On March 14, 2013 the Center for Media and Democracy in conjunction with Arizona Working Families issued A Reporter’s Guide to the Goldwater Institute: What Citizens, Policymakers and Reporters Should Know. It can be found at this site: http://www.prwatch.org/news/2013/03/12021/reporters-guide-goldwater-institute.
While I was serving on Glendale’s city council there were several lawsuits filed by the Goldwater Institute (GWI) against the city. The first dated back to June of 2009 and contended that the city was refusing to release documents relating to its negotiations with various entities wishing to purchase the Coyotes and to secure a lease management agreement. GWI felt every scrap of paper should be a public document. The final agreement was that the city would release all documents it felt would not harm its negotiating position and if that should be the case, a judge, in camera, would review them and make a final decision.
Then about two years later, in March of 2011, Goldwater having reviewed more than 1,000 of the city’s documents as a result of the previous court decision, filed suit to subvert the Hulsizer deal to buy the Coyotes. It contended that the city was offering a subsidy in violation of Arizona’s Gift Clause statute. There was never a decision in this case as the city and Hulsizer could not finalize a deal.
When this report was issued I was eager to read its findings. I suspect that the practices of GWI are not so different from other public policy non-profits whether they are liberal or conservative. These types of non-profits are often shielded by federal government regulations making it difficult to obtain a complete and accurate picture of their financial dealings.
I find that to be ironic. The same organization that sued the City of Glendale for a lack of transparency is habitually not so transparent itself. It seems they don’t mind letting the public know about some, not all, of their sources of funding but they certainly don’t want you to know too much about how they get their money or spend it.
Another irony is GWI’s persistent attack on only one sport venue in the state – Glendale’s Jobing.com Arena and its use by the Coyotes. Lord knows, there have been sweetheart deals aplenty with other sports venues. Yet Goldwater never raised an eyebrow. I have often wondered if the close relationship of some board members with the baseball industry was a motivator. Perhaps, in the minds of some, there are too many sports teams all competing for the same public discretionary dollar. Taking out a major sports team could benefit the remaining teams. When a team is weak, as the Coyotes have been for multiple years, that makes it a perfect target for elimination.
Briefly the findings of this report do highlight some questionable practices:
- The Goldwater Institute is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is funded by corporations and its sole purpose is to craft and advocate for bills favorable to big business interests exclusively. The relationship between these two organizations appears to be very, very close. Often the very issues that GWI is advocating for coincidentally happen to be part of ALEC’s agenda.
- Despite a very modest growth in GWI’s income it substantially raised its top executive’s salaries disproportionately to that growth in revenue. Darcy Olson’s Executive Director salary jumped from $180,000 to $268,000 by 2011; Clink Bolick’s Director of Litigation salary went from $126,000 in 2007 to $300,000 by 2011.
- Up to $1.9M has been approved as a loan by the GWI board to one of its board members, Norman McClelland, a GWI founder and past president, for his private, for-profit company, Shamrock Farm Co Investing.
- Goldwater claimed to the IRS in 2010 that it spent $0 on grassroots or direct lobbying. Yet is has two registered lobbyists, Starlee Rhoades, Vice President, and Lucy Caldwell, Communications Director. Gallagher & Kennedy, a Public Affairs firm, is representing GWI as an active lobbyist this year.
- GWI does not publicly disclose its largest donors, although most public policy non-profits do. A majority of GWI’s funding comes from and its largest donors happen to be out-of-state foundations with specialized agendas.
Barry Goldwater became the Institute’s namesake. Recently Susan Goldwater expressed public concerns in the media about the GWI by saying, “(W)hat he didn’t like was seeing it turn into a special interest, big-business lobbying group.” I suspect Barry Goldwater is rolling in his grave as he sees what the Institute has morphed into.
Perhaps this “big-business lobbying group” should add as an agenda item how it can advance the cause of big-business sports teams and their venues. After all, according to GWI, all big-business is good business.