10.01.2008 0

Politics as Usual?

  • On: 10/08/2008 11:30:06
  • In: Government Transparency
  • What do you call it when heavy-handed “friends” threaten to skim off vast sums of “contributions” from wealthy businesses in exchange for “protecting” the company from “falling into harm’s way”? If you’re a part of Big Government, you might call it “politics as usual.” In reality, it is extortion.

    And that, in sum, is basically what Governor Janet Napolitano recently did in one of the most boldfaced and bare-fisted extortion rackets in Arizona history. According to the East Valley Tribune:

    “Gov. Janet Napolitano eliminated key elements of a major transportation [ballot] initiative this week, agreeing not to tax homebuilders in exchange for their support and $100,000 to kick-start the campaign.

    “In a secret deal, developers agreed to back the plan for an ambitious statewide transportation measure that will raise the state sales tax by 1 penny [for every dollar spent].

    “Napolitano eliminated provisions requiring developers to pay part of the $42 billion plan to finance freeways, trains, buses and other transportation needs across Arizona. This goes against the governor’s stated position that developers should pay their way when it comes to transportation to reduce sprawl and avoid traffic congestion.”

    In essence, here’s what happened:

    1. Governor Napolitano originally wanted to fund her $42 billion transportation project with increased construction development fees and what she knew would be a highly unpopular 20 percent increase in the state sales tax.
    2. However, she wanted the support of the powerful Home Builders Association, an influential group she knew had opposed initiatives like this in the past.
    3. So, to get what she wanted, she told the home builders that she would take out the punitive development fees – if they would cough up $100,000 to help push through her sales tax fleecing of the general public. Have any doubts it was just that bold? Well, this letter proves it, where the Home Builders Association agreed to “donate” the money in return for them being let off the hook – and the taxpayers put on.

    In short, Governor Napolitano used threats of government taxation to obtain political favors. And, simply, there cannot be a clearer case of “legalized extortion.”

    Of course, the Governor’s office sees nothing wrong with these of backroom bullying tactics:

    “Dennis Burke, the governor’s chief of staff, said they were not trying to do anything underhanded. ‘There’s nothing wrong with this,’ he said. ‘This is how you negotiate.’”

    Right – if you happen to be Tony Soprano. And not even the notorious New Jersey mobster could possibly have imagined trading taxpayer shakedowns for campaign contributions.

    At the outset, we suggested that Ms. Napolitano’s extortion racket was “politics as usual.” But, actually it’s even worse than that. If this is politics as usual in Arizona, then Arizonans deserve new politics, and new politicians.

    Not to be unkind, but the truth is: Normally, when people engage in this sort of boldface extortion, they don’t end up in the state house. They end up in the state pen.

    ALG Perspective: The result may have been mutually beneficial for the Governor, the Home Builders Association, and the TIME Coalition, but the use of the state’s powers to tax as a negotiating tool is arbitrarily coercive, and tyrannical. Despite what the Governor’s defenders are saying, this is not “politics as usual”. This is the stuff of Third World dictators.

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