At first glance, one might think that Clint Bolick is on a roll. He's a big shot at the Goldwater Institute, a usually conservative think tank, the main task of which is apparently to lead the Republican-dominated Arizona Legislature around by its collective nose. He's a big-time attorney and lobbyist and he recently co-authored a book with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
But then you take a second glance ...
Bolick first limped onto the scene with a book called Voucher Wars, in which he gushed over a program in Wisconsin that was designed to help rich people get out of paying to send their kids to private schools. The clever plan used poor people to crack the door open, after which the rich would pour through. It's socialism for the well-to-do, who, not surprisingly, really don't need it.
After fighting to use public money to send kids to religious schools, Bolick raved about the Milwaukee voucher plan. But then the results came in. More than a decade of siphoning money from the public schools to start crappy charter schools and to fund vouchers to send kids to private schools has produced exactly two inarguable results. The city's schools became more racially and ethnically segregated, and the public schools outperformed the vouchers schools on the state tests.
And what was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's reaction to that news? He wants to expand the voucher program at further cost to public-school funding and do away with the state test, thereby destroying the evidence of the program's folly.
Bolick really hitched his wagon to a star on that one.
Now comes the book with Jeb Bush, a cringe-inducing take on immigration policy that, based on the results of last year's election and the sudden realization that minorities don't like Republicans (and mostly vice versa), seems out of touch and out of time. After that ass whuppin' that the Republicans took in November, the GOP has raced past Bush's written position toward the center. The book seems almost stunningly dated.
Bush and Bolick call for immigration reform, but don't want the 11 million or so people currently in this country illegally to ever have a chance at attaining U.S. citizenship. Even the Republican Party's Hispanic of the Month, Marco Rubio, is in favor of a path to citizenship.
One has to wonder whether Bush and Bolick, when writing the book, must have figured that Mitt Romney would gather up enough pissed-off-white-people votes to beat President Obama, and then Bush could swoop in and flank the Tea Party madness and the GOP platform, positioning himself as the voice of reason for the Republican Party.
Not surprisingly, the Bush-Bolick book has landed with a thud.
Bolick's biggest problem, however, is that he represents the Goldwater Institute. Barry Goldwater was known for his strong views on just about every topic. He was many things to many people, but one thing he wasn't was a hypocrite. He wasn't going to veer off course to make an exception, even if doing so would benefit him personally.
This example is apparently lost on Mr. Bolick, who has made quite a name for himself by crusading for transparency and accountability in the spending of public money. That crusade took a sharp right turn recently when his public pronouncements ran headlong into the secret mission of one of his pet projects.
As mentioned in this column a few months back, an unforgivable loophole in state law allows charter schools—which operate strictly on public taxpayer money—to keep all of their spending on salaries and supplies secret. Now, if this were a police department or the Arizona Department of Transportation, Bolick's blood pressure would be approaching quadruple digits. However, since it's one of his pet projects (with a kicker!), he finds it necessary, in this case only, to deviate from the philosophy he claims to live by.
When reports came out that 90 percent of Arizona's charter schools take advantage of the loophole that grants exemptions from state purchasing laws, we also learned that several charter school companies have sweetheart, no-bid deals with suppliers that are owned by members of the charter schools' boards. That's at least a conflict of interest and, more likely, criminal.
But Bolick says it's OK. This one time it's all right with him if public money is spent in secret as long as those who are doing so cross their hearts and hope to spit that they're doing so in the best interests of all involved.
State Sen. Linda Lopez introduced a bill this session that would have required charter schools to share salary information and abide by state purchasing laws. It didn't have a chance, mostly because charter schools—the majority of which are awful—still serve as the right wing's enduring screw-you to public school teachers. Bolick's twisted defense of charter school nontransparency reads like bad fiction on the level of "It was a dark and stormy night ..." And I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that Bolick is on the board of BASIS, Arizona's most famous (and perhaps most overrated) charter school.
Hypocrite, the name is Clint.