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Bloggers under fire: Arizona conservative lawyer/activist targeted by left-wing Arizona State Bar

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By Michelle Malkin  •  June 9, 2012 04:29 PM

I’ve turned the lights back on here at MichelleMalkin.com after “going dark” to help raise awareness about attacks on blogger free speech. Every phone call, e-mail, tweet, and letter you wrote yesterday to elected officials, state and federal government attorneys, and media outlets about SWAT-tings/convicted bomber and lying vexatious litigant Brett Kimberlin/his funders/his online cabal has made a difference. I am told there are now up to 83 congressional representatives who have signed their names to a letter — demanding “thorough examination at every level” of these terroristic crimes and threats — that will be sent to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday. And I can tell you there’s much more in the works. At every level.

While we continue to speak out and work in front of and behind the scenes to support the bloggers targeted by Kimberlin, I want to call your attention to how speech-squelching progressives have targeted another conservative activist/blogger who needs your attention and help.

Rachel Alexander is a Townhall.com columnist, RightWingNews.com contributor, attorney, and veteran blogger at IntellectualConservative.com. In 2009, she was named RightOnline’s activist of the year for being a “force multiplier” through her training sessions to get citizens online. She founded her own personal bankruptcy law firm, served in the Arizona Attorney General’s office, and worked in the Maricopa County (Ariz.) Attorney’s Office as a Deputy County Attorney.

In April, the Arizona State Bar suspended Alexander’s law license for six months and one day (the order is here). The order became effective May 10. Less than a week later, she was granted a stay on the suspension as she pursues an appeal. But she’s been hit by another bar complaint as progressive opponents work to destroy her reputation and career.

Why did this happen to the dedicated, outspoken, and unapologetically conservative young lawyer? Her nightmare has all the makings of a partisan political vendetta and witch hunt.

Rachel’s boss at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office was Andrew Thomas, a staunch law-and-order advocate who tried to clean up corruption in his ranks. Thomas also represented tough-on-illegal immigration Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In gunning for Thomas, the liberal State Bar is trying to claim underling Alexander as collateral damage. Her actual role in Thomas’s attempt to prosecute corruption was minor. Her direct supervisor Peter Spaw, who played a much larger role, has not been targeted by the Bar.

RightWingNews.com founder/veteran blogger John Hawkins, who stepped up to defend his colleague, first recounted the saga last fall:

Thomas ran for re-election in 2008 on a platform of stamping out public corruption with Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Together they decided to take on powerful politicians who had gotten away with corrupt acts for years. Don Stapley, the Chairman of the County Supervisors, raised thousands of dollars to run for president of the National Association of Counties, even though he did not have an opponent. He then spent that money on personal luxury items. Stapley allegedly spent $6000 of these funds at Bang and Olufsen electronics, along with $1300 for hair implants, $400 for candleholders and $10,000 for furniture for his home. He also spent these funds, solicited as campaign money, to buy tickets to Broadway plays and movie theatres. He bought flowers, paid the grocery store and department stores, paid for massages – and paid for family trips to Sundance, to Utah to ski, a trip for his son and friends to Florida and a three-week vacation in Hawaii for his entire family at a beach house costing approximately $11,000.

Thomas brought charges against Stapley and a jury indicted him. Stapley was also indicted for failing to disclose his real estate dealings on financial statements. His business partner, Conley Wolfswinkel, is a convicted felon. Thomas also brought charges against Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox. She was indicted for voting on giving money to Chicanos por la Causa while failing to disclose she had a sweetheart loan deal from them. Wilcox, who drives a 2006 Corvette, gave herself prime real estate territory at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport through the “minority-owned business” affirmative action program.

What happened to those indictments? They were all dismissed. Most of the prosecutions were conveniently transferred to now retired judges — Judge Kenneth Fields and Judge Gary Donahoe, who threw them all out. Donahoe was subsequently forced to resign in disgrace in June of this year. Realizing he could not get anywhere against the corruption in Superior Court, Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio filed a racketeering lawsuit against the supervisors, judges and their legal counsel. The supervisors refused to authorize any outside counsel to assist Thomas with it. Vastly understaffed, Thomas decided to turn the investigation over to the Department of Justice and withdrew the suit.

… Blogging while conservative is not a crime. Fighting against illegal immigration and corruption is not a crime. However, misusing the justice system for purely political purposes is absolutely despicable and the more sunlight that shines in on this issue in Arizona, the more the cockroaches who are persecuting conservatives will start to scatter.

