Pinal County Sheriff's Surprising Home Away From Home

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu may hail from the Arizona outback - but his home away from home is a considerably more sophisticated place: Scottsdale.

For the past year Sheriff Babeu has been in and out of Scottsdale more than a Schwan's Food Service delivery truck.  Babeu has discovered that the city's ultra-conservative Republicans are receptive to his brash brand of one-issue politics. The frontier sheriff has also added a new twist to the old political concept of "follow the money."

Scottsdale has become ground zero for Paul Babeu's likely run for Congress.

Babeu, three years into his first term as sheriff, has formed an exploratory committee to run for Congress. That effort is being orchestrated from Old Town Scottsdale out of the office of Chris DeRose, who describes himself as a "political strategist, relapsed attorney and practicing Christian."  

Besides being a Jack of several trades, DeRose has also been a political candidate himself - as a matter of fact, twice.  He ran unsuccessfully for the State House of Representatives five years ago.  Following that defeat, DeRose said, "God has a plan for me."  His plan for DeRose, who was then describing himself as a neighborhood organizer, was to throw his name in the hat to be appointed to the vacated Phoenix City Council seat of Greg Stanton.  However, the Divine Intervention Hotline broke down between here and Heaven ... and the council appointed the Candidate From Hell, Sal DiCiccio.

DeRose has now landed in Scottsdale as the spokesperson for the Paul Babeu exploratory Congressional campaign.

The Mini Mart of Law Firms

Retaining Chris DeRose isn't the first time Sheriff Babeu has hooked up with a Scottsdale attorney.

Babeu has been a fixture at the office of the Rose Law Group (not to be confused with "DeRose"), where he has access to a stable of lawyers - including Tim LaSota, the firm's political broker.  LaSota served as former County Attorney Andrew Thomas' liaison and lobbyist at the State Legislature.  He joined the law group last year after a couple of controversial years as Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane's chief of staff.  LaSota is no stranger to Babeu's pet political issue:
illegal immigration.  He specializes in counseling clients on SB 1070 issues, and plays a principal role in the law firm's involvement in the Border Sheriffs' Project: the defense of Babeu and his counterpart in Cochise County, Larry Dever, against immigration-related lawsuits.  

The Rose Law Group is the Mini Mart of Scottsdale law firms.  Their clients can buy everything from soup to nuts - and political candidates can pump big bucks into the tanks of their campaign coffers.  In political circles, RLG is best known for staging flashy fundraising events propped with political philanthropists from Scottsdale and Paradise Valley.  As a result, the law firm ends up holding a fat stack of political IOU's - including the ones from Paul Babeu, the early favorite in the race for the newly configured Congressional District 4 seat.  

Has The Sheriff Worn Out His Welcome?

Chris DeRose says Sheriff Babeu will make up his mind by January about whether to run for Congress or for re-election.

The current CD-4 configuration looks like Babeu drew it up at his kitchen table.  The T-bone-shaped district starts in Pinal County, swoops north of Phoenix to encompass Yavapai County and stretches along the Colorado River to include most of Yuma County and all of LaPaz and Mohave counties.  It's not just Republican Country - it's Redneck Paradise, where camouflage is considered an actual color and beef jerky is what's for dinner. This is the area of Arizona where lawmen like Paul Babeu walk on water.

Everyone knows that Babeu, the one-time Chandler police officer, has turned himself into a political celebrity by exploiting the anti-immigration issue.  He's a talking head on FOX News, a pet of local talk radio and a patron saint of the xenophobic crowd.  But there's a growing sentiment that the sheriff is simply a dime-novel lawman who has manufactured his image in the media as the "Mexican-Drug-Cartel-Smashing Sheriff of Pinal County."

Paul Babeu is just a modern day Bat Masterson ...
more politician than peace officer.

Now there are starting to be signs that he may have worn out his welcome in Pinal County - at least with several members of the County Board of Supervisors who are fed up with his self-promotional antics and his spendthrift habits, which aren't mutually exclusive.  Pinal County taxpayers also began to wise up several months ago when their sheriff spent $53,000 to send 25 department personnel to a week-long conference in St. Louis that was capped off with Babeu receiving the "Sheriff of the Year" award from the National Sheriffs' Association.  The field trip was paid for with funds earmarked to improve county jails and advance investigations and prosecutions.

In the meantime, Sheriff Babeu is still pressing on by promoting himself whenever and wherever he can, while doing favors for others along the way.  This weekend the sheriff popped up in Iowa, or at least his voice did in 60-second Robo calls charging that Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry was soft on illegal immigration.  The calls were paid for by Mitt Romney's campaign - which Babeu's buddies at the Scottsdale-based Rose Law Group raise funds for.

If anyone understands paying down political IOU's ... it's Paul Babeu.