Business As Usual
PHOENIX, Arizona--The large crimson-colored bloodstain is gone now, an uncomfortable memory from the past that most Arizonans would prefer to forget. It's been more than two years since investigative reporter Don Bolles was blown up in his white Datsun while trying to uncover the activities of organized crime in Arizona, and like the blood-stained pavement where he was killed, his memory has now begun to fade as well. Two years later, the asphalt where Bolles was murdered has been repaired, and the Clarendon Hotel, in whose parking lot the bomb blast occurred, has commemorated the event in a strangely appropriate if unintentional fashion--by changing its name in recognition of the unfavorable publicity the hotel received as the murder site.
Such superficial changes have typified Arizona's reaction to the unpleasantness of Don Bolles' violent death. Despite the massive publicity given to a team of investigative reporters who vowed in the aftermath of the murder to avenge their slain colleague by going into Arizona to "turn it upside down," the state has changed very little from the kind of place Don Bolles tried to clean up. Arizona politicians, while trying to eliminate the most visible signs of organized crime, have done so without seriously threatening the pervasive corruption and underlying institutions that led to Bolles' murder. Although small reforms have occurred, organized crime still flourishes in Arizona, and more than two years after a reporter's death it is still protected by notoriously lax laws and the open friendship of many of the state's most influential leaders.
To be sure, Bolles' death and the ensuing investigation by the newly-formed Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. has resulted in some positive, if limited, improvements in Arizona. The state's governor, Raul Castro, although ostensibly for other reasons, resigned after the IRE team uncovered consistent misbehavior on Castro's part--including charges of using state police guards as servants, pressuring state officials to give building contracts to political cronies, and befriending and accepting campaign contributions from reputed mobsters and the millionaire liquor dealer suspected ot engineering Bolles's murder. In contrast, the state's new governor, 40-year-old Bruce Babbitt, is by almost all accounts serious about putting a stop to Arizona crime, and the recent prosecution of the state's two most notorious land fraud artists, Ned Warren, Sr. and Howard Woodall, has demonstrated Arizona's concern about its national reputation as a haven for every con artist and retired mobster in the country.
But for the most part, reforms in Arizona have been the exception rather than the rule. And those changes which have occurred have largley been cosmetic, offering the appearance but not the reality of reform.
The state legislature, for example, which for years had been a primary target of the kind of corruption Don Bolles tried to stop, responded in suddenly-reverential fashion by enacting well-publicized legislation to combat organized crime. But what finally emerged was a watered-down version of a more stringent anti-crime bill, one that contained the very same discriminatory provisions that have for years made Arizona's penal system one of the most backward in the nation--stiff, mandatory sentences for blue-collar crime and lax provisions for organized, white-collar crime. The legislature also established a special task force to investigate organized crime, but the panel was given no force of law or full power to subpoena witnesses, and it quickly degenerated to exploring subjects like child pornography rather than narcotics traffic or more important subjects. In the end, the committee ended up as nothing more than a highly partisan publicity-seeking forum for the legislature's budding state-wide political candidates.
Nor has inaction been limited to Arizona's state legislature. City, county, and state law enforcement forces, while receiving highly-touted if actually modest increases in funding, have failed to curb substantially the state's still-flourishing organized crime. Althout reliable statistics are hard to come by, Mafia activity is actually reported to have been on the rise during the past two years in Arizona, despite the supposed crackdown on organized crime after the Bolles murder. Spending for law enforcement in fiscally-conservative Arizona has finally reached the per-capita level of most other states since the Bolles killing, but police complain that the funding is still seriously inadequate because of Arizona's much higher incidence of organized crime. In addition, many of the increases in the state's law enforcement budget have been devoted to relatively unimportant or gimmicky solutions. One appropriation of $50,000, for example, was designed to hide witnesses who had seen explosion cases like the one Don Bolles was killed in, but it contained no provisions for protection of witnesses to less-sensational but more common crimes. "That kind of proposal is nothing but tokenism," the state's police director said recently.
More important than reform measures which have been weak or inadequately funded are those that have been glutted altogether. After strong arm-twisting by the state's powerful business lobbies, the Arizona senate defeated legislation requiring state corporations to file financial statements annually--a common law in most other states, but something evidently too strong for Arizona's part-time legislators, who often supplement their income by working on the side for the corporations they are supposed to regulate. At the same time, the state senate also decided to reduce the crime of destroying corporate records to a misdemeanor, thereby eliminating one of the major investigative tools of reporters like the much-euologized but more often ignored Don Bolles.
A year and a half after lengthy investigations by three dozen of the country's best investigative reporters, Arizona officials have still failed to catch many of the gangsters and corrupt lawyers exposed in the IRE series. Joseph C. Bonanno, Sr., identified by the press as a top-ranking Mafia boss who specializes in narcotics, is a free man in Tucson, despite several arrests for offenses including grand larceny and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Dozens of smaller-time criminals continue to elude conviction in Arizona, despite coverage of their activities in the local and national media.
