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Scratch An Arizona Bigot, And Underneath Is An Old-fashioned Corrupt Politician

Sure, we've known for awhile that, after Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Arizona's most prominent Latino-bashing bigot is none other than Republican Senate President Russell Pearce. If the authorship of SB1070 and the footsie games with neo-Nazis weren't


Sure, we've known for awhile that, after Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Arizona's most prominent Latino-bashing bigot is none other than Republican Senate President Russell Pearce. If the authorship of SB1070 and the footsie games with neo-Nazis weren't enough, then the failed campaign to strip Latino children of their birthright citizenship pretty much sealed the deal.

Somehow, it figures that he'd turn out to be corrupt as hell too.

I've covered politicos like Pearce for many years, and if there's one thing I've learned about far-right nutcases who operate in the political realm, it's this: Most of them are deeply corrupt, and it's never too long before their criminal side comes bubbling to the surface. Guys like Pearce and Arpaio love to play the knee-jerk wrap-yourself-in-a-patriotic-flag game because they know it's terrific cover: Most right-wing True Believers would rather crap themselves than ever admit that one of their heroes had ever done anything corrupt or otherwise broken the law.

So it's with a sense of delicious irony that we've been watching the Fiesta Bowl scandal unfold down Arizona -- not just watching the corrupt pig who ran the bowl's organizing committee, John Junker, go down in flames and the bowl itself stand in danger of losing its BCS standing, but also realizing that one of the key players in the unfolding fiasco was none other than our old friend Pearce:

In 2005, state lawmakers led by then state Rep. Russell Pearce, now Senate president, passed legislation that capped championship game expenses for the Fiesta Bowl organizations and left taxpayers on the hook for anything over that limit. As a result, the state provided a $263,000 subsidy to the bowl through the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, which manages the stadium where the game took place. That helped limit the Fiesta Bowl's expenses.

In 2006, the non-profit that manages the Insight Bowl cut an agreement with Tempe, the bowl's new host city, to receive amounts ranging from $750,000 to $900,000 a year through 2013. In 2007, the non-profit that manages the BCS Championship Game received $34,500 and the Fiesta Bowl got $10,000 in unspecified government grants, according to tax returns.

Last year Fiesta Bowl officials sought another $300,000 subsidy that was halted only after the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, which has sued the Fiesta Bowl over unpaid bills, balked at the deal.

At the time, Pearce defended the subsidy, contained in a bill he sponsored, as a way to keep the Fiesta Bowl in the national championship rotation.

The Fiesta Bowl investigation identified Pearce as one of the state legislators who received tickets and traveled at Fiesta Bowl expense. On Friday, however, Pearce denied that he ever accepted free tickets and said he was "very disappointed" in bowl officials' activities.

An ethics inquiry has been launched. Pearce, of course, denies any wrongdoing and claims he paid for the tickets -- though, apparently, this is news to the Fiesta folks:

Pearce had been mostly silent on his involvement until Friday, when he told The Republic that he had paid for his tickets and that he was "very disappointed" in the bowl and its activities.

Asked when he paid for his tickets, Pearce said: "Immediately, at the time."

But Pearce's comments conflict with a portion of the report that states Fiesta Bowl employees paid for, and then were reimbursed by the bowl for, non-Fiesta Bowl tickets given to Pearce in 2007 and 2008.

The report makes no mention of Pearce or other politicians paying for the tickets. It states that the "Fiesta Bowl would sometimes provide items of value to certain politicians."

And it says that bowl employees told investigators that the bowl was not reimbursed for some tickets given to Pearce and Rep. Ben Arredondo, a Democrat.

And this was the guy who, as columnist Laurie Roberts observes, only last year was declaring: " 'We the people' must hold elected officials accountable if they refuse to enforce our laws."

You'll notice he said nothing about elected officials who refuse to obey the laws.

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