July 26, 2004
To Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., the four years he has spent in Congress have shown him to be a principled conservative who has bucked the system while fulfilling the promises he made to voters in his East Valley district.
To Stan Barnes, who is trying to unseat Flake in the Republican primary, the twoterm congressman is an ideologue who has sacrificed the best interests of his constituents and his party out of some distorted sense of philosophical purity.
Voters will decide who is right in the September primary, which will likely decide who will represent the the 6th Congressional District.
The winner in the Republican primary will face only a Libertarian in the general election. No Democrat is running.
Flake promised he would not engage in traditional vote trading that goes on for special-interest spending in his home district when he was elected to Congress in 2000.
He has consistently refused to vote for appropriations bills laden with what are known as "earmarks" — special interest spending authorized outside the normal appropriations process.
Earmarks, also known as "pork" in congressional parlance, are used to buy votes from individual House members by allocating federal spending within their state or districts.
"I ran on a platform that I’d go back and try to cut waste, cut spending and lower taxes, and I’ve tried to stick to it," Flake said. "If that makes me an ideologue, then that makes me an ideologue. I went to Congress saying government is too big and it taxes and regulates too much. That’s how I’ve voted."
Barnes said he agrees with Flake’s philosophical viewpoint. But in practical terms, Flake’s refusal to vote for any bill that he deems to contain pork has hurt the district financially, weakened the narrow Republican majority in Congress and led him to vote against important legislation dealing with national security, Barnes said.
By refusing to participate in the budgeting process, Flake has made himself an irrelevant player in Congress, Barnes said.
He added Flake has further diminished his influence by committing to serve no more than six years in Congress when he took a term-limit pledge in his first campaign. If he wins in November, it will be Flake’s last term if he abides by that pledge.
"Jeff Flake has checked himself out of the process and has become no more than a dog on the side of the road barking as the trains run by," said Barnes, a former state legislator.
"He has taken his ideology and run off the cliff. He no longer is a reasonable conservative trying to do right by Arizonans. Because of that, the conservative values that we care about are not being accomplished."
Among the votes cast by Flake that are chastised by Barnes:
• Flake voted in favor of authorizing the United States invasion of Iraq, but against a $79 billion appropriation to fund the war. Barnes said that amounts to sending troops to war, but refusing to fund them.
Flake argues he voted against the bill in April 2003 because it included billions of dollars in add-ons for things like a bailout of the airline industry.
He subsequently voted for an $87 billion war funding package requested by the president because it was a "clean" bill that did not have pork-barrel spending attached, Flake said.
Flake was the only Republican to vote for the war and against the $79 billion appropriation, according to the House roll call.
• Flake was one of only six Republicans to vote against creation of the Department of Homeland Security, and one of two Republicans to vote against subsequent bills to fund it. He said he opposed the new bureaucracy because it amounted to "simply shuffling boxes around an organizational chart," and did nothing to improve intelligence gathering and analysis.
• Flake was one of two Republicans opposing sanctions against Syria for its support of terrorism. Flake said he opposed the bill because he does not believe unilateral sanctions by the United States alone are effective.
• Flake opposed two bills aimed at limiting civil damages faced by medical providers, both key elements of the president’s efforts at tort reform. Flake said those bills would interfere with the rights of states to set their own civil liability laws.
Barnes also said that by refusing to participate in the give-and-take of the budgetary process, Flake has cost the state legitimate federal dollars for things like highway construction, a charge Flake denies.
Flake had been the executive director of the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank based in Phoenix, before he ran for Congress in 2000. It was his first run at elected office.
Barnes, owner of a political consulting company, spent six years in the Legislature, representing an east Mesa district. In 1992, Barnes challenged Rep. Jay Rhodes, RAriz., in the Republican primary and finished a close second behind Rhodes.