Remember when I informed you of the trial balloon being floated by toadies of recalled state Senate President Russell Pearce, lickspittles who long to give their lord and master more than $260,000 of taxpayer funds because he had to endure a recall election, one he lost by a humiliating 12 points?
Well, it's no longer a trial balloon, it's a full-fledged push from Pearce's proxies in the state Senate and House, who claim that the Arizona Constitution requires them to grant Pearce the $260K.
Why, that's an argument an unabashed Pearce is making himself, telling a Capitol Times reporter today that he would have to give "serious consideration" to the proposal, and that state legislators have a "duty" to offer it to him.
A "duty"? Really? Isn't this why Pearce was recalled, because of such outrageous arrogance, and contempt for the public and the law?
The effort to help Pearce cash in and recoup money that was donated to him during the recall election by lobbyists, political committees and individual donors is being spearheaded by two Republicans, state Representative Steve Montenegro and state Senator Steve Smith.
Montenegro and Smith, as well as other Pearce lackeys in the Republican Party, have been making this massive payoff a condition of a budget deal with Governor Jan Brewer. (See update below.)
Indeed, before the GOPers buried the hatchet with Brewer and began working with her again, they engaged in talks with Democrats over a possible budget agreement.
Arizona Senate Minority Leader David Schapira told me that the Rs wanted to make Pearce's $260K-plus welfare check a requirement of any Democrat-Republican deal, an idea still alive and well in the state Senate.
As you might expect, it's a proposal Schapira finds repugnant.
"My understanding is that this new budget will include no new money for kids care," he noted. "Zero dollars for soft capital to buy new textbooks and computers, which haven't been purchased in three years in our school system. Zero dollars for those things, yet Russell Pearce gets $262,000. Talk about misplaced priorities."
Schapira also observed that this reimbursement idea not only misreads the Arizona Constitution, it likely violates it, particularly Article 9, Section 7, known as the "gift clause," which prohibits the state government from making "any donation or grant, by subsidy or otherwise, to any individual, association, or corporation."
I asked Schapira how the GOPers planned to get around the gift ban.
"I don't think there is a way around it," he said. "But this isn't the first time they've passed something [that's] unconstitutional."
As far as the Pearce camp's misreading (or more likely, deliberate twisting) of the Arizona Constitution, the passage in question is Article 8, Part 1, Section 6:
"The general election laws shall apply to recall elections in so far as applicable. Laws necessary to facilitate the operation of the provisions of this article shall be enacted, including provision for payment by the public treasury of the reasonable special election campaign expenses of such officer."
The bull the Pearce crowd will be feeding the public is that the phrase "shall be enacted" means that the legislature must cut Pearce a check.
Which, as Schapira and election law experts observe, is total hooey.
"The term reimbursement implies if not explicitly states that the person would have to have encumbered their own funds," Schapira stated. "You can't write a check to Russell Pearce as a `reimbursement,' if he himself did not make the expenditure."
Elections law attorney Tom Ryan, who successfully defended the 2011 recall against the Pearce camp's challenge and who exposed the Pearce camp's sham candidate Olivia Cortes as a stooge meant to split the vote, pointed out that there's currently no statute detailing how or in what amount the subject of a recall would be reimbursed.
Seems Arizona once had a law allowing for a reimbursement of $200 to recalled legislators, but the legislature repealed it in 1973 and has yet to replace it. Ryan indicated that a 1988 opinion issued by then Arizona Attorney General Bob Corbin stated that the legislature would have to pass a new law in order to reimburse a recalled candidate.
That is to say, the constitution may allow for such a payment to be made, but the legislature does not have a statute in place to make that possibility a reality.
Then there's the issue of what is "reasonable" to reimburse a man whom the voters have removed from office.
Ryan was incensed at the concept of handing over a quarter-million dollars to Pearce..
"This is a guy who's taken $40,000 in Fiesta Bowl tickets and trips for himself and his family," said Ryan. "He's gotten all kinds of junkets...he has three retirement funds made out to him by the state, and this pig wants to go back to the trough?"
Pearce is taking pains to make it seem as if he's not behind the campaign to score him this humongous chunk of government cheddar. But that's as believable as his assertion that he knew nothing about the likely-felonious-but-never-to-be prosecuted Cortes scandal.
Interestingly, the two Steves -- Smith and Montenegro -- employ the services of sleazy GOP political operative Constantin Querard, Pearce's primary political pimp, a man who made bank running an independent expenditure committee supporting Pearce during the recall.
Potentially, Querard stands to gain from Pearce's windfall, either directly or indirectly, by garnering business for his consulting and printing companies. It's just a little too obvious that two of his clients happen to be the most outspoken proponents of handing Pearce a six figure unemployment check.
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Pearce should not get the money, no way, no how. But as with the sham candidacy of Cortes, the Pearce camp is overreaching. If he takes the money, he'll create a talking point for Bob Worsley, his opponent in the LD 25 GOP primary.
Plus any legislator who votes to give Pearce the people's cash will have fashioned a poisoned dagger their enemies are sure to use against them. These Pearce-worshipping lemmings are about to take the concept of political suicide to a whole new level.
UPDATE: Brewer and the leadership of the state House and Senate announced a budget deal late Friday. Details, or at least those available, can be seen, here. Whether or not Pearce gets that 260K may be determined in the coming week as the legislature nears a vote.