The AZ GOP Slandered Dan Saban and Used Funny Money for Sheriff Joe. This Lifelong Republican Has Had Enough

I never really thought my marriage would last, not even when I was standing there in a frumpy white dress saying, "I do." But I never thought I would leave the Republican Party. That, for me, was a constant. That was sacred.

But in the past three weeks, the Arizona Republican Party did what four years on a left-leaning college campus could not: It made me an Independent. There's a lesson here for David Horowitz — the biggest danger to young conservatives in this state isn't lefty professors. It's the moral bankruptcy of our own party.

There is a cancer on the state Republican Party. And I'm not going to stand by to watch it metastasize.

Danny Hellman

I'm writing this with a heavy heart. One of my earliest memories is standing in a voting booth with my mom, watching her cast a ballot for Ronald Reagan. I was 3 years old. The day after America elected Bill Clinton, I wore black to my high school — in mourning. And I've seriously got to be the only College Republican who wrote a swooning paean to Bob Dole for her campus newspaper in 1996. Nobody was excited about Dole! But I was a true believer.

And that hasn't changed, not really. I still believe in the same principles: freedom, limited government, the sanctity of human life.

The problem is that now I live in Arizona.

Last month, the party slandered a good man in the most vile and deceitful of ways. The TV commercial accusing Dan Saban of sexual shenanigans was the most disgusting thing I've seen in nine years as a reporter, and that's saying something. This was the sort of ad you'd be embarrassed to watch with your parents in the room. It was also intellectually dishonest.

But that's not the reason I'm leaving, not entirely.

This is a divorce, after all. You don't wake up and say, "I'm out of here." You do the slow dance of disillusionment. You fight. You hate your spouse more for not letting you go.

Then, finally, you file your papers and you walk out.

In the end, what got me was the money.

The GOP broke campaign finance laws to run the anti-Saban ad. The law unquestionably requires the party to disclose the source of all donations. Yet in the case of $105,000 linked to nasty adds against Saban and fellow Democrat Tim Nelson, it did not. Randy Pullen, the party's chairman, told the Capitol Times' Yellow Sheet two weeks ago that he didn't even know who made the donation. A week later, when the Yellow Sheet pushed, he admitted that his contact was a high-ranking member of the Sheriff's Office.

Why does that matter?

There's a reason Sheriff Joe Arpaio has insisted that he had nothing to do with the attack ad. It would be completely illegal if he had! By law, independent expenditures (like the one that paid for the ad) cannot be made in conjunction with a candidate's campaign. Period.

Yet Pullen's contact for the six-figure donation was the commander of the sheriff's own SWAT team. Commander Joel Fox is so close to Arpaio that he filed the sheriff's nominating petitions back in 2004.

The commander got his job running the SWAT team because of his support. After the 2004 election, Arpaio dumped the team's longtime leader for supporting Saban. Fox and another Arpaio loyalist got the job instead — resulting in a debacle when the inexperienced new commanders led their men into an ambush, as reported by the East Valley Tribune here).

Now, four years after he worked for Arpaio's campaign, Commander Fox has apparently become the Republican Party's bag man — for ads so sleazy that the GOP ultimately had to ask TV stations to take them off the air.

Normally I wouldn't take all this quite so personally. I've grown to expect no less from the sheriff's goon squad.

But the people who screwed up here weren't just Arpaio's people. These were top officials at the Arizona Republican Party.

Chairman Randy Pullen accepted a six-figure donation without getting a comprehensive list of donors, as required by law. Based on his public statements since this thing blew up, we can assume he got the cash from Commander Joel Fox. Then, Pullen apparently channeled the money to a newly formed group called Arizonans for Public Safety — just in time for a smear campaign against the man challenging Fox's boss.

What was he thinking?

That no one would notice? This was the scuzziest ad seen on TV since Willie Horton, and Pullen thought no one would bother to follow up on the funding?

The GOP ran the ads, according to Pullen, because it thought voters need to know about Dan Saban's character.

Yet the worst smears in the ad, the ones odiously suggesting that Saban had been investigated for rape and exposing himself to a child, were completely misleading. There was never a credible allegation relating to either charge. They're also old news — my colleague Paul Rubin debunked both in this newspaper ("Boob's Tube," January 25, 2007). Saban's lawsuit against Arpaio in the wake of the 2004 election proved just how baseless the charges were.

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12 comments
Bob
Bob

Sarah, you are far too stupid, or perhaps conniving, to be a reporter, too, so how about going for the double and leave journalism while you're at it.Your take on the "facts" are so loose, they'll likely be picking up strange men at the bar tonight. The facts given in that ad were not at all deceptive, nor slanderous. Saban himself confirmed each one, right after he denied them, on both KTAR and in the AZ republic. Yes, Saban is vile, but it's your choice to vote for him or not.You spew out slanderous "facts" which are really nothing more than repeating the lies printed by the tribune 4 years ago. Did you do any independent research for this hit piece? No.I wonder if you even read Saban's depositions from his failed attempt to sue Arpaio. And why would you? You surely don't want to ruin a perfectly good fantasy by doing something intellectually honest, now do you?

