Lawmaker Wants Lobbyists' Compensation To Be Public Information

By Kristena Hansen
Published: Tuesday, January 20, 2015 - 5:24pm
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A Democratic state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would require lobbyists to disclose to the public how much their clients are paying them.

Lobbyists play a powerful role in the policy-making process, working closely with lawmakers in hopes of swaying decisions in the favor of their clients’ special interests. Yet Arizona’s lobbyist regulations are sub-par compared to other states, said Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix, the bill’s sponsor.

Lobbyist compensation is required public information in Congress and about 20 other state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

McCune Davis has tried unsuccessfully in the past to boost Arizona’s lobbyist regulations and she's trying again this year with House Bill 2136, which would require lobbyists to disclose every quarter how much compensation they received from each client.

She said she proposed the bill after hearing rumors that a firm in the lending industry, the name of which she didn’t know, was searching for a lobbyist and was offering a $20,000 monthly fee.

“That fee, to me, just seemed way out of line and, to me, having that information was really valuable and I’d like to know that about other relationships between the clients and the lobbyists that come to the legislature,” McCune Davis said.

State law currently requires disclosure of the names of lobbyists’ clients and expenditures made on things such as food and flowers for elected officials, which is available to the public at the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

Douglas Cole, senior vice president of Phoenix-based lobbyist firm HighGround, said that’s all the public and lawmakers need to know.

“I don’t think any more information needs to be reported,” Cole said. “People need to know who has a lobbyist and who they work for. All that information’s already there … Where does this stop? Are we going to require churches to publicly put up on some Web page the salaries that they pay for their pastors and their youth ministers?”

McCune Davis acknowledged that, being part of the Democratic minority, her bill’s chances are slim. But she said there’s always the option of tacking it onto another bill later on in the legislative session.