Russell Pearce's GOP Toadies Want to Give Him $260,000 of Your Money

Of all the trial balloons in the history of politics, this one most deserves to be shot down, stomped, incinerated, and spat on, with the remains dumped in the nearest landfill to rot.

Seems there's a cadre of hardcore Russell Pearce-worshippers in the state legislature that want to give the recalled state Senate President $260,000 of taxpayer money because he was made to undergo a recall election, which he lost by an embarrassing 12 points.

Apparently, the Pearce stooges are floating the idea as part of budget negotiations, which, as you may have read, have not been going so well.

Certain Republican lawmakers have stalled budget talks with Governor Jan Brewer, because they're not getting everything they want. As a result, Democrats in the legislature have been approached by recalcitrant GOPers with the possibility of deal-cutting. 

And guess what they want on the table for anything they might give the Ds? A big, fat payday for their hero and erstwhile jefe, the Fiesta Bowl-freebie-moochin' Pearce.

This rumor was first circulated in an e-mail edition of the Capitol Times, with quotes from an unnamed lawmaker ridiculing the possibility, calling it a "kamikaze mission," and saying the Ds would go along with it when Satan started building igloos in Hell.

I set about confirming this rumor, and sure enough I was able to do so, though of course no one was willing to go on the record. Still, the message was conveyed that giving Pearce a stack of the taxpayers' moolah is something the Republican caucus -- or at least the crazies therein -- wants.

This is not the first time this dumb idea has been launched into flight. Shortly after Pearce was humiliated in last year's special election, Pearce sycophants in the legislature and in the media suggested a Pearce payday as a serious possibility.

Those pro-Pearce stalwarts argued that Article 8, Part 1, Section 6 of the Arizona Constitution allows for such a reimbursement when it states the following: "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 camp."

At the time, I noted arguments against that interpretation, but at least one election law specialist I consulted today told me that such a payment might be allowable under the state constitution.

Why $260K? Because that's how much Pearce's candidate committee spent in the recall, though it's not like any of that loot was Pearce's. Nah, it was money he raised from various lobbyists, groups and individuals who backed the loser last year. 

When I relayed the possibility of a Pearce payday to Randy Parraz, co-founder of Citizens for a Better Arizona, the group that made the recall a reality, he was incredulous.

"Reimburse him for what, for losing his job?" Parraz said. "That's like a golden parachute...I could see if he had won in a landslide. That's one thing. But he lost in a landslide."

Parraz pointed out that both the recall and the election were Pearce's fault. Pearce's egregious behavior led to the first, and his refusal to resign after the recall was a reality, led to the second.

"It's almost like being rewarded for bad leadership and bad government," state Senator Steve Gallardo told me, when asked to comment.

Indeed, the citizens of Legislative District 18 threw Pearce out of office. A citizen petition scored enough signatures to bring the recall. Pearce declined to resign, and the voters elected Pearce's rival, now state Senator Jerry Lewis.

That should be the end of the story. But now Pearce is running for state Senate from the new Legislative District 25, and his cretinous backers at the capitol want to help him, on the taxpayers' dime.

Brewer's spokesman Matt Benson said that he was not aware that the idea had come up during negotiations. Would Brewer agree to it as part of a larger budget deal, I wondered?

"That's a pretty big 'if,'" Benson said. "All I can tell you is it's nothing the Governor is pursuing."

Some veteran capitol-watchers I consulted observed that the payment to Pearce was unlikely to happen, that even some in the GOP caucus would object to it, and that such "what ifs" are common during the budget sausage-making process.

Perhaps, but this is one "what if" that needs to be tied to the tracks just before the train rolls through town.

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