State Capitol News
8:54 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Committee Votes for More Transparency with Legislature and Special Interests

The Senate Government and Environment Committee voted Thursday to stop lawmakers from accepting free tickets from lobbyists to sporting events. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports.

Credit azcapitoltimes.com

Legislators can accept things like free meals, travel and entertainment, subject only to filing regular reports. Sen. Michele Reagan said the ideal solution would be immediate reporting so voters could instantly see the interaction between their elected representatives and the special interests trying to influence them. But, Reagan said even if that could happen, her legislation is still necessary.

“It is my belief that, regardless of disclosure, no disclosure, whatever, there’s no benefit to the public for us going to a sporting event or a rock concert,” Reagan said.

The outcry over free tickets followed a scandal several years ago involving the Fiesta Bowl that dealt not only with laundered campaign contributions, but also lawmakers taking free tickets and never reporting them. Longtime lobbyist Barry Aarons, who sits on the Fiesta Bowl committee, questioned singling out entertainment for a ban — but not meals.

“To try to make a qualitative or even quantitative decision as to whether an $18 Diamondbacks ticket is more or less corruptive than a $100 dinner at the Capitol Grille, I don’t see how you can do that,” Aarons said.

And, Aarons suggested the proposal may simply be lawmakers caving to “media-fueled public pressure.”