#1: Joe Arpaio
Defending the conditions at the Maricopa County prisons, Arpaio has publicly stated that his jails are meant as places for punishment, and that their inhabitants are all criminals.
So is Joe Arpaio.
The practice of most political instigators is to incite conflict, then try to quickly wash their hands of it and play the victim. Arpaio, on the other hand, has entertained genuinely criminal elements firsthand.
A federal judge ruled that the Maricopa County jails violated the constitutional rights of inmates twice, first in 2008, then again in 2010,
Federal Judge Neil V. Wake ruled in 2008, and again in 2010, that the Maricopa County jails violated the constitutional rights of inmates in medical and other care related issues, citing rotten food and denial of critical healthcare among many other violations.
Arpaio defended these conditions with the aforementioned assertion that they were criminals, even though most of the inmates were pre-trial detainees who are considered innocent until proven guilty.
Arpaio continued his patterns of abuse and defiance by responding to allegations of prison overcrowding by opening up his "Tent City," which Arpaio himself described as a concentration camp, and where, in early July of 2011, inmates reported that temperatures grew so hot that their shoes were melting.
Not that the way Arpaio treats prisoners is all that different from the way he treats normal citizens.
On December 15, 2011, the Justice Department released their findings after a 3-year investigation of Arpaio's office amid complaints of racial profiling and a culture of bias at the agency's top level. The report stated that under Arpaio, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has "a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos" that "reaches the highest levels of the agency."
Two years earlier, Arpaio had held a press conference to announce that he would not cooperate with the investigation, forcing the Department of Justice to file suit against Arpaio. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department stated that this is the first time the Justice Department has sued to compel access to documents and facilities.
In addition to unfairly targeting Latinos, Arpaio also came under fire for failure to protect them.
During a three-year period ending in 2007, more than 400 sex-crimes reported to Arpaio's office were inadequately investigated, or not investigated at all, including 32 reports of child molestation. Many of the victims in these cases were children of illegal immigrants.
Why would Joe Arpaio overcompensate in his treatment of criminals and yet at the same time so routinely fail to prosecute them?
It's simple: Because Arpaio is a criminal himself.
In 1999, undercover MCSO deputies arrested James Saville, then 18, and charged him with plotting to kill Arpaio with a pipe bomb, which was broadcast that evening by a local television station that had been tipped off to the arrest by the MCSO.
Shortly after the arrest, the MCSO held a press conference, at which Arpaio said "If they think they are going to scare me away with bombs and everything else, it's not going to bother me."
After spending four years in jail awaiting trial, Saville was acquitted by a Maricopa County Superior Court jury, which found that Arpaio's detectives had helped buy the bomb parts themselves and had entrapped Saville as part of a publicity stunt.
In July 2010, the Campaign to Re-Elect Joe Arpaio 2012 was found in violation of Arizona's election law for distributing fliers critical of Rick Romley, a candidate in the Republican Primary for Maricopa County Attorney, and Arizona Attorney General candidate Tom Horne. Arpaio's campaign was fined $153,978 in the matter.
An analysis by the Maricopa County Office of Management and Budget, completed in April 2011, found Arpaio had misspent almost $100 million over the previous 5 years.
Arpaio also faced allegations of misuse of funds received from the sale of his pink underwear products. Arpaio declined to provide accounting for the money.
Finally, Arpaio earns his position as the #1 elected instigator because he has even practiced corruption when responding to criticism.
In February 2010, Judge John Leonardo found that Arpaio "misused the power of his office to target members of the (Board of Supervisors) for criminal investigation".
Arpaio was investigated for politically motivated and "bogus" prosecutions, which a former US Attorney called "utterly unacceptable."
Some targets from Arpaio's "long list" of victims of alleged abuse of power include:
- Phil Gordon, Phoenix Mayor
- Dan Saban, Arpaio's 2004 and 2008 political opponent
- Terry Goddard, Arizona Attorney General
- David Smith, Maricopa County Manager
- The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors
- Barbara Mundell, Maricopa Superior Court Presiding Judge
- Anna Baca, former Maricopa Superior Court Presiding Judge
- Gary Donahoe, Maricopa Superior Court Criminal Presiding Judge
- Daniel Pochoda, ACLU attorney
- Sandra Dowling, former Maricopa County School Superintendent
- Mike Lacey, Editor for the Phoenix New Times
So far, the only person to be successfully prosecuted is Sandra Dowling, who was indicted on twenty-five felony counts but would up only pleading guilty to a single class-2 misdemeanor (Downing has since filed suit).
Arpaio has even targeted the presidency with frivolous investigations and false accusations.
Following the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, Arpaio held a press conference to declare that he, along with members of his volunteer posse (the same people responsible for the Steven Seagal fiasco) had determined that the birth certificate was a "computer-generated forgery."
Much as was said of Wayne LaPierre, BTV's #1 most wanted infotainment instigator, Arpaio warrants the spot as the #1 most wanted elected instigator because he isn't just a panderer or a blowhard. Arpaio is dangerous; the unholy union of a wannabe cowboy and a defiant child, who believes his badge gives him the right to do whatever the hell he wants and to destroy anyone who dares to get in his way.
And if that is not deserving, not only of being the #1 most wanted elected instigator, but the #1 most wanted instigator of any variety (yes, even more so than Wayne LaPierre), I don't know what is.