‘They’re All Calling Him’: Leading GOP Candidates Court Radical Anti-Immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio

It seems Republican presidential candidates with less than draconian records on immigration need only turn to one man for absolution — “America’s toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio. All three leading GOP candidates are courting the Maricopa County, Arizona lawman, presumably to burnish their “tough on illegal immigration” credentials.

And it seems when you’re Arpaio, the candidates come to you. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) called Arpaio at home last week, and today, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is traveling to meet Arpaio at his office, after having “called Arpaio several times” in the past, the AP reports. Meanwhile, Arpaio tweeted that he had received a call from Mitt Romney as well:

They’re all calling him,” Arpaio’s campaign spokesperson told the AP of the 2012 candidates. She added that the sheriff will take his time before deciding on any endorsements.

So who is this man leading Republicans are so desperate to please? Arpaio is vehement about illegal immigration and is as flamboyant as he is radical. He recently brought actor Steven Seagal and a tank along with him for a raid (they also allegedly killed a puppy), and is known for making his undocumented inmates live in tents and wear pink underwear.

Meanwhile, he’s been investigated by the Department of Justice and separately by the FBI for allegedly “using his position to settle political vendettas;” has been forced to pay $200,000 for racial profiling and another $94,000 for improperly shredding documents; has likely misspent $99.5 million in taxpayer funds, including on a Disneyland vacation; and has had three employees arrested for involvement in drug and human trafficking.

Already, immigration is becoming a key issue in the 2012 primaries. The crowd at Monday’s night’s GOP debate was mostly friendly to Perry, but booed his relatively moderate stance on immigration. A SuperPAC supporting Bachmann has also launched radio ads attacking Perry’s immigration record.