 – Third Reading #5, Time Stamp: 18:03, Arizona Capitol Television, 05/04/17

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34 Democrats vote against 20% pay raise for Arizona teachers

PHOENIX — State legislators successfully passed a budget package Thursday morning that includes a 20 percent pay raise for teachers in Arizona — but not without opposition from 34 Democrats.

Republican Governor Doug Ducey announced a new plan three weeks ago to provide a 20 percent pay raise to teachers across the state by the 2020 school year. The plan — often abbreviated online as #20×2020 — called for an immediate 10 percent raise at the beginning of the 2018 school year, plus an additional five percent raise at the beginning of each of the next two school years.

The governor soon after hammered out the official budget agreement with Senate President Steve Yarbrough and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard.

After lengthy debate and an extensive amendment process that started Wednesday afternoon and continued into early Thursday morning, both chambers of the legislature passed their respective budget reconciliation packages with funding for K-12 education. The legislation was approved in the house by a vote of 33 to 26 and approved in the senate by a vote of 20 to 9.

House Democrats who voted against House Bill 2663 were: Lela Alston, Richard Andrade, Wenona Benally, Isela Blanc, Reginald Bolding, Kelli Butler, Mark Cardenas, Cesar Chavez, Ken Clark, Eric Descheenie, Kirsten Engel, Mitzi Epstein, Diego Espinoza, Charlene Fernandez, Randall Friese, Rosanna Gabaldon, Sally Ann Gonzalez, Daniel Hernandez, Ray Martinez, Tony Navarrete, Gerae Peten, Pamela Powers Hannley, Rebecca Rios, Macario Saldate, and Athena Salman.

Senate Democrats who voted against House Bill 2663 were: Olivia Cajero Bedford, Lupe Contreras, Katie Hobbs, Juan Mendez, Robert Meza, Catherine Miranda, Lisa Otondo, Jamescita Peshlakai, and Martin Quezada.

The Democrats’ votes — especially after the party tried to align itself with the labor union’s #RedForEd movement — risk putting the opposing lawmakers at odds with teachers across the state, who will benefit from the 10 percent portion of the pay raise in only three months. A recent poll found that more than 75 percent of voters approve the governor’s plan.

The Arizona Democratic Party and labor union-backed Democrat David Garcia both oppose pay raise plan. Hiral Tipirneni, the Democrat who lost the April 2018 congressional race in Arizona’s eighth congressional district, also opposes the plan, calling it “quick and dirty.”

But not all Democrats felt the same way.

Democratic State Senator Steve Farley, the assistant minority leader running against Governor Ducey in November, voted to approve the budget package.

“You have $405,719,100 — I did the math in there, I checked it with my Democratic staff — this year alone,” said Senator Farley. “Unbelievable. What a way to celebrate my last budget night.”

Republican State Senator Kate Brophy McGee celebrated the pay raise package as “the largest increase in K-12 education spending since the Great Recession.” Republican State Senator Sonny Borrelli pointed to the ‘no’ votes on the roll call screen — where ‘no’ votes are indicated in red lighting — and declared, referring to the union protests, “That is not ‘Red for Ed.’”

In a floor speech explaining his ‘yes’ vote, Republican State Representative Anthony Kern reminded teachers across the state that the 20 percent salary increase would not have happened if Democrats had their way obstructing its passage.

“I’ve heard a lot of talk,” said Representative Kern. “Talk is pretty cheap. It’s your vote that counts … If Republicans voted with the Democrats tonight, [teachers] would be walking away with $0.”

Republican House Speaker J.D. Mesnard agreed.

“[The pay raises] are real,” said Speaker Mesnard. “I don’t know how we can make anyone believe it until they start materializing in your paychecks. But it is real. And, when that happens, remember this day. Remember who voted for it and remember who voted against it.”

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