Politicians Burn Taxpayer Cash on "Shameless Self Promotion," Says Goldwater Institute

Politicians waste millions of your tax dollars pumping up their own names for illegitimate purposes, says a new report by the Goldwater Institute.

The author of Shameless Self-Promotion, How Politicians Use Your Money to Get Re-Elected, is Shawnna Bolick, wife of the Goldwater's director of litigation, Clint Bolick. (The institute does a lot of litigation). Supported by abundant evidence, Shawnna Bolick takes on political heavyweights from Janet Napolitano to Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Here in one of her photographic examples, Napolitano is the central theme of a taxpayer-funded tourism ad.

The report expands the scope of articles by New Times last year that told how Thomas uses public money to sell himself and his political messages while also giving a boost to proselytizing organizations. For instance, Thomas spent $11,500 in public money to support a right-wing radio talk-show host's book tour. Though the county attorney would argue the RICO funds were spent lawfully, there's no question the money could have been spent on criminal investigations.

Bolick sees the self-promotion as wrong because of this kind of waste, and also because it gives incumbents an even stronger advantage during political campaigns.

She calls State Attorney General Terry Goddard one of the most egregious self-promoters, noting that he's sunk $89,000 in public funs into various publications that serve to spread his name and face.

Goddard is also spanked for allegedly failing to comply with the state's public records law. It goes without saying how ludicrous it would be for the guy in charge of enforcing the state's public records law to be breaking it.

By the numbers, Goddard's a novice at this game. Andrew Thomas, Bolick writes, has spent more than $2.5 million in RICO funds on promotional items.

Mr. Thomas' massive and continuous promotion of his name and image through official publications and communications cannot possibly be seen as aimed at advancing any legitimate purpose.

Unsurprisingly, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office didn't cough up records requested by Bolick. The MCSO "insists it has never printed anything with [Arpaio's] name or face on it," she writes.

If someone at the Sheriff's Office really told Bolick that, then someone lied. It took us about a minute of Googling to find a 2007 news release from Arpaio's office that detailed an anti-illegal-immigrant promotion. In this portion of a photo (right) of the ads by the Arizona Republic, notice the size of Arpaio's name. MCSO's news release states clearly that this was no homespun marketing campaign:

Twelve vehicles including eight (8) inmate transport vehicles, two (2) 24-foot semi trucks and two (2) 28-foot semis will be covered with professionally installed advertising on all sides of the vehicles telling citizens of Maricopa County to call into the Sheriff's hotline with tips and information on illegal immigrants living and working in the county.


The report goes on to detail potential solutions to the abuse of funds. But the biggest obstacle to such reform will be that shameless self-promotion works, and therefore will be defended vigorously. In the last few years, Napolitano, Arpaio, Goddard, and Thomas all cruised to victory in re-election campaigns.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.