No. It's so much easier, and so much more fun to spread gossip filled with innuendo, half-truths, and outright lies, isn't it?

Gustavo Arellano
Gustavo Arellano

Great piece, Sarah! You truly are a good conservative. I wish there were more like you out there. Writing from the place where Reagan said "all the good Republicans go to die"--except our GOP is just as slanderous and corrupt as AZ's.

Bolt Beefknob
Bolt Beefknob

Compelling piece, but party alignment of ANY stripe is truly what's wrong with our electorate. Vote issues, not parties. It takes more effort to research all the options and vote selectively, but we would all be better served - and represented - if that was the way people voted.

Being a blind adherent to any party makes one merely a pawn.

observer
observer

PS: The only way I can see to tap into that same public perception feedback current is to somehow disseminate your ideas and revelations to a wider audience, and then solicit feedback, via phone, mail, email and polls, then gague the effect that way, and tweak your follow up.

I'm not sure how exactly you can do it... maybe by starting a mailing list, and/or partnering up with larger Arizona orgs and websites, or even having readers mass email your stories to huge groups of people and other media outlets, but something has to be done, because even though your analysis and diagnosis of the problem is spot on, your reach and penetration into the minds of the voting masses is not as potent as it could, and ideally should, be.

Honestly, part of it is that the dissemination of your ideas is being held back by your medium, being a weekly alternative paper, with entertainment and classified content that many conservative voters find objectionable.

Somehow you've got to overcome those impediments, if you really want to be able to effectively effect Arizona politics.

I wish you the best of luck and all the success in the world in reforming that crypto-Nazi state of Arizona.

Rock on!

wingnut
wingnut

And the scary thing is, some of the Arpaio voters will see that Saban ad and assume the worst of the man, and Arpaio may actually win again.

That's the insane genius of political shysters like Arpaio and co... they know that it's not the truth that matters, but the voting publics PERCEPTION of the truth.

Somehow they've managed to tap into the voting publics perceptual threshhold, probably as a result of running so many masturbatory PR stories and then gauging the publics response via telephone, mail and polls.

All I can say is, I hope you guys there at the New Times and in the Phoenix anti-Arpaio crews can figure out a way to tap into that same "voting public perceptual threshhold" and make them see Arpaio for what he really is, because he is a dangerous, conscienceless, unscrupulous, quasi-fascist menace, and sooner he is booted from office, or thrown into prison, the better.

Keep up the good fight.

Peace!

Xaria
Xaria

Bravo............. Sarah you have said what alot of us are thinking, It is embarrassing to be ashamed of your own party, I registared this election as an Independent as well because of this reason, I can only hope that the dirty politics will finally put an end of tirrany we are experiencing from Arpaio and his goon squad and that we will finally have a sherrif who is not so consumed with being the " Toughest Sherrif" in the country and actually starts following the Needs of the community he serves.

Stace
Stace

You go, girl. I went to the RNC to cheer for Dole when I was a CR. I won the State Press' hate mail contest for suggesting that ASU get rid of women's studies.

And yet, since my college days, the GOP has made me feel naive and duped for supporting them. I wanted less government and more privacy; they wanted to know what library books I was reading and where I was flying. I wanted less spending, they wanted more debt. They accused the Left of whining over everything, then became royally butt-hurt whenever someone attacked one of them.

I became an independent in 2006. If they want me back, they need to completely reform. And behave themselves.

CooperG
CooperG

Jami Molera said in the Republic today he won't be voting for Arpaio or Thomas either. The tide is turning and maybe, just maybe, we'll be rid of Arpaio on November 4.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Sarah, add one more Republican embarrassed to call myself a Republican. I, too, will switch my vote this year. The public has been deceived in so many ways by sound bytes and lack of taking the time to see through the haze. Thanks to you, your colleagues and the New Times, you all have done a public service in opening our eyes to who the truly sick and perverted are -- they are outside of the jails and prisons. It's time these officials are at the receiving end of the draconian policies they have set in place for others. And they are judging us??

This Republican will vote for Tim Nelson for County Attorney and Dan Saban for Sheriff. Both men are professional and show real character.

Dave Martin
Dave Martin

You shoudn't feel alone I too am dropping my Life long Republican party membership due to this example of dirty politics. I continue to be amazed at the number of folks I encounter from all age groups that can't see Arpaio for what he is...an egotistical maniac who should've been put out of Office after his first term.

Chad Snow
Chad Snow

Sarah, you're not alone. I'm also sick about what has become of our party. You would think that we would have learned from the Democrats in the 1980's how irrelevant you can become when you allow your party to get hijacked by its extreme elements.

Your article doesn't even mention half of the state party that makes we want to puke: Russell Pearce, Karen Johnson, Eddie Farnsworth, Jack Harper, Bob Blendu, et. al.

What are we supposed to do?

Jim Cozzolino
Jim Cozzolino

Just gets better and better all the time...Time to throw all these corrupt piece of shit in Jail...

 
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