Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce's Lobbyist Pal Greg Patterson and the Ties That Bind

The first thing you need to know about Greg Patterson of the right-wing Espresso Pundit blog is that he is a lobbyist. According to the Arizona Secretary of State's website, he has been a registered lobbyist since 1997

To be fair, he doesn't hide this fact in his online bio. Still, it is of note because Patterson is often identified when he appears on television as a "blogger" and/or "former legislator." He is both of these things, but, these days, lobbying pays his bills. Or at least some of them. 

Patterson's number one cash cow as a lobbyist is the Arizona Competitive Power Alliance, of which he is the director. Though the AzCPA is organized as a nonprofit, that's somewhat misleading, as Patterson makes bank from AzCPA. 

Financial statements he's required to file with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service reveal that AzCPA boasted revenue in 2010 of $203,375, most of this from membership dues and fees. That same year, Patterson reported doing 20 hours of work per week, while pulling a salary of $130,417.

Though I could find no 2010 info on file for Patterson's other going concern, the Water Utilities Association of Arizona, its 2009 filing with the IRS showed Patterson received $60,000 for his work as the organization's executive director from a net balance for the association of $72,445. 

Once again, the paperwork shows Patterson did 20 hours per week to score this booty.

What exactly does Patterson do during his 20 hours per week for each organization? Well, both operations have a website, and AzCPA in particular spends oodles on banquets, luncheons and conferences given at the Camelback Inn, Tomaso's, the El Chorro Lodge, and other such joints.

This year, for the AzCPA's annual energy conference held at the Camelback Inn, Patterson shelled out $17,812. Attendees paid $75 per person, or $2,000 per table, to listen to the bloviations of Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce, among others. 

AzCPA's fall conference is scheduled for October 19 at the Camelback Inn, and will feature speechifying from GOP Congressman David Schweikert, as well as from Matt Salmon, the former Republican Congressman who is running for Representative Jeff Flake's soon-to-be vacant Congressional seat.

"After the conference," the AzCPA's event flier reads, "we will make our way over to the El Chorro Lodge for the 11th Annual Alliance Dinner. Cocktails will be served starting at 5:30 and dinner will be served at 6:00."

If visions of fat cats in spats sucking on cee-gars swirl in your head, you're not too far off the mark. AzCPA's website states that it was founded by "independent power producers intent on serving the Arizona electric market," and it has expanded "to include a wide array of energy companies representing various industries including: Transmission, Solar and Renewable Technologies, Liquefied Natural Gas and Retail Electric Competition."

Aside from feting politicians and captains of industry, Patterson lobbies the Arizona Corporation Commission and the state Legislature on behalf of pro-energy industry initiatives. 

And in the past, he's donated to Arizona politicians like CorpCom-wanna-be John Allen, former State Senator Tim Bee, erstwhile State Treasurer Dean Martin, among others. 

Patterson's shilling for energy companies should color your view of everything Patterson says in his role as a commentator. See, his livelihood depends, in part, on kissing the rings of powerful Legislators and public officials such as state Senate President Russell Pearce.

Almost all lobbyists, regardless of their political persuasions, must bow and scrape before Pearce as if he were a reincarnation of Sun King Louis XIV of France. They have no choice, considering Pearce's influence as the most powerful man in Arizona. 

For example, one lobbyist I know of in town, who is pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and so forth, has also been a substantial contributor to Pearce's campaign. 

Why? Because Pearce can make sure any bill this lobbyist pushes never sees the floor of the state Senate. 

First in the House and later in the Senate, Pearce was the chair of these respective bodies' appropriation committees. That position earned him the fawning attentions of nearly every lobbyist in the state. 

But as Senate President, Pearce can make or break legislators and lobbyists like matchsticks. Save for in the rare instances when Senate members buck his rule, his word is law. 

The above observations should be preamble to Patterson's recent diatribe concerning a lawsuit brought against Sequoia Charter Schools, of which Pearce challenger Jerry Lewis is an assistant superintendent. 

I'll address the merits of the complaint in a blog post to follow. In Patterson's screed, he calls out by name various members of the local Fourth Estate for not investigating the lawsuit, which involves, as I will show, some kvetching over two boxes of old clothing and a ditched entertainment center.

Patterson himself does zero digging. He simply posts the lawsuit in a PDF link and summarizes its contents uncritically, apparently without speaking to any of the parties involved.

In his blog item, Patterson makes an interesting admission.

"All the major news outlets have the story," he tells readers. "Laurie Roberts, EJ Montini, Dennis Welch have all known about it for weeks but they are sitting on it. Why? Because the candidate is Jerry Lewis, and no one in the media is willing to print a story that might upset Lewis' chances of defeating Russell Pearce."

Now, how does he know that all the major news outlets in town have the story? Well, more than one fellow journo has told me that Pearce campaign advisers Chuck Coughlin and Chad Willems have been shopping the suit to the media, begging for a hit piece.

I'm guessing most reporters have stayed away from it because the charges, up until this point, have been extremely picayune. Also, the Pearce campaign's possibly illegal shenanigans involving sham candidate Olivia Cortes have sucked a lot of air out of the room.

Did Coughlin or Willems or someone working on their behalf whisper in Patterson's ear and send him a PDF of the complaint? I called and e-mailed Patterson asking to speak with me about it. He wrote back saying he was currently in Hawaii.

"I just summarized the suit, so I can't imagine that there's any part of it that you don't find accurate," he stated.

When I asked him if he pulled the court doc himself, he did not respond.

Patterson's known for his frequent Jeremiads against journalism, and I certainly have had my problems with the local press corps. Indeed, whenever someone tries to insult me by saying, "You're not a real journalist," I tend to take that as a sort of unintended compliment.

Of newspapers and news blogs, Patterson claims,

"That's why people don't trust them. That's why they don't subscribe. That's why they are collapsing financially. And that's why the world will be a better place when they are gone."

Really? Tell me, folks, do you think the world will be better informed when all of its news is supplied by Republican lobbyist-bloggers beholden to the very politicians they write about? Lobbyist-bloggers too lazy to do even a modicum of due diligence before throwing a lawsuit online and pretending it's the word of god?

I don't believe even Patterson buys that hooey. One, it would give him precious little to whine about. 

In addition, were Gannett, which owns the Arizona Republic and Channel 12, to go belly up tomorrow, he wouldn't be able to play pundit on 12's Sunday Squareoff anymore. 

And that free advertising is damn good for Patterson's business. Of this, you can be sure.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons