Legislative Update

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A weekly update of legislative news with a reporter from the Arizona Capitol Times.

Ted Simons: A fort McDowell tribe is investigating a secret contract between the Fiesta Bowl and an associate of the tribal president. Fired Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker could only provide sketchy details of the associate's duties and did not offer an explanation as to why the contract was secret. This is the latest in a scandal that's also touched state lawmakers who received free tickets from the bowl. Here with our weekly legislative update is Arizona Capital Times reporter Jim Small. Good to see you. What is the reaction at the capitol over this whole Fiesta Bowl thing?

Jim Small: Well, I think everyone is kind of really marveling at what was actually going on there. I think the news stories that came out yesterday when the report was released and the ones that came out today kind of expounded on it were, they really revealed everything that was allegedly going on at Fiesta Bowl. And I think a lot of people are just looking at that and going holy cow. Look at all these allegations and look at all the tentacles that are reached out and all the people that are, implicated in a bad way but that are certainly mentioned in the report. You go throughout report and it's literally it's almost like a who's who of political figures in a lot of ways.

Ted Simons: I was going to say the beneficiaries of some of the Fiesta Bowl largesse include everyone from the governor's son, who was hired as part of the investigation. We can get to that in a second. But fundraisers for then speaker Jim Wires, Tempe Council, we had fundraiser for J.D. Hayworth that was mentioned, something for John McCain that was mentioned as well, name after name. Again, these folks are saying, they had no idea all this funny business was going on.

Jim Small: I think that's probably very likely the case. You had a lot of politicians who, you know, as the course of their campaign are raising money and they are getting in checks and they wouldn't have any, wouldn't even have any position to know that the check they got from, you know, from the chief operating officer of the Fiesta Bowl was, in fact, being paid by the Fiesta Bowl. That's not something they would really have a way to even know. They just took the checks in or went to the fundraiser hosted by the Fiesta Bowl which is perfectly legal and there's nothing wrong with that. And picked up checks from that and deposited them into their campaign accounts.

Ted Simons: We had trips and tickets as well, and Senate president Russell Pearce at the time, believe in the house at the time but either way, a trip to Chicago for a football game he and his wife in '05 and '08 and a trip to Boston with he and his wife and son to see a college football game but Russell Pearce also sponsored legislation to help get the BCS title game over there. Again, a lot of names are touched. How much damage is this doing?

Jim Small: To the individual legislators, I don't think that it's doing a whole lot of damage. Things like that look bad. These lawmakers went to football games and Fiesta Bowl spent $12,000 to fly people out there, put them up in the Ritz Carlton and take them to these games. Does it kind of look bad. But it's actually perfectly legal under the state law. And really what state law says you can give high-dollar gifts. Generally they are banned. I couldn't -- you couldn't go up to senator Russell Pearce and say I want to give you tickets to a Diamondbacks game. But what you can do is say I've got tickets to the Diamondbacks game. I am give them to every single lawmaker, maybe them available to all 90 legislators, make the same offer so anyone who wants to show up can show up and that's kind of -- that's really the loophole and the work around here. And that's exactly what we saw with these tickets and these flights and things like that.

Ted Simons: I was going to say I kind of doubt that Steve Farley was offered too many football tickets.

Jim Small: In order for this to be legal they had to be offered to everybody. I know that the Fiesta Bowl has done this for a long time. They will do it for bowls here. The cardinals do it. They did it earlier this season. The cardinals invited every lawmaker to come and sit at a game in a Suite and there were probably two dozen lawmakers that showed up.

Ted Simons: Interesting. So, that's the key, make sure everyone gets the same offer.

Jim Small: Correct.

Ted Simons: Grant Woods does not look good in this final report. What happened to his political career? Taken a big hit here?

Jim Small: That's, you know, it could. It depends on how much of a political career, how much he really wanted to have in terms of being a candidate and things like that. Obviously, he was hired to do independent, quote-unquote, independent investigation that according to this report, shows it really wasn't that independent and was almost orchestrated to not reveal any wrongdoings. So I think in that respect it looks bad. I think it looks bad for him. It certainly looks bad for the legal counsel, Gary Husk who is one of the public affairs consultants implicated in this and by all accounts in that report it looks like he and -- Grant Woods worked on this thing together and that certainly points Grant Woods and others said it was Gary Husk who was directing how the investigation went.

Ted Simons: We don't have too much time left and I wanted to get to the budget as well. There's so much going on around the Fiesta Bowl but let's get to the budget because it sounds like things are starting to happen down there. What's going on?

Jim Small: Yeah, about three days now Republican leaders and the governor's office have been meeting almost all day every day and just late this afternoon, an agenda came out, the budget is set to be heard in the appropriations committee in the house tomorrow morning at 9:00. So we haven't seen bills, we don't know if there's a deal in place but as of right now they are planning to go ahead and get the budget ball rolling.

Ted Simons: Is this something that we could literally have something close to a done deal here in a few days or something that could be talked about, debated and then sit around for a while?

Jim Small: I think both are probably equally likely. It's entirely possible that by the end of the day tomorrow a budget is done, that these bills go through committee, they go to the floor, and they get voted on by tomorrow night. It's also equally likely that this committee doesn't even happen tomorrow. We have seen that in the past where a committee will be scheduled and say, OK, we have got the bills ready, we will put them through and then everyone shows up at 9:00 in the morning and waits, and by noon everyone is getting grumpy and by 3:00 everybody is really angry and 4:00 they say, sorry, we are not going to do this today.

Ted Simons: It indicates to a certain degree that the governor, house, Senate, that something is going on here. That --

Jim Small: Yeah. I think without a doubt they are close. I don't think there's anyone who would disagree with the fact they are very close to a deal. It's always those last couple details that tend to really, really hold things up and if they can iron those out and get everything moving there I think that we should be seeing a bunch of budget probably within the week at the latest.

Ted Simons: All right. Good stuff. Jim, thanks. Appreciate it.

Jim Small:Arizona Capitol Times;

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