The Law of the Land

Lobbyists ride roughshod over the legislative process, going so far as to write the bills that lawmkers pass

The lobbyists are "much more direct because they've had much more practice," Guenther says. "They know what to say and what not to say."

Michael Josephson, president of the nonpartisan Josephson Institute of Ethics in Marina del Rey, California, teaches ethics courses to legislators around the country. He tells them to imagine they are judges, not legislators.

"Imagine a judge who's about to decide a very important case. And all of the sudden you find the guy from the other side is having a private meeting with him in his office," Josephson says.

That's what happens when a lobbyist gets access to a legislator. Add campaign contributions, golf tournaments and free meals into the mix, and you have a recipe for trouble, Josephson says.

The dangerous part isn't the campaign contribution itself, he adds. It's what that contribution buys: time. "The opportunity to persuade, to cajole, to ingratiate. Now, all of these things are legal, but they obstruct the capacity of the decision-maker to make an objective judgment."

And that's just compounded by the fact that the Arizona Legislature is understaffed and meets part-time, often rushing to conclude its regular sessions in less than 100 days.

"The system is not well-designed to yield intelligent, objective judgments," Josephson says. "And if we don't adjust the system, even good people find themselves making judgments on inadequate information. Because even a fairly honest lobbyist is not going to tell you all the downsides."

Sandy Bahr says it's the subtlety of the Super Lobbyists' influence that makes them so unstoppable.

"It's not a direct quid pro quo, and that's why it's so difficult to achieve any kind of real reform," she says. "It's sort of like the discrimination we have now instead of the segregation we had back in the Fifties and Sixties."

Change is not coming easy. Every legislative session, someone sponsors a bill that would prohibit elected officials from taking gifts from lobbyists. Proposition 200 could have an impact on campaign contributions, but lobbyists will still use independent expenditures to get around the law.

In fact, there hasn't been a reform yet that lobbyists haven't been able to get around. Bahr is setting her sights on plans to put an initiative on the Arizona ballot in 2000 that would create a redistricting commission with the goal of stopping gerrymandering. That, she says, would force members to be accountable to their constituents--or risk defeat.

Josephson's solution? Make the lobbying process more public. Make sessions longer and include more public hearings, and hire more legislative staff.

"If you're going to have government, you need to give the appropriate tools and resources to get the job done right," he says.

"I don't want to cast stones as an outsider, but Arizona's had some real problems with governors and legislatures, and the fact is you need an environment that protects you against the negative influences that inevitably come when there's a lot of money and power to be had."

Contact Amy Silverman at her online address:

Contact Patti Epler at her online address:

super lobbyist (sooper lahbeeist) n.--An individual who conceives of, writes and pushes for legislation on behalf of a client or clients, usually business interests, at the Arizona Legislature. Also argues against legislation not favored by clients. Often distinguished from other lobbyists by representing many clients at once, on a contract basis. Power derives not only from their own contributions and gifts, but the promise of what their client base can pony up as well.

A look at some of Arizona's Super Lobbyists, their clients, and their contributions to statewide and legislative candidates during the 1998 campaign season:

Jim Bush and Michael Preston Green, Fennemore Craig. Bush gave $4,085. Green gave $8,235. Their firm's PAC gave $27,815 through its political action committee; its employees gave another $18,617. Some of the firm's clients and their contributions: ASARCO, PAC: $2,025; employees: $3,075; Anheuser-Busch, PAC: $16,625; employees: $250; Bank One, PAC: $36,850; employees, $1,286; Cyprus Metals, PAC: $17,265; employees, $1,435; Phelps Dodge, PAC: $27,880; employees: $12,430; Arizona Mining Association, PAC: $9,970; employees: $2,175; Arizona Restaurant Association, PAC: $13,100. In 1997, the firm spent $6,965 on entertainment for legislators. Reported expenses for 1998 total $1,948 through June.

Bob Fannin, Quarles and Brady. He's widely considered the most influential lobbyist at the Capitol. Fannin chaired then-governor Fife Symington's 1994 campaign committee and 1998 exploratory committee. He also chaired John Kaites' attorney general campaign committee. He gave $15,435 in direct and in-kind contributions. Quarles and Brady employees, other than Fannin, gave another $9,519. The firm's clients and their contributions: American Express Co., PAC: $3,610; employees, $3,110; American Greyhound Racing Inc., PAC: $3,625; employees, $1,325; American Insurance Association, PAC: $5,630; employees, $75; Arizona Diamondbacks, managing partner Jerry Colangelo: $6,405; employees, $14,525; Honeywell, PAC: $750; employees, $4,293; IBM: employees, $2,300. In 1997, Fannin's firm spent $2,011 on entertainment for legislators.

Don Isaacson, Ridge and Isaacson. Isaacson gave $9,801. His clients and their contributions: Arizona Association of Homes and Housing for the Aged, PAC: $950; Arizona Licensed Beverage Association, PAC: $24,551; employees, $1,325; Arizona Optometric Association, PAC: $10,250; employees, $525; Rural Metro Corp., PAC: $24,900; employees, $6,897; Tobacco Institute: $0; University of Phoenix/Apollo Group, PAC: $5,555; employees, $2,929. For 1997 and 1998, no significant expenditures for entertainment for legislators are on file.

David Kimball, Gallagher and Kennedy. Kimball gave $1,600. Gallagher and Kennedy's PAC gave $7,175. The firm's clients and their contributions: Arizona Chamber of Commerce, whose employees gave $3,837.50 individually; Arizona Rock Products Association, $16,325 in PAC contributions; its employees another $925. In 1997, the Arizona Rock Products Association spent $3,364 on a legislative golf tournament at the Arizona Biltmore. For 1997 and 1998, Kimball reported no significant entertainment expenditures.

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