Campaign Finance

'Dark Money' and Anonymous Speech Are Awesome, Unless You Want Political Thugs Jumping on Your Head

Exhibit A: Sheriff Joe Arpaio



Embattled Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Arizona's own dose of seemingly unshakeable political herpes, is asking supporters to cough up cash to fund his defense against potential federal criminal contempt of court charges. He'll probably get it too. His opponents, even though they finally sense weakness in the old bastard, are unlikely to have the same luck shaking the tree for money. That's because Arpaio has a history of crude and brutal retaliation against anybody he perceives as an enemy. If America's toughest sheriff isn't strong evidence in favor of anonymous political expenditures, then nothing is.

Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb made this case yesterday:

If Arpaio is to be defeated, the business community probably has to conclude that he's enough of a damaging menace to warrant funding an independent campaign in that range. But the money isn't the only hurdle.

With Arpaio, there's a risk of criminal investigations and bogus criminal charges if you oppose him. That's part of what makes him a damaging menace. So, any such independent campaign would likely have to be by a dark-money group that didn't disclose its contributors.

Yes, you read that right—criminal investigations and bogus criminal charges. This is a "lawman" who has jailed journalists and political opponents, spied on critics, stolen documents from defense attorneys, and sent deputies to raid the offices of other government bodies. Forget a little trouble with your permits down at City Hall; if you piss off the sheriff, he goes full Third World on your ass.

And yes, he remains popular with the yahoos who have repeatedly elected him to office through all of his shenanigans. He's the sort of populist demagogue who puts the lie to chatter about the self-correcting nature of democracy.

He also puts the lie to goo-goo nonsense about the glories of open politics and full disclosure about political funding and speech. Transparency has become a bit of a fetish in recent years, and it is a good thing when you're talking about government. Government officials, after all, command vast coercive power—in the form of law-enforcement agencies, for example. It's not too much for the people forced to fund their efforts and live with the results to demand an accounting of what they do and how they do it.

But people taking on those officials face a different situation, illustrated in the starkest way by Joe Arpaio. If attracting a politician's attention has a history of drawing surveillance, police raids, and phony criminal charges, there's a certain disincentive to lending identifiable support to opposition efforts.

Retaliation isn't always so crude, of course. Usually, it occurs in more subtle ways as politicians manipulate the tendrils of our intrusive modern state. Publicly speak out, and you can suddenly suffer refusals of permits, surprise inspections, and tax difficulties. Try to prove there's a connection.

And it's not just a problem for localities. The Internal Revenue Service, which has featured in news headlines recently for targeted scrutiny of conservative non-profit organizations, has a history of service as a political weapon.

"My father," Elliott Roosevelt said of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "may have been the originator of the concept of employing the IRS as a weapon of political retribution."

Richard M. Nixon demonstrated that politicians of both major parties could play at that game.

Politicians are often scumbags, and they have the tools of government at their hands to hurt their political opponents. Joe Arpaio, who has freely wielded the power to ruin people's lives, is living proof of why it's so important to be able to anonymously oppose government officials.

NEXT: Kids, Go Ahead and Talk to Strangers: Lenore Skenazy in The Washington Post

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  1. ” Dark Money’ and Anonymous Speech Are Awesome”

    I’m sorry, I don’t listen to hip hop.

  2. And, of course, there will be a number of leftists that understand this argument perfectly but will be unwillingly to understand the same danger inherent in union card check laws.

    1. It’s different when WE do it.

      /Tony, et. al.

  3. His opponents, even though they finally sense weakness in the old bastard, are unlikely to have the same luck shaking the tree for money.

    This is why Tuccille is the best.

    1. No, this is why JD is just too, too chill:

      Arizona’s own dose of seemingly unshakeable political herpes,

      1. You can’t laugh too often at “unshakeable” when referring to Sheriff Joe.

  4. My dear, the next five minutes can change your life!
    Give a chance to your good luck.
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  5. “dark-money”


  6. What have you got against Sheriff Joe?

    1. He’s a fascist pig.

      1. ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ Yup

        Other things too, but that really should be enough.

  7. Arpaio is one of the few law enforcement officers who stand up for America AGAINST the flood of detritus washing across our borders. If other law enforcement officers were doing their jobs – arresting criminal aliens – we’d then be able to look at Arpaios warts and perhaps conclude he’s not the best man for the jobs.

    But so long as America is being sold out by fawning politicians catering to the criminals who wash across our borders, Arpaio will remain a symbol of defense against the onslaught.

    He may not be the best sheriff in some regards, but he’s one of the few with the balls to stand up to the criminal alien horde and the Feral Government. He has my vote.

    1. Baloney. Arpaio detains less illegal immigrants than either the Phoenix PD or the Mesa PD, despite having a much larger jurisdiction. What he does do is detain brown skinned American citizens in his made for TV sweeps (remember when he had Steven Segal drive a tank into a guy’s house?). Arpaio’s clown show is designed to drive out of state campaign donations and nothing else. Don’t buy into it.

  8. Maybe Arpaio has some faults, but he appears to do his job very well.

    1. He costs the taxpayers millions in lawsuits, jails journalists in the night, ignores hundreds of sex crimes, and doesn’t even arrest as many illegals as the Phoenix PD. You call that doing a good job?

    2. He does PR very well – which is how he is able to convince low-information observers that he is doing his job well. Thankfully, we have good, professional law enforcement agencies (other than the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office) who do their jobs effectively and quietly, without running to a tv camera whenever they arrest an illegal immigrant. And yes, those agencies accomplish a lot more than Arpaio.

      You won’t find a professional law enforcement officer who has a high opinion of Arpaio – they know he is a walking clownshow whose accomplishments are mainly in publicity. You really should take a look at his record of malfeasance – killing people in custody, failing to investigate hundreds of sex crimes against children, and hounding political opponents. Balance all that against his meager record with regard to illegal immigration and tell me where the “good job” is getting done. In fact, what little success we have in this state regarding illegals comes from the efforts of others.

      1. He’s Dog the Bounty Hunter in a more socially acceptable form and on the public’s payroll.

  9. Joe Arpaio is an anti-rightist. The so-called war on drugs, which he heartily approves of, is actually a war on the rights of otherwise honest peaceful citizens. It is a fact that the vast majority of violence associated with the presently illegal drugs is caused by the so-called war on drugs not from the mere use of those drugs, as is the case with the narcotic drug alcohol, the leading violence-causing drug in America. The principle of inalienable rights tells us that an adult’s behavior (not minors), including using various mind-altering, possible harmful, possibly addictive substances, that does not violate the rights of others is their inalienable right. If that is not true then we have no rights because we do not own the property of our bodies and minds, the government does. That is the situation in America now. We have 5% of with world’s population and 25% of the world’s imprisoned population because of the war on inalienable rights. Other anti-rightists include Congress, the President, The Supreme Court Justices, and 99% or more of all politicians. None of them would know an inalienable right if it came up and slapped them in the face and Joe Arpaio is a perfect example of a ranting, ignorant, anti-rightist.

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