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Lobbyist gift ban crusader accepts gifts from lobbyist

Sen. Steve Gallardo. (Photo by Luige del Puerto)

Since getting caught up in the Fiesta Bowl scandal of 2011, Democratic Sen. Steve Gallardo has been the Capitol’s gift ban crusader, repeatedly introducing legislation to make it illegal for lawmakers to take free tickets or meals from lobbyists.

Although he’s one of the loudest and most consistent voices at the Capitol arguing for a crackdown on lawmakers for accepting benefits from lobbyists this year, Gallardo still accepted free tickets to a NASCAR race and meals from lobbyists.

He attended the Phoenix International Raceway Subway 500 in March as a special event paid for by lobbyists for the raceway.

Gallardo originally categorically denied attending the event, but later said he remembered taking two tickets to take his little brother from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program to the race.

“I took two tickets to this race, but it doesn’t change my position: I think it should be banned. I think lawmakers should be prohibited and I’ll continue to push legislation to ban lawmakers or any policy makers from accepting these kinds of tickets,” he said.

Gallardo said in hindsight, he should have paid for his own tickets. But said it didn’t change his mind about making it illegal for lawmakers to accept gifts from lobbyists – and still sticks by banning everything from dinner with lobbyists, to lunch on the lawn or tickets to sporting events.

“There’s nothing illegal with (taking free tickets), but I think we should be passing legislation to stop it,” he said.

It is illegal for a single lawmaker to accept tickets from lobbyists to sporting events, which is covered under the state’s gift ban. But it is not illegal for lawmakers to accept tickets if the game is categorized as a “special event” where the entire Legislature, an entire chamber, caucus or committee is invited.

Gallardo attended the event in the raceway suite with free food and drinks as part of a trip offered to all lawmakers. It was attended by at least a dozen other lawmakers. He also noted he has attended an occasional lunch on the lawn, when various groups serve up free food for lawmakers.

In 2011, Gallardo was one of the 31 Arizona politicians to get wrapped up in the Fiesta Bowl scandal for accepting free tickets to college football games, and was listed as receiving $1,407 in benefits.

A lobbyist for Salt River Project also listed spending $45 on Gallardo for food and drinks in January this year.

And although that meal is listed on lobbyist expenditure reports for the first quarter of 2013, the special event isn’t.

Because the event was technically paid for by the raceway itself, and not the lobbyist it employs who invited the lawmakers, state law does not require disclosure about the event until the end of the year. It won’t show up on any lobbyist expenditure reports until January 2014.

But even when the firm is required to report that it hosted the event for lawmakers, it isn’t required to say who took the tickets, and Gallardo’s name will never appear on the report.

Last year, Phoenix International Raceway listed spending $7,296 on a similar event with no mention of which lawmakers attended.

8 comments

  1. Legislators, As voters and taxpayers you are to represent us, not yourselves. You can whip up a birthed bill or a police toilet bill in a flash.

    Its time to write a simple bill banning ALL gifts of any kind for lawmakers! NOW! We demand it! If this bill isn’t produced and passed then you are confirming you answer to those lobbyists and special interests who “bought” you.

  2. correction (need delete button)

    Legislators, As voters and taxpayers, you are to represent us, not yourselves. You can whip up a “birther” bill or a “toilet police” bill in a flash. Then its time to write a simple bill banning ALL gifts of any kind for lawmakers! NOW! We demand it!

    If this bill isn’t produced and passed then you are confirming that you answer to those lobbyists and special interests who “bought” you.

  3. The degree of influence that “big” money has in the politics of our state must have controls, so the voters interests are protected and trust in public officials is maintained. I find this article to be solely focused on Senator Gallardo and no mention is made of all other legislators attending. Singling out one Senator over another, when many attended, says biased views from this publication. Treat everyone equally, because we are all born equal in this country.

  4. Arizona scores an “F”! Failure.

    Without better laws, “dark money” groups will prosper in 2014 state races | The Center for Public Integrity

    http://www.publicintegrity.org/2013/05/17/12694/without-better-laws-dark-money-groups-will-prosper-2014-state-races

    “Campaign spending is flooding all levels of government in the post-Citizens-United era. What is worse than the millions flowing freely, however, is that much of this is so-called “dark money”—the sources of this spending are hidden. The public has no idea who is behind the deluge of ads that can swamp a campaign in the final weeks of an election.

    The Center for Public Integrity’s latest report on independent money spent on state-level races shows that state disclosure laws are weak or nonexistent in more than half of all states. You can find out about your state by clicking here.

    Produced in collaboration with the National Institute on Money in State Politics, we show clearly that in 30 states it is impossible to calculate how much money is being spent on campaigns by outside groups like “social welfare” nonprofits — information that is mostly available when it comes to federal contests.

    And in 35 states, disclosure laws are less stringent than federal election laws, meaning shadowy nonprofit groups and big-spending super PACs are able to do business virtually undetected in many races.

    This is important because a majority of states will elect their governors, legislatures and other major statewide officers in 2014. But the public will not know how much money will be spent to influence the outcome of most of those races. This 50-state analysis of state laws graded the states from A to F on disclosure requirements for super PACs, nonprofits and other outside spending groups.”

  5. With all due respect Rep. Gallardo is a “fake”. How can you complain and be part of the problem! It amazes me the more I learn from our AZ Rep! We need new legislators, starting with Rep. Gallardo.

  6. jescamila and others, Rather than attack one another get to the purpose of the bill which is to serve the taxpayers NOT the special interests and lobbyists. NO gifts of any kind!

  7. There should be more transparency on how, what, when and how lobby’s or Interest groups are dinning or giving ticket or entertaining our legislators. Completely agree! “No gifts of any kind”!! But don’t wave the flag saying that your oppose of the gifts and at the same time be receiving them. That just don’t look good.

  8. Legislators: Need bill now!! “NO gifts of any kind!

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