Former Arizona Lawmaker Finds New Professional Home

Former Arizona Lawmaker Finds New Professional Home

By Daniel Stefanski |

A former Arizona legislator has found a new professional home.

Late last week, the T.W. Lewis Foundation announced the hiring of Steve Smith, a former state legislature, as its new executive director. The Foundation shared that Smith would be managing “grant distribution, non-profit assessments and activities to enhance the foundation’s overall core program areas.”

“It is an honor to work with Tom Lewis and the great team at the T.W. Lewis Foundation,” said Smith. “I look forward to bringing my experience and dedication to the foundation to build upon the incredible mission Tom and Jan Lewis started in helping children and families in need, impacting youth through Christian education, supporting civic minded causes, strengthening America and building God’s kingdom.”

“Steve is an energetic and entrepreneurial leader with significant experience in the public sector and private philanthropy,” said Tom Lewis, the Foundation’s founder. “We are extremely grateful to have found an executive director with his depth of experience and passion for our mission.”

Smith previously served as the director for the Arizona Chapter of the American Federation for Children. He has been one of the top school choice proponents in the state, helping Arizona to expand and solidify its historic Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA) program. Earlier this summer, he published an op-ed in the Arizona Capitol Times on the support for ESAs in the state, writing, “It can be tempting to listen to the Eeyores and their defenders in elected office and believe that Arizona would be better off if it went back to an old model where students would only attend the school to which they were assigned, regardless of its quality or whether it met their unique educational needs. Politicians who pursue such a model, however, do so at their own peril. Arizona families and voters of all affiliations believe that more educational options – not fewer – is what we need.”

On its website, the T.W. Lewis Foundation reveals that it was “formed in 2000” and “has provided college scholarships to over 200 future leaders, made gifts to dozens of non-profits that help children and families in need, and supported youth education organizations that build character and encourage civic engagement.” The purpose of the Foundation is to “help children and families in need, impact youth through Christian education, support civic minded causes in our community, strengthen America, and build God’s kingdom.”

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

Governor Ducey Spurns Biden Administration’s Threat for Funding Mask-Free Schools

Governor Ducey Spurns Biden Administration’s Threat for Funding Mask-Free Schools

By Corinne Murdock |

Governor Doug Ducey refused to heed the Biden Administration’s warning that two of his programs rewarding mask-free schooling couldn’t be using federal COVID-19 relief funds. Almost immediately after receiving the Department of Treasury’s (USDT) request to pull back his programs, Ducey issued a public statement that he would continue to defend parents’ choice. He also questioned why President Joe Biden opposes programs designed to help children who fell behind due to COVID-19 measures such as school shutdowns, mask mandates, forced quarantines, and distanced learning.

“Here in Arizona, we trust families to make decisions that are best for their children. It’s clear that President Biden doesn’t feel the same. He’s focused on taking power away from American families by issuing restrictive and dictatorial mandates for his own political gain. After the many challenges of last year, it should be our top priority to get our kids caught up. That’s exactly what this program does — it gives families in need the opportunity to access critical educational resources. Why is the president against that?”

American Federation for Children’s Arizona State Director, Steve Smith, asserted that he stood by Ducey’s response. He pointed out that public schools with mask mandates have access to an overwhelming majority of the federal relief funds; essentially, Ducey’s two programs are a drop in the funds bucket.

“I applaud Governor Ducey for doing all he can to provide more education options for Arizona families through this unprecedented time. It is alarming that anyone, especially elected officials whose responsibility it is to advocate for Arizonans, would not only oppose these options but then actively lobby the federal government to take these resources away from families,” said Smith. “It’s all the more frustrating considering the fact that 97 percent of the $190 billion in federal relief funds have gone to public schools that in many cases, are still sitting on it.”

Ducey’s response addressed a letter issued Tuesday by USDT Deputy Secretary Adewale Adeyemo. He told Ducey it wasn’t permissible to use federal relief funds for either the $10 million school voucher program that covers $7,000 of tuition or other educational costs at schools without mask mandates, or the $163 million grant program in which only schools without mask mandates are applicable for the grant funds.

