State Representative John Kavanaugh Intends to Sponsor Legislation to Cut Arizona PBS from State Support

Following the news that Arizona Public Broadcasting Service (AZPBS) would be giving Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs her own on-air interview, which led to the postponement of Republican nominee Kari Lake’s scheduled Q&A on the channel, State Representative John Kavanaugh (R-Maricopa) intends to introduce new legislation to cut AZPBS from state funding.

“The public interest is best served when candidates debate before the voters. The Arizona Clean Elections Commission wisely penalizes those candidates who refused to debate by giving their opponent a televised question-and-answer session and giving no time to the candidate who declines to debate. AZPBS has partnered with the Clean Election Commission [CEC] for this year’s debates and is now undermining the debate process by circumventing the commission’s rules,” said Kavanaugh in a statement emailed to The Arizona Sun Times.

The Sun Times reached out to AZPBS but received no response before publication.

Kavanaugh explained that if the broadcaster  does not correct its actions, his proposed legislation will apply to all ties and contracts between state agencies and universities and AZPBS, including donations and contracts. The state would also be prohibited from providing donations to groups that donate money, personnel, or services to AZPBS.

“It would be inappropriate for the state to continue its relationship with AZPBS, given its sabotaging of the Clean Election debates that were approved by the voters. The Clean Election rules are clear. If a candidate refuses to debate, their opponent (who is willing to debate) is eligible to have a 30-minute question-and-answer session,” Kavanaugh said.

He further stated that this action by AZPBS could set a precedent for future debates that would encourage candidates to skip engaging in a debate, knowing they may get solo time on the air. As reported by The Sun Times, Lake shared this same sentiment at a press conference she held Wednesday. Hobbs had denied the CEC’s invitation to partake in an on-air debate with Lake, leaving Lake to a one-on-one Q & A with moderator Ted Simons, meaning Hobbs would lose out on air time. The event was scheduled for Wednesday, but following the news of Hobbs’ interview, the CEC decided to back out and postpone the interview to be rescheduled with a new partner. Lake also accused Arizona State University President Dr. Michael Crow of influencing the decision.

As reported by Arizona Agenda, Crow said this decision was not at his policy level but indicated the need for “unbiased and nonpartisan” coverage of public figures like Lake and Hobbs leading up to the election. CEC Director Tom Collins said he was not entirely buying Dr. Crow’s comment.

“Dr. Crow is the most powerful man in Arizona outside of Governor Doug Ducey. Dr. Crow should not be allowed to simply pretend like he can just make a suggestion,” Collins said. “Everyone in this state knows that what Dr. Crow says goes. That is as much as an admission as Jack Nicholson on the stand in A Few Good Men.”

The CEC indicated it had no problem with AZPBS interviewing Hobbs, but the issue was a lack of communication. The broadcaster did not mention scheduling the interview in the past months despite near-daily communication between the entities. The CEC only learned about it through reporters, and AZPBS went radio-silent when the CEC questioned it. Collins said he does believe that political influence was at play in this situation, and the relationship between the CEC and AZPBS is “going to take a lot of work to repair” after this stunt.

Moreover, in response to the announcement from Kavanaugh, Lake said she could not wait to sign the legislation.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.




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