Which Arizona lawmakers are accepting gifts from lobbyists?Posted: Updated:
PHOENIX -- It's been several years since the Fiesta Bowl scandal exposed a seedy situation at the State Capitol. Lawmakers were taking free gifts from lobbyists. But 3TV's political editor Dennis Welch says that Arizona lawmakers are still lining up for freebies.
"I don't think that it's a big deal," says GOP Sen. Rick Murphy. "It's not like it's going to buy anyone's vote."
"It seems to be something I'm not inventing," says Democratic Rep. Macario Saldate.
3TV cameras caught nearly a dozen lawmakers on baseball's opening day, walking into Chase Field carrying free tickets.
We asked Republican Senator Steve Yarbrough if he thought it was appropriate for lawmakers to use free tickets. "Well, if they do it for all of us, then I suppose so," he said.
Most of the legislators came from a pre-game party at Legends Sports Bar and Grill, where lawmakers, their friends and family members received free booze, free food and free tickets. All of it was reportedly paid for by lobbyists with the Dorn Policy Group.
"I think that this is good clean fun," said Speaker of the House Andy Tobin.
But four years ago, Arizona made national headlines after it was exposed that lobbyists for the Fiesta Bowl had been lavishing expensive gifts on lawmakers for years. But to this day, not a single piece of legislation has passed that would change the way lobbyists do business.
"The days of wining and dining legislators should stop, and should stop now," says Democratic Sen. Steve Gallardo. He has tried to stop the trend by introducing bills to have an "outright ban on all gifts" and "stricter disclosure laws". But for two years the bills have gone nowhere.
"They're not giving us these freebies because they think we're wonderful," says Gallardo. "They want something in return."
According to invitations obtained by 3TV, in the last two months, lobbyists have invited lawmakers to all-expenses-paid hockey games, spring training baseball games, and high priced restaurants.
"I can almost guarantee we will have another Fiesta Bowl scandal in the state of Arizona soon," says Gallardo.
"I guess it could happen," says County Attorney Bill Montgomery. "I would venture to say that before we get around to that circumstance even being able to come about, there are going to be some changes."
Montgomery led the investigation into the Fiesta Bowl scandal. But in December 2011, Montgomery cleared the 31 lawmakers mired in the scandal of any wrongdoing.
As for the lawmakers' most recent trip to the ballpark? "I just know I didn't get that invite," says Montgomery. "I'll be buying my own tickets."
Tim Hogan is an attorney with the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. "You get paid a salary to do your job," says Hogan. "It looks like you're buying influence. If you have the money, you're able to buy an outcome at the legislature."
The veteran attorney is discouraged by what he's seen from the legislature in the post-Fiesta Bowl scandal era.
"Not only has nothing changed, it looks like it's gotten worse," Hogan says.
Of all the bills introduced this year seeking to curb the practice of handing out free gifts to lawmakers, most have yet to even get a committee hearing.