In the year since President Obama released his long-form birth certificate, tax payers are partly-funding Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s investigation into whether or not the president was truly born in the United States.
The Arizona Republic and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser report that two men identifying themselves as Michael Zullo and Brian Mackiewcz arrived at the Hawaii Department of Health on Monday and requested verification of Obama’s birth. They left after a Hawaii deputy attorney provided them information on the legal requirements for obtaining that documentation. Zullo is a volunteer in Arpaio’s inquiry, but Mackiewcz provided a business card identifying him as a public employee who works in the Threats Management Unit of the sheriff’s office.
Arpaio, who has previously claimed that the investigation was being funded through private donations, dismissed concerns about tax dollars funding the conspiracy quest and said “he hopes the agency will be paid back through private donations”:
“It’s one deputy, so what? We have security issues, too, that I can’t got into,” Arpaio said on Friday. “For six months we were not spending any money. When you’re doing investigations sometimes things change, you put more resources into it.”
“He’s not going to make any arrests,” Arpaio said. “I didn’t say we’re going to keep using him. We’re not going to use him constantly. He’s not assigned to it. For this trip I feel it’s important to have a deputy there. He’s just a liaison to give advice if needed. He’s not doing anything. The posse’s been doing the research. I’m not going to say what other trips they’ve been taking but they haven’t had a deputy with them.”
Mackiewcz continues to work on other cases while assisting Arpaio’s investigation, and the sheriff’s office has covered the costs of airfare and hotel rooms for both Mackiewcz and Zullo.
The donations for Arpaio’s probe — close to $40,000 so far — have been regularly encouraged by WorldNetDaily, a fringe right-wing website heavily involved in the promotion of the birther conspiracy theory. Michael Zullo has also co-authored an e-book about birtherism with Jerome Corsi, one of WorldNetDaily’s top theorists.
Arpaio first rose to prominence for carrying out violent, demeaning, implicitly and often explicitly racist practices against Latinos in pursuit of his ultra-hard-line opposition to undocumented immigration. The Hawaii investigation is the most recent dust-up in Arpaio’s recent digression into birther territory, kicked off earlier this year when the Sheriff held a press conference touting roundly-criticized evidence that the certificate was a forgery. In the meantime, Sheriff Joe has become something of a kingmaker in Republican circles, up to and including attempts by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to secure his endorsement.
Arpaio is currently under federal investigation.