House Judiciary Cuffs Joe Arpaio, The Most Abusive Sheriff In America

You have probably heard of the shamelessly self professed "Toughest Sheriff in America", Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. For years he has been making a PR spectacle of himself, all the while running an unconstitutionally deplorable jail system, letting inmates die under tortuous conditions, and violating the civil rights and liberties of everybody in sight, especially minorities. Today, the House Judiciary Committee made public a critical and public step to rein in the Most Abusive Sheriff In America.

From the HJC press release:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), and Immigration Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Constitution Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Crime Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) called on Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to investigate allegations of misconduct by Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Sheriff Arpaio has repeatedly demonstrated disregard for the rights of Hispanics in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Under the guise of immigration enforcement, his staff has conducted raids in residential neighborhoods in a manner condemned by the community as racial profiling. On February 4, 2009, Arpaio invited the media to view the transfer of immigrant detainees to a segregated area of his "tent city" jail, subjecting the detainees to public display and "ritual humiliation." Persistent actions such as these have resulted in numerous lawsuits; while Arpaio spends time and energy on publicity and his reality television show, "Smile… You’re Under Arrest!", Maricopa County has paid millions of dollars in settlements involving dead or injured inmates.

It is time for the federal government to step in and uphold the rule of law in this country, even in Maricopa County."

"Law enforcement is not a game or a reality show, it is a public trust," said Scott. "There is no excuse for callous indifference to the rights of the residents of Arizona, whether in their neighborhoods or as pretrial detainees."

The full official text of the letter to Napolitano and Holder is here.

It is high time that somebody on the national scene notice, and the Federal government take action on, the egregious and violative conduct of Joe Arpaio.

Joe Arpaio is a two bit carnival barker and huckster, not a dedicated law enforcement official. The opportunistic man came into office running against a fellow Republican and incumbent Maricopa County Sheriff, Tom Agnos, by bad mouthing Agnos and arguing that the entire Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department needed Read more

People Might LIKE Haggis, But They Don’t Want to Eat It

Normally, I leave the off-season Senate race tracking to the Senate Guru. But he points to a wacky poll on Arlen "Scottish Haggis" Specter that I thought worth sharing.

Pennsylvania voters approve 56 – 30 percent of the job Sen. Arlen Specter is doing, with Democratic approval at 62 – 26 percent, higher than the Republican support of 55 – 33 percent and 49 – 35 percent backing from independent voters.

But by a narrow 43 – 40 percent margin, voters say Sen. Specter does not deserve to be reelected. Republicans split 42 – 42 percent, as do Democrats 41 – 42 percent, while independent voters say no 45 – 36 percent.

"Pennsylvania voters are sharply divided over whether Sen. Arlen Specter should be reelected next year, with Republicans almost as negative as Democrats, probably because the GOP Senator is one of only three from the party supporting President Barack Obama’s Stimulus Package," Richards said.

"But Specter always has been politically controversial and has needed votes from both parties to stay in office."

So Pennsylvanians like their "offal" Senator (I just know I’m going to catch heat from my PA relatives for that), but they don’t necessarily want him re-elected. Specifically, Democrats approve of Specter, as do Republicans (but much less so).

Most interesting, though, this archetypal representative of the mushy middle really doesn’t excite Independents–precisely the group that such mushy middle-dom is supposed to entice. 

What would David Broder say?


I avoided today’s debate on the simulus package (I shouldn’t have, because real Dems actually spoke, unlike last night, but I had to make an apple pie for mr. ew). But both in last night’s "debate" and the media today, it’s clear Republicans are pushing one meme above all others.

In spite of the fact that this bill was heavily crafted by Susan Collins, has the support of Arlen "Scottish Haggis" Specter, and probably Olympia Snowe, Republicans claim, it’s not a bipartisan bill. Whereas having Sanctimonious Joe vote with Republicans two years ago qualified as a bipartisan bill, this one doesn’t because, they say, they were locked out of the room where this was crafted. (In reality, a bunch of "moderates" left on their own accord, but truth is not a Republican strong point.)

