Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Tea Party legislators want taxpayers to foot $260k bill for the Russell Pearce recall

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Tea Party legislators today revived a plan to stick taxpayers with the more than $260,000 bill for ousted Sen. Russell Pearce’s recall election.

The former Senate president and self-proclaimed “Tea Party President” lost a recall election in Nov. 2011. He now stands to receive a windfall from Arizona taxpayers to reimburse him for the campaign. Sen. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert (District 22), led the charge to create a way for Pearce to petition for the funds by offering an amendment to SB 1449 in a conference committee today. It passed committee, despite vehement protests from Democratic members. Both the House and Senate likely will vote on the measure tomorrow.

“This is dirty dealing. We didn’t get a copy of this amendment until moments before the conference committee met,” Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Maryvale (District 13), said. “There was no public input. In fact, when people in the gallery stood to ask questions, they were tossed out. There are no words to adequately describe how egregious this political maneuvering is - nauseating might come close.”

Biggs said the amendment seeks to set up a “framework” for Pearce and other recalled candidates to petition for reimbursement. There is nothing in the language of the amendment that would require Pearce to use the money to pay back campaign donors.

“This is crazy,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), said. “Pearce didn’t even pay for the recall election campaign himself. We’ve looked through his campaign expense reports, most of his donations were from individuals and from political action committees. So taxpayers are just supposed to write him a check?”

The amendment is retroactive to the date of the Pearce recall election, a strong indication that, despite assurances to the contrary, the amendment was designed to give Pearce a payout.

“The Tea Party is so out of touch with what is really important to the people of Arizona,” Campbell said. “If they think they are going to have an easy time passing a bill to line Russell Pearce’s pockets while thousands of Arizona children are still without heath care because Republicans refused to fund KidsCare, they are mistaken. They are going to have a lot to explain to the voters.”

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