Joe Arpaio Uses Fake Recall to Fundraise

Joe Arpaio Uses Fake Recall to Fundraise
Stephen Lemons

What would you call a guy who claims there's a recall effort against him just so he can score donations off elderly, out-of-state supporters?

A sleazy prevaricator? A political con artist? 

Well, yes. But, specifically, in Maricopa County, we call him Sheriff Joe.

And the man who authors Arpaio's disingenuous e-mail blasts in the hope of getting a cut of the take from contributors? What do we call him?

A mercenary flunky? A political pirate? Harry Lime in the flesh?

Yes, yes, and yes. But his actual name is Chad Willems of Summit Consulting.

Willems is nominally a Republican, but his real allegiance is to the almighty dollar. This allows him to simultaneously assist the effort in Arizona to legalize pot for personal use while serving the needs of a right-wing politico such as Arpaio. 

Nothing surprises me when Willems is involved. But his latest e-mail blast seeking money for Arpaio's re-election campaign is a new low.

Part one of Chad Willems' new low in political hucksterism.
Part one of Chad Willems' new low in political hucksterism.

And his shameless response when the TV cameras came calling to ask him about it was, well, priceless. 

The e-mail, supposedly from Joe, offers as its subject: "They're trying to recall me."

In sales, they call this pitch-and-switch. There is no recall against Arpaio. None.

If you read further down in the whiny missive, which Willems has acknowledged writing, the "recall" becomes a vague threat.

"The ugly specter of another recall against me has once again been raised by the liberal media," it says, "with an AZ newspaper stating: The elected official most vulnerable to a justifiable recall is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio . . ."

Though not mentioned in the e-mail, that quote comes from an October 7 editorial in Flagstaff's Arizona Daily Sun .

The unsigned editorial argues against the recall, such as it is, against State Schools Superintendent Diane Douglas. It also argues against recalls in general and states that the paper did not support the successful 2011 recall of State Senate President Russell Pearce.

The mention of Arpaio in the piece is odd, because the sheriff is up for re-election in 2016, and a recall effort beginning now would be futile. 

Nothing against the Arizona Daily Sun, but Flagstaff is in Coconino County, so its reference concerning Arpaio has little or no influence on political reality in Maricopa County. Perhaps that's why Willems called it an "AZ newspaper" rather than quoting it by name. 

The e-mail is a long one and full of canards, such as, "My desperate political enemies are once again mounting the threat of wasting the citizens' money and my time defending against a recall." 

Part two of the Willems/Arpaio note
Part two of the Willems/Arpaio note

Which is BS so immense that it could fill the Grand Canyon.

Indeed, when Channel 3's Dennis Welch, the first to report on this e-mailed pitch on behalf of Arpaio, interviewed Willems, the shameless campaign guru talked so effortlessly out of both sides of his mouth, you might think you were watching a Discovery Channel documentary about a silver-haired pair of Siamese twins. 

"There's not a formal recall effort," Willems admits on camera. 

Welch asks if the e-mail Willems wrote was misleading.

"I don't think so," replies Willems, blankly staring at Welch.

An uncomfortable pause ensues.

"Why do you say that?" wonders Welch.

"I just don't think it's misleading," repeats Willems. "You have a group out there that's tried to recall the sheriff before. Groups that are out there continually talking about it. And now you've got a major newspaper — a newspaper media outlet that is out there advocating for this."

That's Willems' story, and he's sticking to it. Just don't ask him if the world is flat. His face might crack.

Kudos to Welch for putting Willems on the spot and for leaving that pause in the piece. It speaks volumes. 

By the way, the groups that tried to recall Arpaio in 2013 now are defunct.

I messaged Willems on Facebook, asking which groups were discussing a recall of Arpaio currently. Facebook indicates that the messages were read, but Willems is letting the crickets talk for him.

Another falsehood in Arpaio's e-mailed appeal for money is his claim to have "fought against the Mexican Drug Cartels" which, Arpaio says, "have threatened my life and my family."

Part three of the "recall Joe" fundraising e-mail.
Part three of the "recall Joe" fundraising e-mail.

Total bull. 

Now, back in 2007, the MCSO spent $500,000 investigating an absurd, non-existent plot against Joe's life, wherein the Minutemen, a cartel, and immigrant-rights advocate Elias Bermudez supposedly were collaborating against him.

That unlikely story was told to the MCSO by a paid confidential informant who flunked a polygraph test and eventually disappeared but not until after Joe's agency had flown all over the country in an epic snipe hunt on the county's dime.

Talk about history repeating itself.

Indeed, the fundraising e-mail's reference to a "politically-motivated agenda" against Arpaio by President Obama and the U.S. Department of Justice sounds a lot like the phony plot at the center of the so-called "Seattle investigation," which involved another paid confidential informant, MCSO deputies flying cross-country, and expenses that may be close to $1 million.

In any case, why the phony recall talk by the Arpaio campaign? 

Likely, it has to do with the first campaign-finance filing deadline for the 2016 election cycle coming up in January. 

See, Arpaio and Willems raised and spent about $8 million in 2012, eking out a win with just over 50 percent of the vote. 

Early on, they will want to tout a massive war chest, in an attempt to scare off any serious rivals.

Which explains these duplicitous e-mail blasts more than a year out. 

Most of Arpaio's donations come from out of state in response to mass e-mails that target elderly donors who think Arpaio's the best thing since indoor plumbing.

Hard to feel sorry for these rubes. Arpaio's fleecing them, like he's done to the Birthers, and continues to do with immigrant haters, as you can tell from the e-mail.

This is highly ironic given that the MCSO has been enjoined from enforcing civil immigration law since late 2011.

Arpaio's agency's defiance of a court order to that effect has landed the sheriff and four current and former commanders in front of a federal judge, facing possible criminal contempt of court. 

And unlike the "threat" of a recall, the threat of a criminal charge for Arpaio is very real.


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