But that’s not the most offensive part of their claim that this is not a bipartisan bill. AFAIK, Tom Coburn’s amendment remains a part of this bill, which basically prohibits these funds from going to support things like museums and parks.

Tom Fricking Coburn, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, has contributed to this bill. But that doesn’t qualify it as a bipartisan bill, for these fuckers.

And that’s not all. As Lithium Cola points out, using the work of Haley Edwards, the reason the Senate had to cut education and funds for states and Head Start is because Chuck Grassley insisted on putting the annual patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax in this stimulus package.

Haley Edwards at the Columbia Journalism Review points out a big part of why the Senate version of stimulus bill was more expensive than the House version and so "needed" to be cut back by scrapping projects to build schools and so on. The House version didn’t include the standard annual modification of the Alternative Minimum Tax, and the Senate version does.

But why, you might ask, is the Senate package so much more expensive than the House bill?

It’s got much to do with a single $64 billion tax cut benefitting the wealthiest 20 percent of Americans—a fact that was largely buried in reporting about the squabbling over which spending programs to cut.

Haley adds, "that’s one of the reasons why the House’s stimulus measure seemed to be $80 billion dollars cheaper than the Senate’s. It was really only about $30 billion cheaper—after you subtract the $64 billion revenue loss that happens every year when lawmakers curtail the scope of the AMT."

This raises an interesting question. Read more

Feingold Sez: No More Clusterfuck Senate Appointment Processes

Talk about a good way to capture the sentiment of a lot of fed up people:

Feingold to Introduce Constitutional Amendment Ending Gubernatorial Appointments to Senate Vacancies 

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, issued the following statement today on plans to introduce an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to end appointments to the Senate by state governors and require special elections in the event of a Senate seat vacancy.

The controversies surrounding some of the recent gubernatorial appointments to vacant Senate seats make it painfully clear that such appointments are an anachronism that must end.  In 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution gave the citizens of this country the power to finally elect their senators.  They should have the same power in the case of unexpected mid term vacancies, so that the Senate is as responsive as possible to the will of the people.  I plan to introduce a constitutional amendment this week to require special elections when a Senate seat is vacant, as the Constitution mandates for the House, and as my own state of Wisconsin already requires by statute.  As the Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee, I will hold a hearing on this important topic soon.

The Reid/Durbin Fabrication On Burris

burris1thumbnail.thumbnail.jpgBy now you know how poorly Harry Reid and Dick Durbin have played their aces and eights hand on the Roland Burris appointment to Barack Obama’s former Senate seat. Reid and Durbin went all in with their chips on the Illinois Secretary of State and, predictably, lost their pleated dandy shirts.

Illinois law and the Constitution have always been contra to Reid and Durbin’s intransigence on Burris, but the disingenuous duo have always fallen back on their precious ancient Senate Rule II. They have steadfastly portrayed themselves as honorable protectors of the high ground of ethics, and citizens and the rubes in the media have bought off on it. To wit, Durbin grandly proclaimed late Friday:

…the Senate seat could remain vacant until Blagojevich is removed from office and the lieutenant governor takes over, making a fresh appointment.

He said the Senate cannot waive a 125-year-old rule requiring the signatures of both the governor and the secretary of state on any election or appointment.

Now, it is hard to tell whether these lustrous paragons of virtue are being intentionally dishonest, or are simply tragically ignorant of the questionable foundation of the argument they rely on. But it is one or the other. First off, as Jane pointed out Friday,

the 1884 Senate rule Durbin and Reid rely on was promulgated before the passage of the 17th Amendment as well as before the Supreme Court decision in Powell v McCormack. Reid and Durbin are duplicitous in thinking their antiquated Senate rule trumps the official selection pursuant to the 17th Amendment and Illinois statutory law.

