The Heat's On, Fife Should Stay In The Kitchen


A recent front page story in The Arizona Republic told of former Gov. Fife Symington's interest in rejuvenating his political career.

Symington, you will recall, resigned from office in disgrace in 1997 after being convicted on six counts of bank fraud and one count of wire fraud for, as the Republic coyly puts it, "business improprieties." Early on, the state's largest newspaper points out that the conviction was overturned (because a juror who "believed he was innocent" was dismissed) and that President Clinton (whose life Symington had saved at a college party) eventually pardoned Symington.

At one point in the article, the former-governor-turned-pastry-chef reprises the arrogance of his glory days -- the incredulousness of a man of entitlement (the grandson of 19th century steel baron Henry Clay Frick) being held to the same rule of law as the rest of us.

"They couldn't get me at the ballot box so they went after me in court," he sniffed. "It was wrong. I stand convicted of nothing."

What the Republic article never makes clear is that after the criminal conviction and the pardon, Symington was tried for fraud before a federal bankruptcy judge who found him guilty. That, you might recall, was the matter of a group of pension funds being misled to invest in Symington's downtown Phoenix Mercado fiasco.

"It was a multi-million dollar fraud, and he was found liable for that," Michael Manning, attorney for the pension funds, said.

Manning, whose thoughts on Symington's candidacy were buried deep in the Republic story, was surprised at the tone and tenor of the article.

"To permit him to get away with the statement that he's never been convicted of anything was, I thought, pretty shocking," he said.

The Republic, in fact, downplays Symington's conviction by referring to Manning as the "lawyer that successfully sued Symington."

"(The article) indicates that this was simply a settlement of a disputed claim with the pension funds, when it was the determination of a multi-million dollar fraud against him," Manning said.

But perhaps most surprising, the Republic does not offer the real reason why Symington needed to be pardoned.

"He was only a week away from being re-indicted, and he knew that," Manning said. "They were going to retry him because the conviction was overturned but not dismissed."

Fortunately, E. J. Montini, the Republic's token liberal, and just about every other writer who has weighed in on the subject has been less than enthusiastic about a Symington candidacy.

But that doesn't excuse a news story that is clearly weighted in favor of a convicted felon. The state needs to pass on a second helping of Symington.

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