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Kirsten Boyd Johnson, the wait is over. It looks like the hottest girl at prom has finally chosen a date.
Earlier this fall, we wrote about the hoops that the 2012 GOP presidential candidates were jumping through to earn the endorsement of notoriously anti-immigrant Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Now, in what the Atlantic calls “one of the many mind-bending absurdities of the 2012 race,” Arpaio has chosen a fellow dance partner: Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Clearly Perry is hoping Arpaio will shore up his immigration bona fides after Perry lost his co-front-runner status over comments on immigration. But frankly, Arpaio’s record as a sheriff is so completely toxic that we have to wonder whether Perry did his homework on what Arpaio’s endorsement would mean. From the outrageous showcasing to the two (two!) federal investigations to the numerous settlements to the millions in misplaced funds, Arpaio is the kind of guy no sensible politician wants to get anywhere near. The Dallas Observer has called Arpaio a “walking civil rights violation”; the Atlantic today called him a “vainglorious autocrat of dubious achievement.”
Why would anyone want his endorsement on anything?
Arpaio may be nationally known, and raucus on the stump, but he’s made a terrible mess of his own job in Maricopa County, which is littered with litigation over his policies and practices. “Do as I say not as I do,” is a terrible campaign slogan. And yet it is all Arpaio can candidly say when he vouches for his new pal Perry.
Sheriff Joe, for example, cannot say with a straight face that he recognizes good governance when he sees it. In June, for example, Arpaio settled an embarrassing lawsuit, brought by the Justice Department, which alleged that he was illegally withholding documents relating to a civil rights investigation. When the feds sued Arpaio in 2010, government lawyers said they hadn’t seen such an example of local intransigence since the Civil Rights era. Arpaio spent public time and money fighting the lawsuit– before caving in and abiding by the law.
What hasn’t fully settled yet for Sheriff Joe is the fallout from two significant local investigations into fiscal mismanagement in his Maricopa County offices. In April, for example, The Arizona Republic reported that Arpaio’s office misspent $99.5 million in public funds — money for inmates was used to pay officials’ salaries. In May, the former chief financial officer of the County told the paper that she “repeatedly” told Arpaio about the problem before it came to light. And how did Sheriff Joe respond? Here’s what Loretta Barkell said:
The sheriff waved his hand and said he was not allowing the bean counters to manage his operations, that the budget people, the accounting people, personnel people would have to figure it out and fix it. But he was not going to change his decisions on how he was managing his staff.
The problem evidently is so bad in Maricopa County that investigators from neighboring Pinal County had to come in to investigate allegations about the alleged conduct of some of Arpaio’s top officials. Again, a great deal of Arpaio’s time and taxpayer funds were spent. Again, the investigation revealed problems with Arpaio and his people. In fact, Pinal County spent six-figures identifying some of what went wrong under Sheriff Joe’s watch. Here’s how The Republic characterized the extent of the damage so far:
The $102,000 spent investigating the memo’s claims is a fraction of what has been spent by the county on internal battles. The tab so far totals more than $5.6 million, most of that spent on legal costs tied to more than a dozen lawsuits between the Board of Supervisors and Arpaio and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. More than $177 million in notices of claims or lawsuits have been filed by judges, county supervisors, current and former employees and one private citizen. They were targeted by public-corruption probes initiated by Thomas and Arpaio’s office. The claims and suits allege malicious prosecution or false statements by those on both sides of the county conflict.
Even within the last two weeks we’ve gotten a glimpse of the chaos Arpaio has wrought upon both his bosses and his constituents. In 2009, he improperly purchased a $456,000 customized bus for his office. On November 16th, over two years later, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisorsfinally approved the purchase, contorting their precedent to do so. Is Rick Perry going to employ the same buy-first, justify-later financial policies of his endorser? Is he going to run the White House the way Sheriff Joe runs his sheriff’s office?
It gets worse. Earlier this month, Maricopa County paid a $1 million settlement to the family of a man who died in Arpaio’s custody. Predictably, Sheriff Joe downplayed the death and blamed someone else for the deal. “It was settled due to the nature of doing business,” Arpaio told The Arizona Republic. “That (settlement) wasn’t up to us, that was the county that decided to settle it. We have nothing to do with this…” Is Rick Perry the sort of stand-up guy that Arpaio is? Does he approve of the tactic? The endorsement makes me wonder…
So the man who has fouled his own nest, and brought both expense and infamy to his county and his constituents, believes that Perry ought to be the next president? If that’s not the kiss of death for the campaign, I don’t know what is. I don’t see how the Texas governor can preach fiscal responsibility on the one hand and shake Arpaio’s hand with the other. And I don’t see how Perry can argue to the nation that he’s a competent public servant while he’s soaking up praise from a man whose managerial incompetence has for so long been so plain to see.
Governor Perry has had more than his share of missteps in this campaign. Accepting Arpaio’s endorsement is yet another one.
For more on Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s notorious record, see our fact sheet here.