5 Times Arizona's Junior Senator Has Proven That He's a Real Flake

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake's bill, now expected to become law, will allow internet companies to sell your data.
Arizona Senator Jeff Flake's bill, now expected to become law, will allow internet companies to sell your data. New Times Photo-Illustration. Source: Flake, Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons; Digital Pattern, Blackboard/
Back in the days when Jeff Flake was a congressman representing Mesa, New Times described him as "a breath of fresh air."

Other GOP members aggressively demanded that Barack Obama produce his birth certificate to prove that he was not, in fact, born in Kenya, but Flake was the rare Republican telling the rest of his party that it was time to "accept reality" and stop wasting time on an unproductive and ultimately baseless debate.

Oh, how times have changed.

Since ascending to the Senate, Flake has repeatedly proved himself to be worthy of his name. He's flip-flopped on several key issues that made him seem like a sane alternative to other Republicans. And while he may not be out there spewing racist conspiracy theories, he's had his hand in some truly awful pieces of legislation, notably introducing a bill that allows your browsing history to be sold to the highest bidder.

Here's five things to remember about Flake when the 2018 midterm elections roll around:

1. He supported comprehensive immigration reform, until it got to be politically inconvenient.

While in Congress, Flake advocated for a guest worker program and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants — a rare stance for an Arizona Republican.

Within a month of announcing his candidacy for the Senate, though, he'd changed his mind, explaining that the political climate in Washington made pushing for immigration reform a "dead end." Instead, he said, he'd be focusing on increasing border security.

A New Times poll asked readers whether they believed that Flake had changed his stance in order to appeal to far-right-wingers. The overwhelming consensus was that yes, he did.

2. He claimed he supported expanding background checks for gun purchases, then voted against them.

After the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, Flake wrote a handwritten note to the mother of one of the victims. It said, "Strengthening background checks is something we agree on."

Likewise, back in 2013, Flake wrote the following on Facebook: "I support background checks. In fact, I believe background checks need to be strengthened, particularly as they relate to those with mental illness."

He then went ahead and voted against the Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks, which even Senator John McCain voted to support.

3. In Congress, he went on crusades against accordions and mimes while quietly accepting millions for his district.

Cutting back on what he sees as government waste is one of Flake's favorite causes. He's pissed off polka fans by questioning $35,000 in National Endowment for the Arts grants that went to an accordion festival in San Antonio. He also singled out the San Francisco Mime Troupe, telling the NEA's chairman, "Those kind of grants lend themselves to ridicule."

Flake is fine with federal spending, however, if it helps him get re-elected.

While in Congress, Flake was awfully quiet when it came time to vote on $1.75 million in earmarks that went to improvements at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, in the heart of his district.

"Flake wouldn't necessarily vote in favor of the measures, but he also wouldn't rally against them on the House floor as he did for other earmarks," New Times wrote at the time. "It's was why he became known as the 'Vote-No-But-Get-The-Dough' guy."

4. He said he'd be skipping the Republican National Convention to mow his yard (but has since caved to get in line with Trump.)

Asked by an Associated Press reporter if he'd be attending the 2016 convention in Cleveland, Flake responded, "No. I've got to to mow my lawn."

New Times did a little digging and found a house that we're 99.9 percent sure is Flake's. The lawn did not, in fact, need mowing. (Not to mention, as the vast majority of readers pointed out, Flake almost certainly pays someone to do that.)

Obviously, the real reason why Flake chose to skip the convention was his disapproval of Donald Trump, who he openly criticized throughout the election cycle. That makes "I've got to mow my lawn" seem more like a masterful piece of shade than the lamest excuse of all time. 

But since Trump took office, Flake has voted to confirm every one of Trump's cabinet and administration nominees. Five Thirty Eight, which tallies every time members of the House and Senate vote in line with the president, calculates Flake's "Trump score" as 100 percent.

5. He was a total hypocrite about Supreme Court nominees.

Back in October, Flake told the Daily Beast that Republicans shouldn't block the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

"Our position shouldn’t be that the next president ought to decide," he said. "Nobody really believes that, because if this were the last year of a Republican presidency nobody would say that."

But the rest of his party went ahead and stalled anyway, refusing to hold so much as a hearing for Garland. And when Democrats announced that they'd filibuster Trump's Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, Flake seemed to have conveniently forgotten what had transpired just months before.

"Even President Obama’s two Supreme Court nominees were recognized for their ability to do the job and confirmed without incident," he wrote in an op-ed in The Arizona Republic, which made no mention of what had happened with Obama's third nominee. "Unfortunately, it appears that Judge Gorsuch will not be afforded the same courtesy and respect."
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Antonia Noori Farzan is a staff writer at New Times and an honors graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.