ASU’s Required Inclusivity Training Violates State Law, Says Goldwater Institute

ASU’s Required Inclusivity Training Violates State Law, Says Goldwater Institute

By Corinne Murdock |

A required biennial training program for Arizona State University (ASU) employees and faculty violates state law, per a complaint letter submitted by the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute.

In a letter to the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) on Tuesday, the organization alleged that the ASU Inclusive Communities, a required biennial training program for all employees and faculty, violates a new law passed last year, A.R.S. § 41-1494.

The law prohibits public funding for training that promulgates “blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex.” The department of administration is required to submit an annual report listing all state agencies complying with the law to the governor, the state senate president, the house speaker, and the secretary of state. 

Per the law, “blame or judgment” qualifies as declaring that race, ethnic group, or sex determines inherent moral superiority, racism, sexism, oppression over another race, ethnic group, or sex. It also qualifies as concepts declaring an individual’s race, ethnic group, or sex as definitive of their moral character, endowing responsibility for the actions of others within their shared biological traits, insisting on negative, self-conscious feelings such as guilt or anguish with regard to their biological traits, and meriting discrimination or adverse treatment against them. 

“Blame or judgment” also includes the concept that meritocracy or traits such as hard work are racist, sexist, or created by members of a particular race, ethnic group, or sex to oppress members of another race, ethnic group, or sex. 

In their complaint letter, the Goldwater Institute noted that the ASU training does impart blame or judgment based on race, ethnicity, or sex. 

“The statute makes clear that while the state may, of course, teach that such ideas exist, it may not promulgate these messages of blame or judgment in any official sense, or mandate the participation of employees at any session where these ideas are promulgated,” said the organization. “The ‘ASU Inclusive Communities’ training, however, is premised on the ‘blame or judgment’ referred to in this statute.”

The organization included the following quotes from obtained training materials reportedly promulgating the concepts that white people are inherently privileged, racist, and supremacist, regardless of intent or consciousness, and that heterosexuals are inherently privileged and maintaining power over other “sexual identities”:

  • “[A]cknowledging the history of white supremacy and the social conditions for it to exist as a structural phenomenon”
  • “How is white supremacy normalized in society”
  • “[G]iven the socio-historial [sic] legacy of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of structural inequality, perceptions of authority and control are not always granted to minoritized [sic] faculty.”
  • “White Fragility”
  • “What is White Privilege, Really”
  • “Explaining White privilege to a broke white person […]”
  • “7 Ways White People Can Combat Their Privilege”
  • “Racism […] can take the form of […] and include seemly innocuous questions or comments, such as asking people of color where they are from […]”
  • “Sexual identities are linked to power, and heterosexuality, the dominant sexual identity in American culture, is privileged by going on largely unquestioned.”
  • “[I]t scares people to talk about white supremacy or to be called a white supremacist. But if we start thinking about it in terms of whiteness as something that is culturally neutral and we’re moving it from that neutral space into a critical space.”
  • “[W]e have to open the space to critique whiteness.”
  • “[W]hite supremacy […] referring to here is the period between the 1500’s and the 1800’s that encompasses both Spanish colonization and Euro-American colonization. And what colonization did, was it really created this system of binary thinking. There were folks that were inherently good and folks that were inherently bad, and that led to the systems of superiority that were then written into the foundational documents of our Nation.”

The Goldwater Institute requested ABOR to direct ASU to cease spending any public monies on its Inclusive Communities training, or make the training optional rather than mandatory.

Additionally, the organization suggested that ABOR audit ASU’s other courses and the activities and courses of the University of Arizona (UArizona) and Northern Arizona University (NAU) to ensure compliance. As examples of potential anti-discriminatory violations, the organization linked to the UArizona Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion trainings, the UArizona Eller College of Management Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training, and the NAU employee and faculty training.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Goldwater Institute Asks Judge To Make Pinal County Return $80 Million In Illegal Taxes

Goldwater Institute Asks Judge To Make Pinal County Return $80 Million In Illegal Taxes

By Corinne Murdock |

The Goldwater Institute asked a judge to make Pinal County return the $80 million in taxes it illegally collected. It’s been nearly a year and a half since the county learned it had to return the funds to the taxpayers.

The organization filed a request for a permanent injunction with the Arizona Superior Court in the Arizona Tax Court on Monday. 

The $80 million came from a sales tax disproportionately applied to purchases under $10,000. Arizona law doesn’t allow that sort of tax arrangement, which the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed in a ruling issued last year, in Vangilder v. Arizona Department of Revenue

The Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) promised to return the $80 million quickly. The Pinal Regional Transportation Authority (PRTA) has held the funding in an interest-bearing escrow account, with ADOR playing an administrative role in the distribution of the funds.

