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Mecham Vows to Rid Arizona of 'Corruption' : Impeached Governor Alleges 'Conspiracy,' May Seek Post Again

June 18, 1988|RON HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX — One day after his acquittal on felony charges regarding a campaign loan, former Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham pledged to work to rid the state of a "corrupt political power structure" and said that he may even run again for the office he lost by impeachment just two months ago.

"As a result of our experience, we are now even more concerned about the corruption in our state," Mecham, 64, told a packed press conference at his Glendale headquarters.

"We have been subjected to a very real conspiracy. For that reason, I hope none of you will misinterpret our actions in the future to help rid Arizona of a corrupt political power structure as any kind of a personal vendetta."

The feisty former governor said that he will support appropriate political candidates and a recall election against the attorney general through his right-wing Forward Arizona Political Action Committee.

"We expect to have a measurable effect in election of a Legislature that represents the people and not the hidden power brokers," he said.

When asked if he would consider running for governor again in 1990, Mecham replied: "That's certainly a possibility."

Mecham, who was impeached and later convicted in a state Senate trial and removed from office on April 4 on other charges, said he is also considering starting an "alternative newspaper" because the city's two major daily newspapers' "actions is not that which gives the true information to the public."

Mecham, a former car dealer, and his brother and former campaign manager, Willard, were found not guilty Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court of fraud and perjury charges in connection with allegations that they deliberately failed to disclose a $350,000 campaign loan during Mecham's 1986 bid for the governorship.

The Mechams maintained that the failure to report the loan was purely a bookkeeping mistake.

Mecham called Thursday's verdict partial vindication but said "justice in the political arena will take a little longer."

Of his impeachment, he said: "I was convicted in a political arena on two charges that even an obsessed attorney general could not find a way to take before his grand jury."

Mecham again reiterated his claim that conspirators in the media, Legislature and attorney general's office "worked a clever scheme of guilt by accusation and innuendo to generate a false indictment to act as the centerpiece for an impeachment. . . ."

And instead of waiting until the criminal trial was concluded, "they rushed headlong into an impeachment proceedings at the instance of what I think is their hidden masters with clear instructions to get rid of me so they can raise taxes, increase spending of taxpayers money, continue the various sweetheart contracts, derail our drug program, expand gambling, stop most of the reforms we were installing and summarily regain the control of the affairs of Arizona state government to suit their own designs," he said.

Mecham, who recently sold his once lucrative Pontiac dealership after bad publicity drove off prospective customers, said he faces over $500,000 in legal bills.

An Evan Mecham Legal Defense Fund has been set up at a local bank, Mecham said, and he urged supporters to contribute to it.

Mecham said he also plans a statewide tour to support certain political campaigns and that a book on his "political lynching" will be out before August.

That, he said, will be followed by another book, a television show and eventually a full-length feature film.

Mecham's problems as governor began even before he was sworn into office when he announced that he would rescind a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday that had been established by outgoing Gov. Bruce Babbitt.

Mecham later drew criticism for what many viewed as racist and sexist remarks and for his political appointments.

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