Russell Pearce's Olivia Cortes Off The Hook in Petition Pros Scandal
|Will questions about Pearce's Olivia Cortes scandal ever be answered? Not by prosecutors, it seems.|
Olivia Cortes, the sham candidate the Tea Party fronted in order to dilute the vote in the 2011 recall of ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce, will face no fines or orders to comply in regards to the work done on her behalf by signature-gathering company Petition Pros.
Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores, whose office was charged with looking into the matter, has determined that any action in the affair is "unwarranted."
In a January 5 letter to Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Flores found that though it was "highly likely" someone connected to Cortes' campaign knew who paid for the signatures to place her name on the ballot in November, "we have no evidence to prove this connection."
At issue was whether or not Cortes should have filed the Petition Pros info as an "in-kind" contribution, but, conveniently, Cortes testified under oath in a September 29 hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court that she was ignorant of anything regarding her campaign, including who paid Petition Pros.
Before Petition Pros owner Diane Burns could be subpoenaed to testify at a second, follow-up hearing, Cortes officially withdrew her name as a candidate. The second hearing was never held, which is too bad, as eminence greasy Constantin Querard -- the man many believe to be behind the Cortes candidacy -- also would have been subpoenaed to testify.
The Secretary of State's Office had issued a reasonable cause notice on the Olivia Cortes/Petition Pros matter, and the Arizona Attorney General's Office had conflicted the matter out to Flores in Gila County.
Flores complained to me that she had "no investigative authority" under the statute to subpoena Petition Pros' owner Diane Burns and force her to fess up. She said she queried the SOS' office and Cortes attorney Anthony Tsontakis, but got bupkis.
"We asked the Secretary of State to verify who paid for the petitions with Petition Pros and we never got an answer," she explained. "And Cortes' own counsel couldn't even get an answer from Petition Pros."