by David Safier
The Goldwater Institute should have chimed in weeks ago on the burgeoning Arpaio scandals. Based on past statements, it should have come out against Sheriff Joe. But it has been silent. Why?
(Hint: G.I. was equally silent on SB1070, even though it should have come out against the law based on its earlier immigration stands.)
My answer about the "watchdog" Institute's silence is simple. It is afraid of offending its donors.
Some history: Goldwater Institute has gone after Arpaio in the past, hard. In 2008, it published a long policy report, Mission Unaccomplished: The Misplaced Priorities of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which tore into Arpaio and his practices. It includes a section on immigration sweeps, discussing how costly and ineffective they were. In 2009, G.I. went after Arpaio in yet another policy report, Justice Denied: The Improper Clearance of Unsolved Crimes by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Both pieces were by Clint Bolick, G.I.'s legal eagle.
Today, Bolick got himself a semi-glowing article in, of all places, the NY Times. He was referred to in the headline as A Watchdog for Conservative Ideals. Oddly, he and I are on the same side in a few of the causes he decided to champion which were mentioned in the article -- defending the right of a tattoo parlor to set up shop in an upscale Tempe shopping area and the right of a cosmetologist to use a Chinese technique where a certain kind of fish nibbles dead skin off a customer's feet. G.I. was on the right side in both cases. And it was also on the right side in its years-old condemnations of Arpaio.
Interestingly, Bolick mentions G.I.'s problems with Arpaio in the NY Times article.
“Our view is that the role of the sheriff is to effectively enforce the law, and we’ve been sharply critical of [Arpaio's] department fulfilling its most basic function,” Mr. Bolick said.
Yet now that Arpaio's gross violations of the law and basic human decency are on national display, his name has not been mentioned either on the G.I. website or recent daily email briefs.
The Arpaio stink was a big part of Brahm Resnik's Sunday Square Off on December 17, and Starlee Rhoades, G.I.'s VP of External Affairs (I think that means she does communications) was a panelist. She tried as hard as she could to hover above the debate, saying the Justice Department still needs to look into the sex crimes cases and voters should be "disgusted and dismayed" the investigation has taken 3 years. Not "disgusted and dismayed" at Arpaio's behavior, but at the DOJ. After Democratic 2010 AG candidate Felecia Rotellini, also a panelist, mentioned the earlier G.I. reports about Arpaio, Rhoades was forced to get a little more specific about recommendations in the reports but still shied away from criticizing Arpaio directly.
Bolick himself gave the reason for G.I.'s recent silence on Arpaio, in a 2010 interview with the Capitol Times. He was asked if G.I.'s stands have gotten it in trouble with donors.
I guess the only time that there’s been some tension is when we published the studies that I wrote on Sheriff Arpaio. We did have some donors who were upset over that.
When Bolick was asked in the same interview why G.I. has "also been extremely quiet about SB1070," Bolick dodged the question, claiming the silence was because of a staff division on the bill, though he admitted,
[P]ersonally I would have voted against SB1070.
The Goldwater Institute loves to praise itself for taking tough stands which are sometimes controversial with conservatives and the business community. But it takes its "courageous" stands on immigration reform and Joe Arpaio when the issue is off the front burner. SB1070 and the recent nation-wide revelations about Arpaio are just too hot for the Institute to handle.
When it comes to offending its donors, G.I. displays its cowardice by committing the sin of omission. Silence can speak as loud as words. In these two instances, G.I.'s silence speaks far louder than words.