Goldwater Institute Shows Muscle in Arizona

Monday, 26 Dec 2011 08:58 AM

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A watchdog for conservative ideas, the Goldwater Institute is emerging as a key player in the defense of liberties large and small from its headquarters in Arizona, according to The New York Times.

In recent years, it has not only waged court battles on national issues in Washington. It has also used its team of lawyers to monitor state laws and school board missteps, according to the Times. The libertarian powerhouse, as the Times describes it, has also sued a professional hockey team and the Arizona Board of Cosmetology over the rights of tattoo artists.

“There are lots of cozy deals in Arizona, just like everywhere else,” said Institute director Clint Bolick. “The last thing you want is for us to find out. It’s like a skunk coming to a picnic. We ruin everything.”

The institute was founded by conservative activists in 1988, with the blessing of its namesake, Barry M. Goldwater, the longtime Arizona senator and conservative icon. It was primarily a public policy shop that issued reports, until 2007, when it added a crack litigation outfit. The institute’s aggressive lawyers strike fear in the hearts of the state’s public officials.

“While the organization may have veered somewhat from Barry Goldwater’s conscience of conservatism to that of libertarianism, there is little doubt they are a political and legal force in Arizona, perhaps becoming the most influential state think tank organization in America,” said Jason Rose, a Scottsdale publicist active in conservative circles.

The institute does not hesitate to go after conservatives when they have run afoul of libertarian ideals. It has tangled with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the popular Maricopa County official who has been aggressive in enforcing immigration laws and now is under fire from the Obama Justice Department.

“Our view is that the role of the sheriff is to effectively enforce the law, and we’ve been sharply critical of his department fulfilling its most basic function,” said Clint Bolick, who directs the institute.

Lawyers at the institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation defended the right of a voter to wear a Tea Party T-shirt to the polls in Flagstaff, fought restrictions aimed at limiting tattooing in Tempe and Mesa, and, in the toe-nibbling case, helped a salon owner who clashed with the state’s cosmetology regulators over using special fish imported from China to eat the dead skin off customers’ toes.

The institute, which partially won the fish pedicure case on appeal, went after the Arizona Board of Cosmetology again this month after the agency interfered with a business that provided at-home spa treatments to cancer patients and others

“Defendants’ actions irrationally, arbitrarily, and excessively restrict the ability of plaintiffs to operate a legitimate business,” the Goldwater Institute lawyers wrote in their spirited brief on behalf of Lauren Boice, the owner of Angels on Earth Home Beauty business, in the Tucson area.

Bolick sees a connection between those clashes and broader matters, like the dispute over matching funds in Arizona’s campaign finance reform system that the institute fought before the Supreme Court. All of the disputes, he said, are linked to what he considers limits on liberty.

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