Posted on September 3, 2010

Arizona’s Anti-Immigration Frenzy: Fueled by Outsiders

Adam Klawonn, Time, September 2, 2010


Donations from people like Acheson [Robert Acheson of Dixfield, Maine] have fed the political frenzy surrounding illegal immigration and framed key Arizona debates {snip}. Having people outside of Arizona’s borders help shape its border policy may be one of the state’s great political ironies.

{snip} In response to criticism that the law [Senate Bill 1070] would promote racial profiling, Brewer created a legal defense fund to give the cops some cover. Now the fund has more than $2 million, a Brewer spokeswoman says, and much of that is coming from people outside Arizona. In-state contributors have accounted for $320,544, according to data on Contributions from California, Texas, Florida, New York, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Virginia have accounted for $703,171–outspending Arizonans by more than 2 to 1. And that excludes money from the rest of the country, because people from all 50 states have donated.

Although more Arizonans have donated to the fund than residents of any other state, they have been eclipsed in per-capita giving. In-state contributors have given an average of $50.76 per person, while donors from Alaska, Wyoming and Hawaii have given $57.97, $55.83 and $52.05 per person, respectively. {snip}

These aren’t the only signs of outside influence in Arizona’s illegal-immigration debate or in the political fortunes of its candidates. On Aug. 11, almost two weeks before Arizona’s primary election, Sheriff Arpaio turned in campaign-finance reports that showed he had pulled in $480,669 over the summer, bringing his total to $2.3 million. Arpaio’s campaign manager Chad Willems says the last official number-crunch they did on the numbers was six months ago, and at that time, 26% of the money was coming from Arizonans. The rest was from out of state. {snip}

The fundraising looks more like a major congressional campaign than a stumpfest for a local sheriff’s office, and it’s even more astonishing considering Arpaio is not up for re-election until 2012. He spent much of the new funds on advertising that pummeled his political opponents–even if they weren’t running against him. Interim Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, a Vietnam veteran and moderate Republican who has often clashed with Arpaio, says the attack ads cost him his job and run counter to donors’ intentions for the money. “But the real factor was that I believe he illegally used the money to influence this election,” Romley says. “It was really a fraud on the people who gave to his re-election campaign.” County election officials agree. They ruled against Arpaio’s use of the election funds for the attack ads, fined his campaign and, last week, gave his campaign 20 days to produce more documentation of the expenditures. The Arpaio campaign is appealing the ruling.