By Terri Jo Neff
Last week the Arizona Republic published a five-part series by news reporter Craig Harris which suggested something improper occurred when Gov. Doug Ducey’s office was consulted about a tax challenge filed by Carter Oil with the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR).
CJ Karamargin, for one, was not impressed.
Which matters, because Karamargin is Ducey’s director of communications. He is also a former journalist, having worked for the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen.
So when Karamargin took to Twitter on Sunday with a 10-part critique of Harris’ series, people listened. The critique used words such as conjecture and innuendo. And that was among some of his nicer comments.
“No one I’ve talked to can understand the story or reporting. Probably because it doesn’t make sense and doesn’t get basic facts right,” Karamargin wrote in tweet #1. One of those incorrect facts, he tweeted, is that someone named in the article as being a former employee had never worked for Ducey.
“When a reporter can’t even get names right, you’ve got a problem,” he wrote in tweet #3.
Karamargin also points out that some of the former public servants who provided information to Harris were in fact “disgruntled former employees” of the state whom the newspaper had previously reported about.
Once he got to tweet #5, Karamargin was on a roll.
“The accusations are false,” he wrote about suggestions in the articles that state officials considered a settlement in the ADOR tax challenge because someone connected to the matter could potentially be helpful to Ducey in a possible presidential run.
“Losing the case in court would have caused a ripple effect, impacting many more industries and businesses,” Karamargin wrote. “This would not only have had a significant impact on these businesses — it would have had a much more significant impact on state revenue than settling.”
In the end, there was no settlement with Carter Oil because the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state.
“So this story is about something that did not happen,” tweet #8 says. Then Karamargin did a little explaining about how things work in the executive branch of state government.
“Our office does not lobby state agencies; they report to us. Agency directors aren’t free agents…And they do not make decisions that have potentially 100s of millions of $ in impact to the state without consulting us.”
One of those named throughout Harris’ series is Carlton Woodruff, who was removed by Ducey as ADOR’s director in December. Woodruff’s departure amid a disagreement with the governor’s office over how to respond to a court challenge to Prop 208, the Invest in Education Act. The only comments at the time came from Karamargin.
“The role of state agencies is not to take policy positions but to implement the law,” he said, adding that Woodruff’s removal was “unrelated” to how the Carter Oil tax challenge was handled.