KNAU and Arizona News
3:58 pm
Fri February 19, 2010

State senators voted to let themselves take jobs as lobbyists

Phoenix, AZ – In the early 1990s seven lawmakers were ensnared in a sting
operation that became know as AzScam. An undercover agent, posing
as a lobbyist for interests pursuing legalized casino gaming in
Arizona, gave out thousands of dollars in both campaign
contributions and bribes to lawmakers willing to support the
plan. Seven legislators were indicted. Six reached plea deals; a
seventh was convicted of conspiracy to commit bribery and filing
false campaign statements. One of the reforms enacted in the wake
of the scandal was a one-year ban on lawmakers engaging in
lobbying after they leave office. Sen. Jack Harper pointed out
there is no similar restriction on legislative staffers, people
he said may have more influence and be more knowledgeable than
lawmakers themselves. He told his colleagues Thursday they have a
right to make a living after leaving the Legislature -- including
as lobbyists.

(Obviously, there are many members in this body and in the House
that are not running for office again. And I don't see why your
economic liberty should be any more limited than a senior staff
member that works here.)

And he said there's nothing inherently unethical about that. But
Sen. Debbie McCune Davis, who was a legislator at the time of
AzScam said it's not the ethical lawmakers she's worried about.

(Ethical people will behave in ethical ways. And it is not the
ethical people for whom we make rules. It is those who perhaps
choose to follow other paths of behavior.)

Sen. Ken Cheuvront cited a recent statewide survey which found
that just 15 percent of Arizonans agree with the job the
Legislature is doing, the lowest figure ever recorded. He said
lawmakers do themselves no favors with measures like this.

(Many people, whether rightly or wrongly, look at politicians as
being self-serving. And I think, unfortunately, that this bill
might make them say, 'I told you so.'

He said the only message a bill like this sends is that lawmakers
are watching out for themselves and want to enrich themselves.
Cheuvront said he doesn't see any problem with lawmakers having
to wait a year before they come back and try to lobby their
former colleagues. But Rep. Sylvia Allen said the restriction is
unnecessary.

(I think that if you are a person serving down here that strives
to have integrity, strives to be fair, strives to be honest,
works hard, that those characteristics are going to carry over. I
don't see that making a person wait a year is going to change the
perception of the public that that person is now making six
figures or something a year later.)

But McCune Davis said the lack of a waiting period creates all
sorts of opportunities for mischief.

(There are many ways that industry and interests could discuss
employment of a legislator beyond leaving office that could be
very troublesome and, in fact, wouldn't be evident until well
beyond the time an individual leaves office.)

She said the ban protects the public from lawmakers being tempted
with offers from companies for future lobbying contracts while
they are still in office -- and still in a position to influence
legislation. The one-year ban on lawmakers lobbying was only one
of the reforms adopted in the wake of AzScam. Other changes
included registration of lobbyists, limits on how much lobbyists
can spend in gifts for lawmakers and prohibitions on legislators
taking campaign funds from lobbyists while they are in session.
All of those remain in place today. For Arizona Public Radio this
is Howard Fischer.