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Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, hero of the anti-immigrant right and endorser of John McCain’s 2010 Senate re-election bid, has been caught on tape mocking a federal investigation into racial profiling and abuse of power at his office.

Referring to initial inquiries into his arrest patterns — he clearly targets Latinos — Arpaio says, “After they went after me, we arrested 500 more just for spite.” The crowd laughs and applauds.

The sheriff goes on to suggest a large budget cut to his department led him to pursue a criminal investigation into Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley for revenge.

“We have already indicted one, so I am not their favorite guy,” Arpaio said to the crowd in Houston, drawing more laughs. “The county has cut my budget $35 million just for spite. But I’m still locking them all up. I have ways to get the job done.”

The recording of the speech was given to the Associated Press recently by Joel Robbins, a perennial Arpaio critic. The Justice Department has announced a pending civil rights lawsuit for the racial profiling case, and a grand jury has been convened to look at the abuse of power allegations, though the status of that case is unknown.

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