Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bundgaard case: And the spin begins

By now, most observers of the Arizona political scene are aware of the fact that state Sen. Scott Bundgaard was involved in a domestic violence incident Friday and invoked his immunity from arrest as a serving legislator to avoid incarceration.

The Arizona Republic has coverage here, written by Connie Cone Sexton, with contributions from Mary K. Reinhart and Kristena Hansen.

The Arizona Capitol Times has AP coverage here.

My intent here isn't to rehash the story - I don't have any facts in this matter other than those in the Republic article.

Nor is it to bash Bundgaard in a partisan manner - Democrats aren't perfect in this regard...though if any had similarly invoked legislative immunity from arrest, I have absolutely no doubt that they'd have been raked over the coals in the RW blogosphere and by the columnists at the Arizona Republic and the Arizona Daily Star for doing so.

In addition, in the interests of fairness to all involved, I am going to wait until more facts come to light before passing judgement, and urge all other observers to do the same.

However, it is evident that all observers aren't of a similar mind. has Bundgaard's rather self-serving press release on the incident hereNote to Bundgaard:  "name dropping" isn't a viable defense.

Republican blog Seeing Red AZ isn't holding back, rising to Bundgaard's defense by attacking the integrity and professionalism of the reporters of the Republic story.  The comments section of their post show a similar ideologically-based disregard for the law (no matter if they aren't living together, violence between a boyfriend and girlfriend *is* "domestic violence") or for waiting for more facts to come to light.  They've blindly accepted the word of Bundgaard, given through his flack Jason Rose.

Republican blog Sonoran Alliance has a much briefer (and better) press release from Rose over the names of Bundgaard and the woman in the incident, Aubry Ballard.  In it, they apologize to everyone, announce that they are going their "separate ways," and ask for privacy.  It's still self-serving, but in a lower-key manner.

To be sure, some of the uninformed angst is coming from the other side - the comments on the Facebook posting from 12News on the story are mostly divided into two categories.

1.  "If it is a domestic violence case, the man must be 100% at fault."  Until we know all of the facts, we don't know *who* is at fault.  My initial reading of the story is that both were dishing out the violence, and both should have been arrested.  And that the police who responded to the situation *wanted* to arrest both, but couldn't arrest Bundgaard due to his immunity from arrest under the provisions of the Arizona Constitution.  Which brings us to...

2.  "How did the legislature pass a law granting themselves immunity for their crimes?!?"  Actually, they didn't.  It's in Article Four, Section Six, of the Arizona Constitution, approved by the voters of Arizona.  And even there, it's only immunity from arrest, during the legislative session, except for treason, felony, or "breach of the peace."  It isn't immunity from prosecution.

Also, many people are now calling for a change in that section based on this one incident.  It shouldn't be. 

Such provisions have a valid purpose - they prevent the use of incarceration to harass political adversaries.  Given last week's arrest of Sal Reza, a loud critic of Senate President Russell Pearce, at the behest of Pearce, it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine Pearce using that tool against recalcitrant legislators if the tool was available to him.

In short, while there are many emotional reasons to jump to conclusions one way or another, this is a situation where rationality should reign - wait until all of the facts are in, and *then* make an evaluation of the situation.

Of course, a rational person won't ignore the fact that Bundgaard has been in and out of court a multitude of times (30+) over the last two decades, ranging from civil cases (both as plaintiff and defendant), traffic cases* (all defendant, some guilty, some dismissed, but he must be paying a fortune for car insurance :) ), and family court (a lengthy divorce that included at least one order of protection).  In his favor:  nothing popped up on a search of criminal cases using "Bundgaard" as a search term.  Also, there doesn't seem to be any indication of violence in his past, with the caveat that I don't know the nature of the order of protection in his divorce.

Stay tuned on this one.  I'm betting that the story has legs...

* - His traffic cases show a pattern - he's got a lead foot all over the Valley and extending up to Yavapai County (Payson).  Speed was the most frequent reason given for one of his citations, though far from the only reason (unregistered/uninsured, failure to yield, stop sign violation, obscured plate).

And he's probably *really* happy that photo enforcement has been discontinued on Arizona's freeways.  They kept nailing him, which probably led to the license plate violation.  :)

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