ADOR gave notice to the superior court last September that it was “setting up a system to process refund claims.” 

Yet at the close of last month, ADOR announced that it wouldn’t process refunds at all until PRTA decides the final disposition of the funds. ADOR also indicated that it was the legislature’s duty to figure out how to return the funding, and that no laws were passed during this last session to that effect. 

“For these reasons, until the PRTA makes a decision regarding the final disposition of these funds, the Department cannot process any refund claims for the invalidated Pinal County transportation tax,” said ADOR. 

The Goldwater Institute declared in their request for a permanent injunction that this decision was unlawful, a “knowing defiance of the law” that constituted an illegal withholding of taxpayer funds violative of court rulings. 

“Neither PRTA nor ADOR has any lawful authority to refuse to return illegally obtained and illegally withheld tax money,” stated the organization. 

The organization also noted that both the PRTA and ADOR repeatedly neglected to set up a system for efficient returns of the funds should they fail to defend the tax in court.

In a press release, Goldwater Institute Vice President of Legal Affairs Timothy Sandefur stated that the taxpayers were long overdue for their refund. 

“The department blames the county, but whoever is at fault, the bottom line is clear: taxpayers are legally entitled to refunds — and the state and county government are refusing to give the money back,” said Sandefur. “[This is] money they have no right to keep, because they had no right to take it.” 

The PRTA and ADOR ignored their warnings to postpone collection of the tax in order to avoid administrative difficulties in returning the funds. PRTA also assured the court and the Goldwater Institute in 2018 that it would have a returns system in place. 

“[A]t the end of the day if we are not successful, but we have but all this money in escrow by agreement, there will be — the system will play out as it should, through refund claims and the like, and no one will essentially be harmed in that anyone who overpaid will be entitled to a refund, plus interest,” stated PRTA’s counsel. 

ADOR told AZ Free News in an emailed statement in February that taxpayers who paid the invalidated tax are able to file claims for what they paid with interest until April 9, 2026.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Goldwater Institute Heads To Court To Challenge Court Of Appeals Judge Retention System

Goldwater Institute Heads To Court To Challenge Court Of Appeals Judge Retention System

By Daniel Stefanski |

An Arizona-based organization is going to court again to protect the interest of state voters.

This week, the Goldwater Institute announced that its legal team had filed a special action petition with the Arizona Supreme Court on behalf of four state voters, “urging the high court to strike down the current retention election system for Court of Appeals judges and ensure all voters have an equal say.”

The release from Goldwater makes the case that “all Arizonans periodically vote on whether to retain each of the justices of the Arizona Supreme Court,” but that “they cannot vote on the retention of all the judges on the Court of Appeals…whose decisions set statewide legal precedent.” The reason for this being that “a voter’s residency limits their choices to only those Court of Appeals judges who resided in a corresponding geographic area of the state when appointed.”

According to the Goldwater Institute, “approximately 60 percent of Arizona voters get to vote in retention elections for Court of Appeals judges residing in Maricopa County but only 10 percent of voters can participate in retention elections for Court of Appeals judges residing in the far smaller Pinal, Cochise, Santa Cruz, Greenlee, Graham, or Gila counties.”

Former Arizona Supreme Court Justice and current special counsel for this case, Andrew Gould, said, “If a judge’s decision will affect the whole state, it shouldn’t matter where in the state he or she lives. The current system is unfair to the millions of Arizona voters who are bound by the decisions of the judges on the Arizona Court of Appeals, and it raises serious constitutional questions.”

There are four plaintiffs, who are all represented by the Goldwater Institute in this matter. The first is Bonnie Knight, who lives in Yuma County and only has the ability to vote on the retention of judges in Division 1 (which excludes Maricopa County). The second is Deborah McEwen, who lives in Santa Cruz County and only has the ability to vote on the retention of judges in Division 2 (which excludes Pima County). The third is Sarah Ramsey, who lives in Pima County and only has the ability to vote on the retention of Court of Appeals Judges in Pima County. The final plaintiff is Leslie White, who lives in Maricopa County and only has the ability to vote on the retention of Court of Appeals judges in Maricopa County.

The plaintiffs sued Secretary of State Adrian Fontes “in his official capacity because under the state constitution the Secretary of State’s office receives judicial retention candidate declarations and certifies to the county boards of supervisors which candidates’ names shall appear on the ballot.”

