Arizona Senator Recalled over ALEC Immigration Bill

Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce lost his seat in a recall election November 8th. The vote was widely seen as a referendum on Senate Bill 1070, the volatile anti-immigration legislation introduced by Pearce, a longtime member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The unofficial vote shows Pearce trailing his main challenger by 7 percentage points, 45 percent to 52 percent. The apparent victor, newcomer Jerry Lewis, is a conservative Republican like Pearce but campaigned against Pearce's anti-immigration law.

Pearce's SB1070 was modeled after the ALEC "No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act," which requires state law enforcement enforce federal immigration law, gives private citizens the right to sue law enforcement officers if they do not think the law is being enforced (regardless of other law enforcement priorities such as investigating violent crimes), makes presence on state soil without federal immigration status a criminal offense, and requires that employers use the flawed "e-Verify" system for hiring employees.

The bill was approved by an ALEC task force that included the Corrections Corporation of America and
the American Bail Coalition, both of which stand to benefit from an increase in immigrant detention and imprisonment.  (CCA claims it did not "vote" on the bill in the task force it has been a member of for years and previously co-chaired; it claims it merely observed task force meetings.  CCA was listed as a member of that ALEC Task Force, with its representative featured on the ALEC task force discussion, until late last year.)

The legislation passed in 2010, but its most offensive provisions have been thrown out by a federal court. The case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Referendum on Immigration Legislation

The recall election largely revolved around SB1070, because on most other issues, Pearce and Lewis agreed. Lewis compared Arizona to Alabama in 1964 in a recent debate, noting the boycotts inspired by the anti-immigration law have harmed Arizona's business climate. Lewis said Arizona needs a leader who can address issues facing the state without "fear-mongering and political rhetoric" and expressed interest in working with the federal government on a comprehensive immigration solution.

Lewis' victory was seen as sending a message to GOP leadership that anti-immigrant rhetoric is not a winning issue. Republican lobbyist and political analyst Christ Herstam told the Associated Press, "the [Arizona] Legislature remains extremely conservative but with regards to making illegal immigration their top priority, this should be a warning shot across the bow."

Spoiler Candidate Tactic Backfires

It also appeared the Pearce campaign tried to rig the election in his favor by running a "spoiler" candidate, political neophyte Olivia Cortes, in an attempt to siphon Hispanic votes from Lewis. Cortes pulled out of the race in October after court proceedings revealed that Pearce's Tea Party supporters (and perhaps Pearce's nieces) helped gather signatures to put her on the ballot. The controversy likely worked in Lewis' favor. Despite stepping down from the race, robocalls in the week leading up to the election encouraged voters to cast ballots for Cortes, and she actually pulled 1.3% of the votes.

This spoiler tactic was also used in Wisconsin State Senate recalls last summer. GOP Senators recruited supporters to run as Democrats, forcing a primary and giving Senators facing recall an additional four weeks to raise money and more time for outside interest groups to bombard districts with mailings and advertisements.

Clean Government also at Issue

Immigrant rights groups led the recall effort, gathering 17,000 signatures to put Pearce's name on the ballot. But there were other significant issues in the campaign, including allegations that Pearce was too cozy with donors and lobbyists. Lewis ran on a no-gifts pledge, criticizing Pearce for receiving nearly $40,000 in free trips, hotels, and game tickets from college football's Fiesta Bowl organizers. Pearce also has received a decade's worth of contributions from the private prison industry.

Pearce used these special interest connections to outraise his opponent by a 3:1 margin, most of it from outside his district. The now-former Senator painted the recall against him as the work of outsiders, but ninety percent of Lewis' fundraising came from Arizonans. Contributions to Pearce from inside Arizona included the legal maximum from two lobbyists for consulting firms that represent the GEO group private prison corporation, as well as money from a lobbyist for the Corrections Corporation of America.

Additionally, most of the independent expenditures went to benefit Pearce, with the D.C.-based American Federation for Children spending the most out of all the independent groups. AFC is a longtime ALEC member that supports school privatization and is chaired by right-wing funder Betsy DeVos.

The flood of money in Pearce's favor, though, was not enough to overcome grassroots organizing against him. For some of his constituents, Pearce's connection to special interests was a motivating force in the recall.

Linda Brown, Director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, told CMD that "the campaign had everything to do with a corrupt politician, ALEC's darling, acting with contempt for his constituents in favor of his monied masters." Brown said "the voters of Legislative District 18 are very religious and very conservative," but that "once they heard that [Pearce] had taken one third of the Fiesta Bowl pay-to-play money, turned his back on education and children, and enjoyed comfy skyboxes at bowl games, they'd heard enough."


