Disclaimer: The comments in the blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.
On February 1, 2017 the Arizona Republic had a front page, above the fold story (meaning really important) on Phoenix’s lobbyists’ rule. Its lobbyist registration ordinance is not worth the paper it’s written on. Here is the link to the story: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2017/01/31/phoenix-council-letterhead-revealed-toothless-lobbying-rules/96549540/ . The Republic story reports, “Phoenix’s law states that lobbyists must register and disclose their clients if they are paid to contact the mayor or council members to influence official decisions. Lobbyists must also report campaign contributions and money they spend on meals, gifts or other expenses that benefit elected city leaders, according to the ordinance.” One of many problems with Phoenix’s law is there are no penalties associated with any failure to follow their law.
The article goes on to say, “A high-profile Phoenix law firm did not properly register as a lobbyist with the city for two years, and recently filed falsely dated documents that made it appear the firm had followed the law, according to the Phoenix city attorney.
“But the city of Phoenix can’t do anything to penalize the firm or others that do not comply with its lobbyist regulations. That’s because the law is toothless and there is no way to enforce it, city officials said they realized last week.” It’s up to the Phoenix City Council to reform its lobbyist law.
If you are relying on the state to keep an eagle eye on lobbyists and their expenditures, forget it. Justin Price, for the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting states, “Less than 14 percent of the roughly $333,000 spent to lobby Arizona lawmakers in the first half of 2015 identified who the money was spent on, continuing a trend of scant disclosure going back years.
“Since 2010, the portion of lobbying records that include beneficiaries has averaged about 12.5 percent. This is according to data maintained by the Secretary of State’s Office and includes lobbying records for the first half of each year, which typically includes Arizona’s annual legislative session.
“Lobbyists are required to report their expenditures in quarterly expense reports submitted to the secretary of state. But loopholes and minimal regulatory oversight leave room for lobbyists to spend without reporting who benefited, ultimately leaving the public in the dark about who is influencing the people they have elected to craft Arizona’s laws, budget and taxes. For 2015, lobbying records include a beneficiary for $1 out of every $8 spent.” Here is the link to Mr. Price’s research: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/arizona/politics/2015/11/23/arizona-lobbying-records-little-disclosure/76068724/ .
Lobbying can be and is done by consulting firms and zoning attorneys advocating for a land project or the same entities may represent industries/interests seeking a specific law or project for which they are trying to attain passage for their client. Glendale, the state’s 6th largest city, has no lobbyist laws and it is way overdue. It’s not just a matter of registering lobbyists who operate in Glendale, it’s also a matter of developing rules regarding the city’s hiring of lobbyists. In 2011, the city had a stable of lobbyists: Husk Partners, Inc.; Hyek and Fixx, Inc.; Van Scoyoc Associates, Inc.; and Policy AZ. They were hired while Ed Beasley was Glendale’s City Manager and paid a boatload of money to lobby on behalf of the city.
There is little to no transparency when it comes to lobbyists, what they do, how much they spend and which lawmakers receive their benefit. It’s not a problem just for Glendale and Phoenix but for the state as well. The state’s lobbyist laws are as meaningless as those of Phoenix.
It’s time for us, the citizens of the state, to know who is paying whom and who is supplying trips, gifts, meals and campaign contributions to all lawmakers…state, county and local.
© Joyce Clark, 2017
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