So, there is that. But, guess what? After all this, it turns out the vaunted Senate Rule II isn’t even the bright line mandate they have been stating. In fact, Senate Rule II is simply an antiquated suggestion for a document template. While subparagraph 2 of Rule II mandates that the Secretary of the Senate keep a journal of all certificates signed by the governor and secretary of state of the appointing electing and/or appointing state for each Senator, the operative language on the form of the certificate is, contrary to what Reid and Durbin have been stating, not mandatory in the least. From the official Senate Rules:

3. The Secretary of the Senate shall send copies of the following recommended forms to the governor and secretary of state of each State wherein an election is about to take place or Read more

The Constitution and Roland Burris

USA Today relates that Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats have, predictably, caved:

Senate Democrats will allow Roland Burris to take the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, the Associated Press reports.

this has been an Emptywheel Breaking News Update. Now back to your previously scheduled programming, er post, which describes exactly why Reid, Obama and the Senate Dems have engaged in one of the worst opening acts for an incoming US Congress ever. Fools on the Hill they are.

Roland Burris went to the hill in Washington DC Tuesday to claim the Senate seat he has been appointed to; but, as Jane Hamsher reports:

The Secretary of the Senate turned Burris away.

Chris Cilizza is on my teevee saying "everything in the Senate is like high school."

No kidding. The optics of this are just awful.

Harry Reid and Senate Democrats, not to mention Barack Obama, have indeed ginned up an extremely ugly mess with their anti-Burris, at all cost, stance; but, as I have been pointing out from the start (see here and here), their little passion play is also unconstitutional. Preeminent Constitutional scholars Bruce Fein and Erwin Chemerinsky agree.

Many people have argued that the Constitution, specifically Article I Section 5, gives Reid, Obama and the Senate Dems the leeway they need to exclude Burris. Not so fast says Fein:

In Powell v. McCormack (1969), the United States Supreme Court held that under Article 1, section 5, "in judging the qualifications of its members, Congress is limited to the standing qualifications [age, citizenship and residency] prescribed in the Constitution." The court made no distinction between representatives and senators, or between elected or appointed members of Congress. Speaking for the court, Chief Justice Earl Warren (whom President-elect Barack Obama admires) amplified that James Madison, father of the Constitution, and Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, were emphatic that Congress could not erect qualifications beyond the constitutional floor. Madison argued at the Constitutional Convention that it would be "an improper and dangerous power in the Legislature. The qualifications of electors and elected were fundamental articles in a Republican Gov’t and ought to be fixed by the Constitution. If the Legislature could regulate those of either, it can by degrees subvert the Constitution." Hamilton echoed: "The qualifications of the persons who may choose or be chosen … are defined and fixed in the Constitution, and are unalterable by the legislature."

I know nothing of Roland Burris, in fact had never heard of him prior to this affair. I wish the vacancy of Illinois’ junior Senate seat could have been resolved much more cleanly, but Fein, and the authorities he cites, are dead on correct.

Oh, and Bruce has a bit to say about Harry Reid’s charade Tuesday morning wherein he had the Secretary of the Senate deny Burris’ credentials:

Democrats plan to exclude Mr. Burris by enforcing a rule requiring that credentials presented by Read more

Reid On Tape Manipulating Illinois Senate Seat Before Blago's Arrest

Thursday I described The Ugly Legal Optics Of Harry Reid’s Burris Battle. There is a new cloud dimming the already ugly optics. An article that just hit the website of the Chicago Sun Times reports Harry Reid already had his heavy ham fisted hand deep in Illinois state politics well before Blagojevich was arrested:

Days before Gov. Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid made it clear who he didn’t want in the post: Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones.

Rather, Reid called Blagojevich to argue he appoint either state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Sources say the Senate majority leader pushed against Jackson and Davis — both democratic congressmen from Illinois — and against Jones — the Illinois Senate president who is the political godfather of President-elect Barack Obama — because he did not believe the three men were electable. He feared losing the seat to a Republican in a future election.

This is certainly a stunningly rich development from about every perspective imaginable. Harry Reid has threatened to use the Capitol Police to forcefully haul Roland Burris off the Senate floor should he try to enter because he feels Burris is tainted by Blagojevich’s shady machinations of the open Senate seat. Only it turns out that Reid is the one smack in the middle of Blago’s machinations, not Burris. And it would appear he is on Pat Fitzgerald’s wiretaps doing so.

Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero confirmed that Reid (D-Nev.) and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — the new chief of the Senate Democratic political operation — each called Blagojevich’s campaign office separately Dec. 3. Sources believe that at least portions of the phone conversations are on tape.

Before their contacts, Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called Blagojevich to tell him to expect to hear from Senate leadership because they were pushing against Jackson and others, according to statements the governor made to others.

The Reid-Menendez calls came a day before a Dec. 4 conversation overheard on government wiretaps where Blagojevich says he “was getting ‘a lot of pressure’ not to appoint Candidate 5.” Candidate 5 is Jackson.

Did I mention that this is a nightmare from every available tangent? Not only is Harry Reid on tape with his finger stuck in the Illinois state pie, we now have Rahm Emanuel, the President-Elect’s Chief of Staff, running flak for Reid’s heavy handed interposition. Now it is certainly understandable that Emanuel and his boss, Obama, would have interest in Obama’s former Senate seat; but, again, the appearance here is unseemly at best.

That said, the main story for the moment is Harry Reid and the Senate leadership. There is no basis for believing Harry Reid is a racist, or that his actions here are particularly racially motivated, but it is no longer possible to dismiss the overtones that the picture must be starting to paint for some African American citizens in Illinois. Reid has been steadfastly determined to block the appointment of three black elected politicians – Emil Jones, Danny Davis and Jesse Jackson, Jr. because they are supposedly "not electable"; in favor of a white woman, Tammy Duckworth who has, you know, been previously found unelectable by the voters of Illinois. Or another white woman, Lisa Madigan, who managed to get elected mostly on the coattails of her powerful Chicago machine daddy. Lovely; what a picture that paints.

Oh, and now that nice gentlemanly 71 year old Roland Burris, another black man, who has previously been elected to statewide office in Illinois, can’t be permitted in the hallowed Senate doors either. George Wallace must be laughing his butt off at Reid’s bad optics and unseemly folly. And this is all occurring over the seat of the only black man in the lilly white United States Senate that was just vacated by the groundbreaking President-Elect Barack Obama. Malignant idiocy abounds.

Harry Reid will be the featured guest on Meet the Press Sunday morning. Jane Hamsher has already raised the curious difference between how Reid Read more

The Ugly Legal Optics Of Harry Reid's Burris Battle

Earlier this morning, Jane wrote a fantastic post, "Burris and Blago: What Happens Now?", that lays out most all of the concerns with the obstreperous position taken by Harry Reid and the Democratic leadership. I would like to follow up on a couple of legal points inherent in the discussion.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White: As you have probably heard, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has refused to certify Blagojevich’s appointment of Roland Burris. The problem I see with this is that there is no legal basis whatsoever for SoS White’s conduct in this regard.

White appears to be abrogating Illinois law all by himself, and he simply does not have the power to do that. Signing the certification is a ministerial act, not an established right of veto. The decision on who to appoint is the governor’s and the governor’s alone under Illinois law; there is no power promulgated for the SoS to have decision making authority. If White can simply refuse to sign the certification, and that stops the process in it’s tracks, he would have unmitigated veto power over the appointment. He does not.

Burris has obviously figured this out and has brought action demanding the Secretary of State endorse the certification.

Burris’s lawyers argued that White’s duties are strictly ministerial and that he doesn’t have the discretion to withhold his certification of Blagojevich’s selection.

“Any additional state requirement that Roland Burris must seek or obtain approval of the secretary of state to qualify as U.S. senator would be unconstitutional,” Wright said in the filing.

Whether you like Burris or not, whether you despise Blagojevich or not, Burris has now been duly appointed by a sitting governor; his appointment, absent evidence to the contrary, is valid on its face. White should sign the certification forthwith, refusal to do so is outside of his authority and is costing the citizens of Illinois valuable court time, resources and money; effectively a breach of White’s fiduciary duty to the state.

