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Public Corruption Scandals Ensnare Outspoken Anti-Immigrant Leaders Pearce (AZ) and Levy (NY)

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Steve Levy and Russell PearceUsually when we write about Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, it’s because they’re engaging in some kind of rhetorical or legislative attack on immigrants. Not this time.

Over the past week, we’ve learned that Pearce and Levy, arguably two of the most-outspoken anti-immigrant politicians in the country, are involved in controversies over financial improprieties. 

In Arizona, Pearce is involved in a scandal involving the annual Fiesta Bowl:

Senate President Russell Pearce said Friday that he has never accepted free tickets to football games from Fiesta Bowl representatives, a statement that conflicts with an investigative report released earlier this week.

Pearce’s comments come as several of his fellow lawmakers have rushed to reimburse the Fiesta Bowl for game tickets they accepted while participating in cross-country junkets paid for by the bowl and its representatives.

The trips are legal – state lobbying laws allow lawmakers to accept free lodging and travel – but since 2000, statutes have included an “entertainment ban” that prohibits lawmakers from accepting tickets or “admission to any sporting or cultural event” for free.

An opinion issued by then-Attorney General Janet Napolitano suggests that merely paying back the bowl – as at least half a dozen lawmakers have now done – may not ease their culpability under the law.

In New York, Levy is caught up in a campaign funding scandal, which could end his political career:

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, seen as a leading contender to challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo in three years, reached a settlement Thursday with prosecutors investigating possible wrongdoing with his campaign fundraising operation.

The Democrat-turned-Republican agreed not to run for a third term in November and said he will surrender his $4 million campaign treasury to the district attorney’s office, who intends to return the money to donors after the election.

Levy was viewed as a strong favorite to win re-election, in part because of the large war chest he had amassed. He also was seen as a top contender to face Cuomo statewide in 2014. Levy lost a bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination last year.

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said a 16-month investigation by his Government Corruption Bureau “revealed serious issues with regard to fundraising and the manner in which it was conducted, including the use of public resources.

We’ll keep you posted.