Team ACA Private Donations

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Team ACA, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the Arizona Commerce Authority, has been criticized for not revealing the amounts of donations from private sources. Team ACA Executive Director Don Cardon addresses those criticisms.

Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. The Arizona commerce authority was created by the governor and lawmakers to replace the state's Department of Commerce. The ACA is designed to be a leaner, more nimble agency charged with expanding Arizona existing businesses and attract new companies to the state. It's set up as a public private partnership. Minimizing the need for tax declares to support economic development activities. Team ACA is a nonprofit fund-raising arm of the authority. As a nonprofit it can raise money from private companies and spend it in ways that a government agency cannot. Team ACA does not disclose the amounts of donation it is collects and the recent article in the Arizona Republic raises concerns about that lack of transparency. Here to talk about this is Don Cardon, the executive director of Team ACA and former director of the Arizona commerce authority. Good to see you again, thanks for joining us.

Ted Simons: Why doesn't Team ACA, this is a nonprofit raising money for ACA expenses. Why not disclose how much?

Don Cardon: First let me say I'm not sure we're not going to. We have really started the nonprofit within the last six to nine months. The board has met twice. They are away for the summer. When questions were raised about who gave and how much I really didn't have -- we hadn't had that on the board agenda and I didn't want to disclose some of the companies. We're fine, but like to know and have some voice in that as a board. The board has not discussed it. Of the two that did come forward and say I called them and both Alliance Bank and Apollo group said that's fine. I think it will be an issue that will be discussed but part of it too is it's not a thing. It's a matter of some things they don't want people to know how much there giving out to this one or that one. Not because there's anything wrong, we're proud to be involved, but there's things that we don't disclose on a national policy basis. Not just about this.

Ted Simons: But if they are proud to be involved, why would they not want to be front and center saying, we're trying to support getting businesses here and keeping businesses that are here intact?

Don Cardon: Like I said I'm not sure they are not going to say that, Ted. That it's what we're going to be discussing in September when we meet. I think the models around the country, their approach has been they disclose who and in tiers up to 50,000 or up to 100,000. But they may say sure, you know Alliance Bank said, we put in $100,000, proud of it. We're thrilled with what's going on with the ACA.

Ted Simons: Obviously the question here and concern here is that there would be preferential treatment for those who donate but if we don't know who donates we don't know who is getting what kinds of treatment.

Don Cardon: Right. Well first of all, everyone that contributes will be known by name. How much depends on some of their national policy stuff. For example, with Apollo their approach was we don't want to disclose anywhere in the country how much we give. We're not trying to tout ourselves. We believe in community service. By policy we don't want to do that. But the realty is that these companies are coming together to provide a service that really our country is saying they want. They want a smaller government. They want business to be more involved. They want taxpayers to be less on the dime. So to the degree that they can they are doing it. It's intriguing to me why once it starts happening it's so suspicious.

Ted Simons: Well, let's go along those lines. The Arizona Republic story noticed that there were Diamondbacks tickets, limousine rides and receptions there. Shouldn't the public know who is involved quasi-governmental agency, public-private, shouldn't government have some idea who is involved paying for things like that?

Don Cardon: Well, first of all, they should be involved if they are taxpayer dollars, absolutely. These are private dollars that are contributed on the behalf of the citizens of the state. Any dollar that's given to the ACA, or given to the Arizona Tech council, which TEAM ACA plans to contribute to or GPEC,will be disclosed if they have to under their guidelines and their charters. At ACA, every dollar Team ACA has provided to ACA is disclosed. We're totally good with that but that's ACA. Because it's taxpayer dollars as opposed to private. So to me, I don't agree with the concept and the notion that because somebody contributes to help a state advance during one of the worst economic challenges in our history it's doing it to try to get favors. To me it's believing the worst common denominator and honestly I think it's one of the biggest challenges our country faces is the eroding trust of people that actually do care about serving. I experienced it myself. Biggest challenge for me was I knew what my motivations were. I knew that I wanted to do it for a year when I signed on. I was asked to stay longer, which I did because the argument that Jerry and his office - Colangelo -- said you have a responsibility. You have imparted a vision. You need to stay with that. I said, I've got some needs in my family. I want to get back to my businesses. His argument was just. I stayed in. Last two years have been challenging because of the fact that now this is really something. Rightfully so. We're proud of it. I'm very proud of it. But it's been hard to feel like why does everybody believe the worst? It really bothers me about our country.