The petition for special action makes two arguments for the state’s Supreme Court Justices to consider. First, that “the judicial retention provisions of A.R.S. 12-120.02 violate Arizona’s Free and Equal Elections Clause.” And second, that “Section 12-120.02 violates the Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause because it discriminates among voters based on their residency, and therefore denies the right of all citizens to vote equally in judicial retention elections.”

In conclusion to their petition, the plaintiffs asked the Court to exercise its mandamus jurisdiction and “(1) declare the judicial retention provisions of A.R.S. 12-120.02 unconstitutional to the extent they prohibit statewide electors from voting in judicial retention elections for judges on the Court of Appeals, (2) enjoin those portions of A.R.S. 12-120.02 that prohibit statewide retention elections, and (3) order the Secretary of State to certify that the names of all Court of Appeals judges who declare their candidacy for retention in all future elections must be placed on the ballot statewide.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Phoenix Sued For Gifting Luxury Apartments $7 Million Property Tax Break

Phoenix Sued For Gifting Luxury Apartments $7 Million Property Tax Break

By Corinne Murdock |

The city of Phoenix is being sued over its capitalization of a loophole to shield high-rise luxury apartments from up to an estimated $7 million in property taxes.

The city of Phoenix effectively agreed to relieve private real estate developer Hubbard Street Group of around $7 million in property taxes by taking ownership of their property, “Skye on 6th,” and declaring it part of a slum or blighted area while the developer continues to operate and manage the property. In return, the developer agreed to pay a total of $525,000 in rent to the city, pay $32,000 to two school districts, and dedicate 10 percent of its residential units to workforce housing for the eight years of the lease. The city arranged this deal through the state’s statutory provisions outlining the Government Property Lease Excise Tax (GPLET). 

In the case Paulin v. City of Phoenix, two taxpayers represented by the Goldwater Institute sued the city over allegedly violating the Arizona Constitution’s Gift Clause and Evasion Clause. 

Since local governments are exempt from property taxes, GPLET enables governments to accrue revenue on its property by leasing to businesses. The Goldwater Institute, on behalf of the two Phoenix taxpayers, argues that the city took advantage of GPLET by assuming ownership of the property of interest to a private business in order to provide a special tax break to that business. Although the government sustains a reduced revenue stream and taxpayers pay more under such an arrangement, the Goldwater Institute alleges that local politicians may claim business growth while paying off the business with a tax write-off.  

“[U]nder this arrangement, private property is conveyed in form to the government while in substance being owned and operated by a private party for the sole purpose of evading property taxes to which other taxpayers are subject,” stated the complaint. “The result of this arrangement is a gift of public resources to a private business, and a conveyance of property to evade taxes in violation of Arizona’s Constitution.” 

Those poised to lose out on their share of the $7 million in tax payments would include the city, Maricopa County, Maricopa County Community College District, Central Arizona Project, Maricopa Special Healthcare District, Fire District Assistance Tax, and special taxing districts for library and flood control. Phoenix Elementary School District and Phoenix Union High School District are the two school districts receiving the tens of thousands to reportedly offset their share of the lost tax revenue.

The Goldwater Institute also disputed the city’s characterization of the contested property as located in a slum or blighted area: a condition required for an eight-year tax abatement as provided in the GPLET agreement between Phoenix and the developer. 

A hearing on the case took place last week in the Maricopa County Superior Court. The city argued that taxpayers upset by their arrangement with the developer were truly upset with the existence of GPLET. The city contended that the taxpayers should petition lawmakers to reform GPLET law to prevent their actions.

Counsel for the city also contended that any claims that their actions violated the Gift Clause would render GPLET impossible to use.

The city also claimed that Hubbard Street Group was chosen through the request-for-proposal (RFP) process, and disputed the claim that Hubbard Street Group approached the city first. 

The Goldwater Institute argued that there were no actual reservations of ownership, control, or management of the property. They also argued that the city never intended to hold onto the property itself, but always intended to convey the property back to the lessee. Counsel for the developer contended that claim, referencing a contract provision that the property will be owned by the city.

In a statement, Goldwater Vice President for Litigation Jon Riches said that Phoenix’s use of GPLET is unconstitutional.

“The Arizona Constitution prohibits the transfer of property to evade taxes that are otherwise owed and that other taxpayers must pay,” said Riches. “Here, the city of Phoenix allowed private property to be transferred to the city even though it will never be used as city property so that one special interest could avoid paying taxes on it. We are hopeful the court will agree this artificial transfer violates the Constitution.”

In 2020, the Maricopa County Superior Court struck down a similar GPLET arrangement between the city of Phoenix and another high-rise residential developer. Four months later, the city entered into the currently-contested GPLET agreement with Hubbard Street Group. 

A ruling on the case may occur sometime within the next several months.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to