As if Arizona’s political world isn’t abuzz enough, two major developments are expected to take place this week. On Tuesday, the Senate Ethics Committee is scheduled to meet to hash out details about how the ethics investigation of Sen. Scott Bundgaard will move forward. And on Wednesday, Maricopa County’s top prosecutor is expected to unveil the findings of his Fiesta Bowl investigation.
And so it goes in Arizona politics. Never a dull moment.
We just witnessed a huge political bomb drop on Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio last week, when the U.S. Justice Department took the first steps in taking control of policies and procedures there when it comes to the treatment of Latinos. The DOJ said it “peeled the onion to its core” in probing the Sheriff’s Office, adding that one investigator described the findings as “the most egregious racial profiling in the United States” he had ever seen. To be sure, this story will be around for a while, as it appears Arpaio does not intend to back down to the feds, abruptly chalking the claims up to politics.
While this week probably won’t have the drama that historic allegations of civil rights violations bring, the Bundgaard and Fiesta Bowl cases are important. The Bundgaard hearing is more procedural, and the lawyers for each side will be hashing out what sort of evidence can be presented to decide whether the Peoria Republican broke ethics rules in his roadside domestic-violence incident with his ex-girlfriend.
And the next day, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery says he will unveil details about what, if any, charges will be filed against elected officials connected to the Fiesta Bowl scandal in which bowl executives showered politicians with out-of-state junkets and tickets to games. Montgomery has been investigating whether lawmakers illegally accepted the freebies, and whether they failed to report them as gifts as required by state financial disclosure laws. “I’ll lay out the entire analysis and our conclusions, to include charging, at that time,” the county prosecutor told reporters last week.
Federal officials are also investigating other aspects of the Fiesta Bowl scandal, which includes alleged illegal political contributions by employees. One former bowl executive was indicted in that case and the former top executive also is under investigation, as well as his former chief lobbyist.
Update (Dec. 21): Montgomery told the Arizona Capitol Times he will push for a major overhaul of the state’s lobbying laws, saying lax disclosure requirements and gift amounts are out of step with what the public expects from elected officials. Confusing laws that govern gifts and disclosures led to difficulty in his investigation of 28 lawmakers, four other elected officials, a lobbyist and a lobbying firm.
The county attorney said he would go as far as recommending an “outright” ban on gifts. He said elected officials who believe the proposals are burdensome should not seek public office.