“The purpose of the [Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds] SLFRF funds is to mitigate the fiscal effects stemming from the COVID-19 public health emergency, including by supporting efforts to stop the spread of the virus. A program or service that imposes conditions on participation or acceptance of the service that would undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 or discourage compliance with evidence-based solutions for stopping the spread of COVID-19 is not a permissible use of SLFRF funds.”

Adeyemo warned Ducey that he had a 30-day deadline to respond with proposals for remediation. Otherwise, USDT said it would recoup the funds.

Prior to his appointment, Adeyemo worked within the high ranks of BlackRock: the world’s largest and arguably most powerful multinational investment management corporation. Adeyemo served as senior advisor and chief of staff to CEO Larry Fink.

USDT began investigating Ducey’s programs at the request of Representative Greg Stanton (D-AZ-09) in mid-August. Stanton wrote to USDT Secretary Janet Yellen to issue an opinion on the programs.

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

AZ Supreme Court To Hear Arguments In Business Owner’s Defamation Claim Against Sen. Wendy Rogers

AZ Supreme Court To Hear Arguments In Business Owner’s Defamation Claim Against Sen. Wendy Rogers

By Terri Jo Neff |

The Arizona Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday morning in a first of its kind case about whether a political candidate or campaign committee can be held liable under state law for defaming a third party or a private company while attacking a political opponent.

Pamela Young claims she and her company Models Plus International (doing business as The Young Agency) were defamed and presented in a false light by campaign ads approved by state Sen. Wendy Rogers in 2018. At the time, Rogers was running for U.S. House of Representatives against Steve Smith, a state senator who had worked for Young’s Christian-based modeling company and talent agency for about a decade.

Young alleges Rogers’ campaign utilized radio, telephone, and direct mail ads which gave the impression Young and her company were involved in or condoned sex trafficking of young children. One such ad called Smith “a slimy character whose modeling agency specializes in underage girls and advertises on websites linked to sex trafficking.”

Rogers’ campaign also alleged Smith advertised on the Model Mayhem website, which the campaign described as being “full of pornographic material, which has also been involved in human trafficking.”

Smith lost to Rogers in the 2018 Republican primary by less than seven points, but Rogers lost in the General Election.

Young sued for defamation and invasion of privacy. Rogers has continually argued her 2018 ads never “directly” tied Smith to The Young Agency and never directly linked the company to any illegal conduct.

But the ads did not set well with several prominent Republicans, including Congressman Andy Biggs who called Rogers’ effort “one of the most despicable ads in campaign history.”

In 2019, a Maricopa County judge denied a motion by Rogers and her husband to dismiss Young’s claims. However, the Arizona Court of Appeals reversed the lower court in December 2020, ruling Young had not presented sufficient evidence to move her lawsuit forward against the defendants.

Young filed a petition for review to the Arizona Supreme Court in January seeking for her lawsuit to be reinstated. Rogers’ husband Hal Kunnen and her official campaign committee are also named as defendants.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed an amicus curiae brief in the case in June after which the justices set oral arguments for Sept. 28. A decision against Rogers would reinstate Young’s case, which could have major ramifications in how election advertising is conducted in Arizona and protect the rights of employers whose employees run for public office.

Bill Montgomery, who in 2018 was Maricopa County’s elected county attorney, denounced Rogers’ ads as “the worst kind of politics.” Montgomery was later appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey to the Arizona Supreme Court. He has recused himself from hearing Rogers’ petition. In his place, Judge Philip Espinosa of the Arizona Court of Appeals will sit in on arguments.

The ads also did not set well with Kathleen Winn, who is a member of the Maricopa County Community College District board. She is also an expert on child sex trafficking in Arizona.

“If you happen to believe one of your opponents is exploiting children, trafficking minors, selling them on a website for sex producing a political attack ad is NOT your first course of business,” Winn said. “Contacting law enforcement to report the alleged crime is what you need to do.”

Rogers was elected to the state Senate for LD6 in November 2020.