County attorney: Confusing laws to blame in Fiesta Bowl filings

December 21, 2011

No lawmakers or lobbyists will be charged with breaking any laws after an eight-month investigation by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.  Prosecutors and investigators looked into whether 28 lawmakers failed to properly report out-of-town trips paid for by the Fiesta Bowl.  From Phoenix, KJZZ’s Paul Atkinson reports.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill MontgomeryMaricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery (Photo by Paul Atkinson/KJZZ)

Read the presentation from Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

PAUL ATKINSON: Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery says the problem is the gift giving laws lobbyists and lawmakers have to follow can be confusing.

BILL MONTGOMERY: “What we found over the course of an eight-month investigation revealed inconsistent statutory definitions of gifts, inconsistent statutory guidelines for entertainment, rendering bans on receipt of sporting events tickets nearly meaningless.”

PAUL ATKINSON: Montgomery also blames poor advice by legislative council to lawmakers who asked for guidance.  He says lawmakers have to knowingly file incomplete or false financial statements—which is difficult to prove.

BILL MONTGOMERY:  “If the standard were to be amended to know or should have known, I would be standing in front of you with a very different set of charging recommendations.”

PAUL ATKINSON: Montgomery recommends lawmakers pass either a total gift ban or one that requires all gifts over $25 to be reported on a quarterly basis.

Public officials in Arkansas stopped taking out-of-state trips paid for by lobbyists after a gift reporting law went into effect more than 20 years ago. Little Rock attorney Scott Trotter helped get an initiative passed that required quarterly reporting of any gifts with a face value of $100 or more.  

SCOTT TROTTER: “That is a far better situation than not having any regulation at all and it brings about thoughtful discussion and disclosure of whether there is untoward gift giving underway with respect to government officials.”

Trotter says his state’s law forces public officials to think twice before accepting a gift.  He says lobbyists have made several attempts to water down the law.

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