Arizona's longtime crusader against federal spending has to resist pressure to bring home the bacon.
By Stephen Moore
The Wall Street Journal
October 20, 2012
In his razor-tight race for Arizona's open Senate seat, Republican nominee Jeff Flake-a six-term U.S. congressman-recently met behind closed doors with about a dozen leading businessmen in the state, including two powerful and respected CEOs: real-estate developer Mike Ingram and former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo.
Both businessmen supported Mr. Flake's opponent in the Republican primary (Mr. Flake won by 40 points), and both are pushing for federal financing of a road project that would stretch from Phoenix to Las Vegas. In the western part of the state, the 300-mile highway would bisect their 34,000-acre Douglas Ranch, where they have plans to develop a luxury hotel and upscale homes. A person who attended the meeting recalls that the two asked Mr. Flake: "We need to know. Are you going to be an Arizona senator or a U.S. senator?"
I'm told that Mr. Flake responded by saying that with the country facing a $16 trillion debt, dealing with that problem was his priority.
Good answer; wrong audience. The two CEOs still haven't endorsed Mr. Flake. In an interview Mr. Ingram confirmed the meeting and explained that the business executives in the room "worry that Mr. Flake may not support business compared to [Rich] Carmona," Mr. Flake's Democratic opponent. Mr. Ingram added that Mr. Flake is too often "a no vote on many economic development issues," including "transportation bills."
Arizona's Senate contest is testing the age-old question of whether bringing home the bacon is what wins elections. Almost no one in Congress has fought for smaller government more tirelessly than Mr. Flake, who has won so many taxpayer hero awards that the trophies overflow his shelves. In the age of Barack Obama's trillion-dollar annual deficits, Mr. Flake's financial message would seem to fit the times.
By contrast, Dr. Carmona-a celebrated military veteran and Purple Heart recipient who was U.S. surgeon general under George W. Bush-defends pork projects. He said in a recent debate that earmarks "aren't all bad," describing some as "smart investments," a favorite phrase of the left these days. Mr. Flake chastised him, noting that when members of Congress spend their time chasing earmarks, they sell their souls to the appropriators who use them as safe votes for budget-busting spending bills.
Mr. Flake's anti-earmark crusading was featured on "60 Minutes" in 2006, with the Arizonan compared to Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." When the piece aired, the GOP leadership stripped him of his slot on the Judiciary Committee for "bad behavior." Two years later, House Republicans saw the light and passed his landmark earmark moratorium.
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