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Arizona's Redistricting Commission Should Regard the Tea Party as Disruptive Loons

More than anything, the Tea Party movement in Arizona reminds me of the assorted wackjobs who believed that the 9/11 attacks on America were an "inside job" by the administration of President George W. Bush, a moronic contention now thoroughly debunked and discredited.

Like the so-called 9/11 "truthers," Tea Baggers see conspiracies where there are none, spread misinformation without consequence, and vilify any who do not buy their bald-faced bull.

But where the nearly moribund "truth" movement once offered numerous flavors of idiocy, the Tea Baggers march in lockstep, showing up to public meetings with prepared talking points copied off e-mails and websites, repeating over and over the same soft-headed mush and regurgitated canards.

They also are often armed.

They aim to take over or disrupt public meetings, and there often are warnings either from them or from politicians allied with these noxious hillbillies that veer toward the threat of violence.

In short, this anti-democratic force of bikers, nativists, old white biddies, and crazed, self-styled "patriots" have more in common with pre-Berlin Wall-fall Communists than the fomenters of the American Revolution they purportedly revere.

Recently, the Tea Party's true face has been revealed in its attempts to exercise veto power over the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the five-member panel charged with redrawing the political map of Sand Land, based on the 2010 census.

The AIRC was created in 2000 by voter approval of Prop 106, which amended Arizona's Constitution, placing the power to redraw legislative and congressional districts in the hands of two Democrats and two Republicans, appointed by leaders of the state House and Senate, as well as one Independent chosen to chair the AIRC by the four partisans.

In the case of the current AIRC, that Independent is Colleen Mathis, a healthcare administrator originally from Peoria, Illinois, who now lives and works in Pima County with her lawyer husband, Chris.

Mathis was unanimously selected to her position by the four appointed commissioners, all of whom are unpaid, as is Mathis. A relevant point considering the amount of abuse that's been heaped upon her by the Tea Party brigade.

Because the Tea Baggers have disagreed with the selection of a mapping consultant with Democratic ties, the D.C. firm Strategic Telemetry, they have focused on Mathis' application and a slight omission they use to claim Mathis "lied" on it.

Supposedly, according to these nudniks, she lied to hide the fact that her husband is a registered Democrat who played the role of treasurer in the unsuccessful 2010 campaign of Democrat Nancy Young Wright for a state House seat from Legislative District 26.

From this original sin flows all Mathis' faults, which include her vote (along with those of the two Dems on the commission) for Strategic Telemetry to be the mapping consultant.

Thing is, Mathis did not lie. In fact, she mentions the name of her husband in the second line of the application.

But question eight on the form asked for her to list all family members who have a profession, and she neglected to list that her spouse is an attorney, an error for which she has apologized.

It's no big secret that her husband is a lawyer. Anyone plugging the guy's name into Google will discover that right quick. As for his status as a Democrat, the application form does not ask for that information, because it is irrelevant.

But since we're dealing with facts that don't matter, here are a few more that the Tea Baggers overlook when pointing their digits at the Mathises: For the better part of his life, Chris Mathis was a Republican.

He actually worked on the staff of former Republican U.S. Senator from Nebraska Chuck Hagel, and on the staff of ex-U.S. Representative Bob Michel of Illinois, onetime Republican minority leader of the House.

Over the years, Chris Mathis has donated money to both Democrats and Republicans. According to federal and state campaign-finance filings, he donated money to Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in 2010, as well as to current Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican.

In previous election cycles, he donated to Republican U.S. Senator John McCain and to former GOP U.S. Senator from Illinois Peter Fitzgerald. Mathis' grandfather even ran, unsuccessfully, for governor of Illinois in a Republican primary.

Neither Mathis wished to comment on the record for this column, but I know that Chris Mathis has referred to himself in the past as a Jerry Ford-esque Republican and has been shoehorned into the Democratic camp by the extremism of the Arizona GOP.

Indeed, these days, President Gerald R. Ford would be regarded as a raging liberal RiNO (Republican in Name Only) by the far-right Tea Party types here in Cactus Country and elsewhere.

But there are pettier agendas involved than these ideological disputes.

One of the main disseminators of misinformation has been Republican legislator Terri Proud, who won a close election against Nancy Wright in 2010, and is bent (and I do mean "bent") on attacking her opponent's onetime treasurer by smearing his wife, Colleen.