If white privilege, and male privilege, and white male privilege, don’t exist, why do things like this keep happening?

22 Jan 2019 10:43 am
Posted by: Donna

Below is a tale of two AZ legislators.

Ceci-Velasquez

Ceci Velasquez is a former Democratic Arizona State Representative from LD29 (West Phoenix). In 2016, Velasquez was forced to end her reelection campaign when it was revealed she had been charged with misusing food stamps.

Velasquez pleaded guilty Oct. 25 to a misdemeanor count of unlawfully using food stamps. She will be sentenced Dec. 1 to a term of probation, and she has already paid back the $1,728 she is accused of stealing.

Velasquez’s case received substantial national attention, mostly through the Drudge Report and right wing social media campaigns. Eventually Fox News covered this important crime story of utmost urgency to America. It was then revealed Arizona Department of Economic Security Director Tim Jeffries and his staff (according to them with the blessing of both the Governor’s and AG’s offices) were gleefully orchestrating much of the media hype:

By 10 p.m. Jeffries informed Peterson he had just sent the press release to the Drudge Report.

“Let’s be sure to do this whenever we arrest someone,” he wrote. “Please also send our release to Townhall.com, TheHill.com, DailyCaller.com, and Politico.com.”

Peterson replied, noting the coincidence of his email’s timing.

“I am currently submitting to the NY Times, Fox, Politico and The Hill. ;),” she wrote.

They sure seem nice.

Rep. Velasquez admitted her mistake, which she says was borne of misunderstanding on her part, as a struggling single mother rather than intent to defraud the government, and she fully accepted the ensuing legal penalties.

Contrast the way she was treated with how another Arizona legislator was, as then-GOP Speaker of the House, when he was found to be misusing legislative travel funds:

gowan

Prosecutors won’t bring charges against former House Speaker David Gowan for getting more than $12,000 in taxpayer funds for time and travel spent during his ill-fated campaign for Congress.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich said his attorneys and investigators found “a lot of questionable, even I would say unethical behavior” in the actions of Gowan. These included multiple trips that Gowan took around the state in 2016 while running for Congress — many far from his legislative district — while saying he was on state business, a claim that enabled him to get reimbursed by the state for his expenses.

And Brnovich said staffers found multiple uses of a state vehicle for what appear to be personal purposes.

“But it did not rise to the level of criminal conduct,” he said, because there is insufficient proof that Gowan had both actual criminal intent as well as knowledge of the laws that were being broken. And that, Brnovich said, ends the matter.

“At the end of the day as a prosecutor your job is not to win at all costs,” he said.

“It’s not to throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks,” Brnovich continued. “If there’s not a reasonable likelihood of conviction, you don’t move forward on a case.”

Of course you don’t! Also, why should a state lawmaker be expected to know what the laws are? Let’s not be overly exuberant about ruining the life of a striving young leader in the prime of his, uh, late forties for his little $12K oopsie with the taxpayer dollars, right Attorney General Brnovich?

In fairness, according to the Assistant AG quoted in the linked Howie Fischer piece, it was rather more difficult to determine Gowan’s intent (than it apparently was in the Velasquez food stamps matter), even though prosecutors did see a pattern of questionable ethical behavior, since it was a staffer submitting the reimbursement requests and not Gowan himself.

There’s also this little nugget of excellent stewardship of our taxpayer funds:

Assistant Attorney General Todd Lawson who headed the investigation, said Gowan himself precipitated some of the problems in 2015, changing policy to allow some members of House leadership of both parties to claim expenses for as many days as they wanted. That was a sharp change from before where such expenses were limited to twice a week when the Legislature was not in session.

“Now the per diem pay for members of leadership was at their control — they could set up meetings each day, and get additional pay,” Lawson wrote.

Cool!

Obviously, Ceci Velasquez should have pulled herself up by her bootstraps by having a staffer submit her SNAP requests and also being in a position to write the rules in her favor, like a responsible person would be!

As for David Gowan, he has been able to put this whole unfortunate incident behind him and has returned to the Arizona Senate, where he now chairs the (I swear to God) Appropriations Committee. This is, of course, entirely the result of the natural meritocratic order under which we live and should not in any way be construed as powerful white dudes arranging it so they get away with things and are constantly rewarded and promoted in ways other people never are. Nope, no way.

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