Arizona Democratic Party Takes Thousands from Nativist Mark Spencer's PLEA

When it comes to campaign contributions from the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, headed by anti-immigrant opportunist Mark Spencer, Republican U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth just barely edges out the Arizona Democratic Party.

For the current 2009-2010 election cycle, Hayworth, the Mexican-bashing former radio host has taken $10,000 from the Phoenix police union, which Spencer has transformed into a full-on nativist organization.

That's to be expected of ideological allies. What's surprising is that the Arizona Democratic Party, which is on record as opposing SB 1070 and other anti-immigrant measures, has taken $7,000 in contributions from PLEA for the same period. This, according to a recent report from PLEA to the Arizona Secretary of State's office.

You may recall a blog post I did back in February, where I revealed that Democratic state House hopeful Ruben Gallego's campaign had pocketed $410 from PLEA PAC, which is chaired by Mark Spencer. I also pointed out at the time that the Dems had taken $1,000 in 2009 from PLEA.

Since then, the state Democratic Party's taken another $6,000 from PLEA in the form of high-priced tickets to Democratic fundraisers. Of that, $5,000 alone was for the Dems' Legislative Salute Dinner earlier this year.

It's not like the Dems have been hurtin'. Their January filing with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office showed that they took in three-quarters of a million dollars in receipts, and spent $1.2 million.

Since $7,000 is but a teardrop in that deep bucket, why did the Democratic Party find the need to accept funds from an organization that supports Republican neo-Nazi hugger Russell Pearce, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, SB 1070, and -- to judge by the latest anti-immigrant screed on PLEA's Web site -- the revocation of birthright citizenship for children born of undocumented parents?

Neither party chairman Don Bivens nor executive director Luis Heredia was available to answer that question. Party spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson was left to field the flak.

"Mark Spencer is one person," she stated. "And we certainly disagree with him on some things. It's not his money, it's PLEA's. PLEA has a lot of police officers [as members], and we respect them."

Indeed, PLEA represents the vast majority of the Phoenix PD's 3,700 rank and file, and Spencer has been twice elected to his position as PLEA president.

However, Spencer's tenure has been marked by a rabid obsession with illegal immigration, and a willingness to blame all of the undocumented for crime in the Valley. That's in spite of the fact that violent crime in Phoenix is down according to FBI statistics.

Indeed, at a recent press conference with Sheriff Joe, Spencer likened illegal immigrants to child molesters and drug dealers.

And on its Web site, PLEA even went so far as to blame the 14th Amendment's guarantee of birthright citizenship for the recent murder of fallen police officer Travis Murphy, seeing that Murphy's alleged killer was a U.S. born citizen, whose parents have been naturalized citizens for over 20 years.

I asked Johnson if there was any group the Democrats would not take money from -- you know, like, Republicans, or worse. She said the party leadership would have to answer that one.

Fortunately, there are some Democrats with honor. U.S. Senate hopeful Randy Parraz told me he would never take a contribution from an organization like PLEA.

"I would be more than happy to receive a donation from a police officer or anyone in law enforcement to support my campaign," he explained. "But it would be seriously problematic to be standing next to someone I'm totally opposed to, in terms of the stands [Mark Spencer] has taken on issues that impact our community."

Asked if the Democratic Party should be taking money from PLEA and Spencer, Parraz said he would leave that to the party's leadership to address.

But he didn't hold back when it came to Spencer.

"I don't share his position on 1070 or immigration enforcement or even the policies and practices of Sheriff Arpaio," he said. "He's just been a very strong force out there in terms of doing damage to the relationships we need to build in our communities of all races, whether undocumented or not, trying to fight crime."

Parraz is one of those candidates who means what he says and says what he means, a rare breed among Democrats these days.

Even Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, the highest ranking Dem in the state, recently tried to play the nativist card by saying that he would "vigorously defend" SB 1070 if and when the U.S. Department of Justice sues to stop the law in federal court.

Goddard could have taken a principled stand and resigned, saying that in good conscience he could not defend such a law. But that would be a hard thing to do with a backbone made of jelly.

Almost as hard as the Dems giving back that $7,000. Something they should do, but won't.

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