Ted Simons: It's an interesting point to raise. Some would argue why not then go overboard on transparency? Don't even give anyone a chance to think there could be kickbacks, shenanigans, monkey business. People do that because experience suggests that it can happen. Why not go overboard and say, you know, every penny, here's why they are doing it. We're going to get more if we can.

Don Cardon: But understand every penny given to the government is being disclosed. Every penny. There's nothing being given to the ACA by Team ACA that will not be disclosed and has not been. There's no elected officials on our board. We're doing the best we can to have no board members of the ACA ever be on Team ACA. The ACA, and I'm proud of the governor and legislative leadership, one of the things they did really well is put very strong transparencies. The ACA provides disclosure every quarter on every dollar. The fact that they have the details in that article yesterday, how did they get them? They got them because they were disclosed.

Ted Simons: If that's happening with ACA, again, what is the purpose of Team ACA? Why is it necessary?

Don Cardon: Because there's things in Team ACA that the ACA, when the governor and I went to Beijing a year ago a week before the governor of Washington and 90 CEOs were there trying to get business to go to Washington State. We showed up at about 15 people. Washington puts on dinners, diplomatic dinners for everybody. I don't know how they paid it. My guess is with private dollars. Texas, the number one state in the country, has Texas One. That's how it was modeled.

Ted Simons: Missouri I believe is a well. Something on the website, the Team ACA website going overseas and using private funds to again attract businesses to Missouri, but again, if Arizona is involved in this, shouldn't the public know if any kind of adjunct to a public-private partnership, ACA, commerce authority, if anything involved in that particular arrangement is being done for good, for not so good or somewhere in between, shouldn't the public know?

Don Cardon: Well, I think when it intersects with the public sector, it is and will be. Again, when we pay money, ACA, Team ACA, that will be fully disclosed. I don't know if I don't see your point but we're fulfilling that.

Ted Simons: It seems as though, some folks are not comfortable showing how much they give. Don't want to be known for this even though they should be if they are supporting it.

Don Cardon: Let's say -- I'm not talking about politics. What about where they give to shelters or to things that have no political connectivity to them at all? It's the same standard. What we're talking about is corporations nationally where we charitably or philanthropically give we don't want to tout that, we just want to do it. Again, team ACA has not determined that they won't, but right now I don't have the authority to say we will.

Ted Simons: Before we let you go you mentioned you signed on for a year and I know that the article mentioned discretionary bonus and these sorts. I'm not sure how much you can talk about that. $75,000 according to the Arizona Republic. Does Team ACA pay that? Is that again something that private pays to, a quasi-public official?

Don Cardon: Entirely by contract not only for my tenure there but anyone going forward recruit and hire a permanent CEO, any of the bonuses are 100% private contract paid by private dollars. You have an annual salary set by national survey two years ago. I'm proud of the fact that private sector is stepping up, Team ACA is paying half that. You have the cost to the citizens of Arizona of $150,000 to get a $300,000 talent level.

Ted Simons: The last question, for folks who see that dividing line too thin or too vague or somewhere along those lines, you say --

Don Cardon: I just say that I am so proud of what we have done and there's full disclosure on every dollar that goes in connection to the public dollars. It's right, it's appropriate, we're going to continue to do it, but the biggest success in my opinion that the state has had in terms of organizational position against challenging local economy is the ACA, and my hope is that people understand the governor gets the legislature gets it, the business community gets it, our hope is one day the media will get it.

Ted Simons: All right. Well, maybe we'll have you on again sometime to help us figure that out. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Don Cardon:Executive Director, Team ACA;

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