Harry Reid has lobbied against Illinois having a special election to fill Obama’s Senate seat, which they could easily hold concurrent with the election they will be forced by law to have for Rahm Emanuel’s open seat in Illinois’ 5th district. Reid is likely personally responsible for there being no opportunity for the public to vote on the next Read more

Rahm and “that 5th CD Thing”

At his shiny new shack out back of the Big Orange Satan, Kagro X links to this article describing how Rahm is uninvolved (publicly at least) in the fight to replace him.

Rahm Emanuel’s role in attempting to influence Gov. Blagojevich’s choice of a U.S. Senate replacement for President-elect Barack Obama could impact the heated race to fill another important vacancy: Emanuel’s own seat in Congress.

Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), Mayor Daley’s unofficial City Council floor leader, had hoped to emerge from the crowded field of candidates in the 5th Congressional District by winning Daley’s support and by persuading Emanuel to use his formidable powers of persuasion to clear the field.

But now that the Chicago Sun-Times has lifted the veil on Emanuel’s efforts to persuade Blagojevich to appoint Obama family friend Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate, Emanuel has — as one veteran ward boss put it — "gone underground."

The new White House chief of staff is reluctant to get involved in the 5th District race, which has attracted more than two dozen candidates.

Of course, the Sun-Times presents this as a reaction to the news that Rahm was involved in discussions over Obama’s seat.

But I would suggest that it’s one more piece of evidence that suggests Rahm was involved in discussions–real or imagined–over his own seat.

After all, aside from calling the Special Election, Blago is not involved in this election: Richard Daley is the kingmaker here, not Blago. So why would Rahm’s involvement in discussions about the Senate seat prevent him from getting involved in discussions about his own seat?

As I’ve discussed, there’s evidence that Rahm and Blago (or Rahm and Blago’s flunkies) talked about more than the Senate seat.  The only mention of Rahm in the complaint, after all, includes this passage:

On November 13, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with JOHN HARRIS. ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he wanted to be able to call “[President-elect Advisor]” and tell President-elect Advisor that “this has nothing to do with anything else we’re working on but the Governor wants to put together a 501(c)(4)” and “can you guys help him. . . raise 10, 15 million.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he wanted “[President-elect Advisor] to get the word today,” and that when “he asks me for the Fifth CD thing I want it to be in his head.” Read more

Bob Corker’s Chumps in the Senate

I’d like to second a point Trapper John just made at the Great Orange Satan. Senate Democrats have no business hailing Bob Corker’s bad faith claim to broker a compromise on Thursday night.

Let’s make this very plain.  Bob Corker just led the charge to kill the American auto industry, and with it some 10% of the American economy, because he wasn’t allowed to bust the UAW.  As such, Bob Corker is definitionally one of the most traitorous and despicable human beings ever to track slime across the floors of the Senate. He is attempting to take advantage of the financial crisis to literally dismantle the American middle class. He is beneath the contempt with which partisans regard even their most radical and craven domestic political opponents.  And to see three of the most prominent leaders of the party that portrays itself as the party of working Americans line up to commend this sanctimonious puppet of big money, this enemy of working Americans . . . well, it’s disgusting.  There’s really no other word for it.

I’d add one thing to Trapper’s post. Trapper is right that Corker should not be celebrated because of the way he attacked the notion that our workers ought to be able to sustain a middle class life.

Also, Democratic Senators ought to be a little more skeptical about Corker’s alleged good faith when considering his actions on Thursday.

As I pointed out the other night, Corker demanded that workers make date-certain concessions, without making the same demands of the other parties: the bond-holders in particular.

But since Thursday, it has become increasingly clear that the bond-holders appear to be the only other stake-holder Corker was demanding real concessions from. In the statements I’ve seen him make, for example, I don’t think I’ve ever heard him ask for concessions from dealers. Take his description of negotiations on Fox yesterday.

We began a process by first getting the bondholders to take $0.30 on the dollar, a $0.70 haircut. That had to happen first by March 15 and if it didn’t…

WALLACE: And they agreed to that.

CORKER: They have agreed – they got – yes. They have agreed that if they don’t get there, the company has to file bankruptcy.

So General Motors was at the table, Chrysler was at the table, Ford was at the table. They were in the ante room. They agreed to that.

Read more