Before I get into some of the gory details, here's the summary - the Senate Ethics Committee, by a strict party-line vote, dismissed Sen. Ken Cheuvront's ethics complaint against Sen. Jack Harper.
There was no surprise there - no Republican-dominated ethics committee is ever going to hold a fellow Republican responsible for his actions, no matter how craven.
This was my first chance to see Harper in action up close. He lived down to expections, and what's more, he brought one of the few half-decent Senate Republicans down to his level. Sen. Jay Tibshraeny of Chandler. Tibshraeny is very conservative, usually numbering among the most conservative in the body. However, he has a reputation for conducting himself with intelligence and professionalism.
Tuesday's hearing changed that - he obviously places base partisanship ahead of professionalism these days.
Anyway, the hearing had an interesting dynamic to it - if somebody who wasn't aware of the particulars of the hearing had walked in during the first hour, they'd have thought that Sen. Cheuvront was the one facing an ethics inquiry. Republicans Robert Blendu and Barbara Leff grilled him mercilessly, expending most of their energies with inquiries into and criticisms of Cheuvront's actions on the night in question.
While they eventually did ask Harper a few questions, those questions were softballs. I'm not sure if it's related, but there were a number of moments when the woman who was sitting with Harper walked over to consult with Blendu and/or Leff (sorry, but I didn't get her name.)
It should be said now that for his part, Harper did apologize.
For his part in the "divisiveness" of the last few days of the Senate's session and for his "less than stellar acting" when he pretended that his cutting off the mics was a mistake.
He didn't actually apologize for the actions that precipitated Tuesday's hearing.
Note: in her coverage of the hearing, Amanda Crawford of the AZ Republic's Political Insider said that Harper apologized for his less than stellar "actions." Watch the video archive - he said "acting." That video should be posted here within a day or two.
He excused his own actions by saying that he was "following the advice of counsel," counsel who had informed him that the the Democrats didn't have the right to retain the floor.
That "counsel" was Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor. Not exactly an impartial observer there.
Among the other highlights of Tuesday's performance -
- Harper opined that that ethics committee complaints are only for those senators "who enrich themselves" financially (as opposed to those who shame the Senate professionally)...
- Harper derided EqualityAZ emails to its supporters, asking them to lobby committee members, categorizing the emails as "attempts to intimidate"...
- When asked direct questions by Democratic members Sen. Martha Arzberger and Sen. Richard Miranda, he spouted off on other subjects. For instance, when asked why he didn't simply warn Cheuvront that he felt the debate was off topic, he answered that he wasn't required to recognize points of order from the floor.
- Harper admitted that he listens to EqualityAZ Radio, offering a recording to anyone who wanted one.
- When he was asked a direct question, Harper waited until Tibshraeny, the committee's chair, officially recognized him. Harper said that Senate rules require that Senators not speak until specifically called upon by the Chair. The first couple of times he did this, it was cute, even a little funny.
After two hours of it, it was just downright annoying.
- Of course, that was nowhere near as annoying as Harper's habit of refering to senators by district number, not name.
A habit he continued even when Blendu asked him to use names.
- During the explanation of his vote, Blendu brought up offshore oil drilling.
Senator Cheuvront summed up the day's proceedings thusly -
It was a whitewash.
Overall impressions of Harper, Leff, Blendu, and to a lesser but still definite extent, Tibshraeny -
Schoolyard bullies in three piece suits.
Zelph at AZNetroots has coverage here.