More influential Arizonans have found it even easier to avoid punishment. Former governor Castro, despite his resignation amid charges of misconduct, has neither been disciplined nor even officially investigated in connection with many of the unsettled charges against him. Instead, Castro has received an appointment as U.S. ambassador to Argentina, providing welcome respite from the state's temporary political heat. U.S. District Judge Walter E. Craig, exposed by the IRE team for mysteriously reversing a jury's murder conspiracy conviction of reputed mobster Joe Bonanno's son amid rumors of influence-peddling by the Bonanno family, has received no disciplinary action of any kind. Judge Craig's sudden reversal of Bonanno's conviction aroused suspicions because it occurred fully a month after the guilty verdict was handed down, and because the judge failed to poll the jury first to ascertain its reasons for conviction before issuing his reversal. However, Craig has since been promoted to Chief Judge of Arizona's district court. "Everybody here just laughed about the IRE story," Craig said last month.
Nor has any disciplinary action been taken against two of Phoenix's leading attorneys, Mark Harrison and Gary Nelson. Harrison, the one-time president of the Arizona Bar Association and a special counsel to the state Attorney General, was exposed by the IRE team for trying to set up an organized prostitution ring in Phoenix to service the state's legal community. Nelson, a friend and former law partner of Harrison's and at the time the state Attorney General, allegedly tipped off his friend Harrison about a police investigation of the call-girl ring. Soon after, according to the IRE series, the police investigation of Harrison abruptly stopped; when the case had died down two years later, tape recordings of Harrison's meetings with prostitutes were ordered destroyed. Police sources charged a cover-up, but no further police investigation was made. The state bar has since refused to discipline former president Harrison, and former Attorney General Nelson was cleared by another government inquiry. Nearly two years after being exposed in the IRE series, Harrison is still a prominent and influential attorney in Phoenix. Nelson is now a judge on the state Court of Appeals.
Nothing better illustrates how little Arizona has changed since Bolles's death better than the very prosecution of Bolles's murderers. The three lower-class hoods who set up the bomb that killed have all been apprehended and either sentenced to death or plea-bargained for lesser sentences, but the politically powerful millionaire whom Arizona prosecutors are convinced ordered and paid for Bolles's execution is still a free man. John Harvey Adamson, the man who admits planting the bomb under Bolles's car, has testified that he was hired for $50,000 to kill Bolles and two other enemies of Arizona liquor dealer Kemper Marley through a Marley intermediary. Bolles had written an investigative article about Marley that had prevented Marley's appointment to the state's racing commission, a panel which, among other things, is in charge of regulating racetrack distribution of liquor by companies like Marley's. But despite Adamson's testimony almost two years ago--and his sentencing to 48 years in prison last month--Marley has not been prosecuted or even arrested in connection with Bolles's death. Adamson's testimony is not enough to convict Marley, prosecutors say; most observers believe Marley will never be brought to justice. Indeed, Marley is still a very powerful man in Arizona. Former governor Castro accepted $24,000 in campaign contributions from Marley and his daughter, and although Castro denies any close ties to Marley, the millionaire liquor dealer is still reported tc have the friendship of some of the most influential members of the state legislature. Marley is still so powerful, in fact, that he even had the temerity to file suit for $51 million against Don Bolles's widow, charging her with defamation of character for her lawsuit accusing Marley of ordering the Bolles killing; out of court, Marley succeeded in persuading Mrs. Bolles to drop her lawsuit in exchange for his doing the same.
Despite Don Bolles's death and the IRE series, it is men like Kemper Marley who continue to run the state of Arizona. Barry Goldwater, exposed by the IRE team for his association with gangsters and members of the Arizona mob, is still a United States senator. Goldwater's boyhood friend Harry Rosenzweig, also implicated by the IRE series for connections to organized crime, still wields vast political and financial clout in Arizona, although he is no longer chairman of the state's Republican Party. For all of the token reforms that have occurred in Arizona, the state is still run by the same pioneer ruling class of wealthy agribusinessmen and industrialist power-brokers who first came to Arizona a century ago to engage in the kind of business practices that were illegal in the less-permissive East. With or without Don Bolles, the lawless spirit of Arizona's Billy-the-Kid days still prevails.
Even the ostensibly-crusading Arizona Republic newspaper where Bolles worked is an integral part of the state's ruling establishment. Don Bolles gave the conservative newspaper a national reputation for muckraking it largely did not deserve, and it came as no surprise to those who live there when Arizona's only state-wide newspaper, with its stranglehold on public opinion, refused to print the IRE series brought about the murder of its own reporter. An editorial by the PhoenixGazette, owned by the same family that runs the Republic, expressed the live-and-let-live sentiments of most of Arizona's establishment about the state's reputation for organized crime: "A look at the bright side now and then would help a lot," the paper suggested.
The problem is not that the IRE reporters failed to try hard enough, nor that the concept of team investigation was somehow ineffective or sloppy. Rather, the problem is that the forces that led to Don Bolles's death in the first place continue to prevent necessary reforms in Arizona. The state's natives knew what to expect from the beginning. "These Easterners," exclaimed one Arizonan with exasperation, "they all come out here and flap their wings and think everything is going to change overnight. Well, it hasn't. They pack their bags and leave, and everything stays just the same." There have been reforms, of course, but they have been infrequent and half-hearted, designed more to placate the public than to remedy the problems. And in a certain sense, the token reforms are almost worse than no reforms at all because they deceive people into thinking that things really have changed and that further reforms are unnecessary. If this is the end result, then that which a team of investigative reporters labored so hard to prevent will have occurred: Don Bolles will have died in vain.