(FYI: In a detail reminiscent of Brett Kimberlin target Aaron Walker’s legal nightmare in Maryland, it was a group of retired judges who were responsible for getting the corruption charges filed by Thomas against the supervisors dismissed. Useful tools, those retired judges, eh?)

Ever since the corruption case was dropped, the Arizona State Bar has waged a selective prosecution war against Thomas, Alexander, and another former Thomas employee, ex-deputy county attorney Lisa Aubuchon. The latest? Aggrieved county supervisors refuse to fund Alexander’s appeal, so she has been forced to file a notice of claim against Maricopa County for $67,000 to cover the legal fees of her fight against the law-license suspension. (The notice of claim is here.)

The free speech implications are alarming. Alexander was served with interrogatories last summer demanding to know everything she has ever blogged or written online between 2005-2010 on any topic, whether anonymously or signed, including comments.

I have uploaded the document and you can read it right here (click for full-size):

Alexander Inter Rog

I quote from Interrogatory Number 4:

“Please name any and all aliases that you have used in posting, publishing, or sharing any of your opinions on the Internet, including those ins blog entries, during the relevant time period.”

Fishing expedition, anyone?

Renowned libertarian lawyer Clint Bolick (who happened to be a critic of Thomas and Arpaio) has stepped up to serve as a mentor to Alexander as she appeals her case. Another Thomas critic concluded that the targeting of Alexander “is both selective and overreaching.”

Absurdly, one of the blog posts she was admonished over was one she didn’t even write — the John Hawkins post cited above! Arizona blogger Barbara Espinosa exposed the witch hunt:

If that’s not a gross infringement upon her First Amendment right I don’t know what is. Nothing ever happened to the Bar for this gross overreach, and the media never reported it. During the trial, the Bar prosecutors attacked Rachel for posting an article on her website written by a prominent conservative columnist defending her, John Hawkins of Townhall and Rightwingnews.

The toll Rachel has taken as a result of this witchhunt against her has been brutal. Rachel has been told by numerous people that they will not hire her services because of all this, and her bankruptcy business is suffering. An IP address from Maricopa County government was involved with hacking her website last June, getting it banned from Google for months and permanently banned from Google News. Her website traffic went from 4000 unique visitors per day down to 1000 as a result. She developed a stalker during the Bar trial whose harassment about the trial became so threatening she had to get a restraining order against him.

Arizona blogger David Roney added:

Alexander is being charged, despite a long, unblemished record at MCAO [Maricopa County Attorney’s Office], solely for her role working on the RICO case. What was her role? She worked under her supervisor Pete Spaw’s direction. [Spaw] was an experienced RICO attorney who, according to my sources, started the drafts of the pleadings, finalized the drafts of the pleadings with Andrew Thomas, and developed the key theories in them. He exclusively dealt with opposing counsel, and filed all of the pleadings electronically. Alexander’s role consisted of mostly research for the pleadings, and taking direction from Spaw, nothing further. Yet Spaw was not charged by the Bar, only Alexander.

The real issue here is [an] allegation that Alexander sought to burden and embarrass county supervisors. The allegation is nothing short of hilarious on its face…. The supervisors, with a few exceptions, have done a pretty good job of bringing poor press and embarrassment upon themselves. And they did so all without the help of Alexander…

…digging deeper, the charges against Alexander reek of fulfilling a vendetta for running a political blog, and a conservative one at that. Most of their unfettered discontent comes from blog posts they attribute to Alexander, that she in fact did not write. The Arizona State Bar is anything but a right-leaning organization, and it appears to seek to censor a person with whom they disagree, while leaving others untouched.

Blogger Selywn Duke came to the same conclusion:

So this is a story of corruption. There is the garden variety, in which those who walk tall and stand against evil are targeted by those who wish to continue enriching themselves. But then there is the kind that is another hallmark of despotic regimes: political persecution. It is a phenomenon of fascism, whereby those who toe your line get benefits, and those who don’t get intimidated into silence or, when they’re too stout-hearted, destroyed. By any means necessary.

Then, once big business and all other prominent people and entities are marching in lock-step, you have complete control over civilization. This is Chicago – and, it appears, Maricopa – politics. And we allow it to stand at our own peril.

Rachel could use any financial support you are able to help provide. You can donate through her Paypal at az4vlad@hotmail.com. Spread the word about her case.

Make no mistake: This is just another nasty battle in the Left’s long war to marginalize, demonize, and criminalize conservative dissent. The selective protection of free speech is unconscionable. The freedom to blog is under assault on so many fronts. It has to stop.

The first step in fighting back: Sunlight. Lots of it.

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