THIS ISSUE IS ABOUT ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION, NOT LEGAL. THIS IS NOT ABOUT RACE, AN INDIVIDUALS RELIGION, IT’S ABOUT THE ‘RULE OF LAW’ AND 20 MILLION PLUS INVADERS, THE COSTS TO TAXPAYERS IN EVER GROWING DOLLARS. ENORMOUS PROFITS, POWER AND INFLUENCE! LIBERAL PROGRESSIVES ARE ULTRA SOCIALISTS. BOTH PARTIES HAVE FORGOTTEN, THEY WORK FOR AMERICANS—NOT FUGITIVES FROM ICE. Stop the assault on our nation for Democrats to grab votes, as they intentionally remain deaf, dumb and blind to illegal aliens voting or even aiding them. ACORN is a good example, of fraudulent registrations, absentee ballot applications and the ‘Motor Voter’ forms. Each of us should wonder how many illegal aliens breached the Arizona’s voting code, to recall state senator Russell Pierce. Under this Jerry Brown the doors will be left wide open at the border and the poverty-stricken people will cripple our countries welfare system, public schools and hospitals. With a very large percentage of foreign nationals settled in that border state, it would be easy to compromise the lax voting restrictions? Anybody with a computer and color printer could fool the officials, with two pieces of paper as a forged utility or phone bill, with a name and address on it. Furthermore stop Republicans selling our country to the special interest lobbyists on ‘K’ Street for campaign contributions and lucrative perks. The NumbersUSA web site for the real facts. • March to 100 Cosponsors of Chairman Smith's Legal Workforce Act! Keep up the bombardment. IT’S WORKING! Contact the ‘Ways and Means Committee led by Majority Speak John Boehner (R-OH) must adopt the Mandatory E-Verify Bill (H.R. 2885.) and should be under interminable shrapnel of challenging voters, as never before. Reps. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), Tim Johnson (R-Ill.), Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) and Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and as of yesterday Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) is now co-sponsoring House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith's Legal Workforce Act (H.R.2885.) New members are swiftly joining this epic bill. But don’t expect Liberals or career Democrats to attach themselves to this law. Eventually it will be the fresh faces of the TEA PARTY leadership that will bring success. • Smith's Legal Workforce Act (H.R.2885) would require 100% of companies—large and small-- to use E-Verify for all new hires within 2 years. This bill would also require all federal, state, and local agencies as well as federal and state contractors/ sub-contractors and critical infrastructure sites to use E-Verify within 6 months. • Require federal, state, and local agencies to run its entire workforce through E-Verify • Allow private business to check all current employees through E-Verify • Increase employer penalties and fines for knowingly hiring illegal alien workers • Require the Social Security Administration to send no-match letters to employers if a current employee's name and social security number don't match in their system • Require the Social Security Administration to notify owners of a Social Security number if their number is used multiple times. Time is the essence when 16 foreign governments are trying to imposing their influence on the Obama administration and our courts. This will not be allowed under a TEA PARTY CONGRESS. ONE THING IS ABSOLUTELY SURE; THERE WILL NOT BE ANY AMNESTY UNDER AN OVERRIDING TEA PARTY CONGRESS. What would the Legal Workforce Act do for your state? FIND OUT—by investigating facts at the website. This pro-sovereignty organization that is passing 1 million memberships and counting has free faxing to Washington. YOU HAVE A CHOICE AS A VOTER OR LEGAL IMMIGRANT TO BREAK THE SCOURGE OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION—THE CHAIN MIGRATION, THE INSTANT BABY CITIZENSHIP, SANCTUARY CITIES AND STATES, AS WITH CALIFORNIA AND NEVADA AND AMNESTY DREAM ACTS. ALL CONSUME OVER A HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR. THIS MONEY SHOULD NOT BE SPENT ON CRIMINAL FUGITIVES BUT ON OUR OWN PEOPLE LIVING IN POVERTY? The Legal Workforce Act could open up jobs currently held by illegal aliens. GET ON THESE LAWMAKERS CASES IMMEDIATELY—Call this number at the Washington Switchboard 202-224-3121. Businesses in dairy and farming and many other occupations, need to look at what their paying. Before blaming Americans as jobs are going unfilled, and then begin adding fair wages and conditions to the payroll. Stop passing the buck of illegal alien children to public schools and depositing injured or sick workers in emergency rooms, for taxpayers to carry the burden. For decades businesses in agriculture, dairy, food processing industries have not only been using low priced labor, but collecting huge subsidies from an inept governments; it’s over. WANT WORKERS—PAY A LIVING WAGE! Smith's Legal Workforce Act (H.R.2885), in order to get it to the House floor for a vote it needs more cosponsors. Chairman Smith's bill isn't being viewed at all that urgent; IT IS EXTREMELY URGENT but it's behind a long list of other bills that will fill up this year's calendar for floor action.