Corruption Risk Report Card
Rank among 50 states: 30th

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The story behind the score

A scandal involving free football tickets illustrates loopholes and lax oversight in Arizona’s ethics laws. Read more from SII State Reporter Maureen West.

Latest state news for Arizona

The offices of the Arizona Commerce Authority are housed in downtown Phoenix at the Freeport-McMoRan Center, the gleaming glass headquarters of an international mining firm of the same name. The authority, which oversees state corporate tax incentives and grants worth hundreds of millions of dollars, is not quite a public agency, as its location two miles east of the state government complex suggests. It’s led by a board of directors run by the governor and Jerry Colangelo, who, after four decades as an Arizona sports and real estate mogul, is a local icon.  Sixteen other corporate executives also sit on the board, including Richard Adkerson, President and CEO of Freeport, to which the authority paid about $411,000 in state funds last fiscal year for renting the space.

There’s a name for this arrangement. The Commerce Authority is a “quasi-public” entity, or a public-private partnership. About 10 other states have also given control over lucrative corporate tax incentives to similar organizations, which are often run by the states’ most influential businessmen, generally at the pleasure of the governor. Supporters say these partnerships are more nimble than government bureaucracies and are insulated from the vagaries of electoral politics. But both liberal and conservative watchdog groups say the practice takes a government function already prone to mismanagement and obfuscation and makes the situation worse by giving oversight of business incentives to businesses themselves.

The Fiesta Bowl game and its many related events have become a football extravaganza that kicks off the new year for the Phoenix area with national publicity and a hefty economic boost.

But over the past three years, the Fiesta Bowl has also become the source of continuous embarrassment in the Valley of the Sun, for bowl officials, civic boosters and state legislators, as well. And it isn’t over.

A California organization receives $11 million from another group based in Arizona, which received the cash from a separate group, which in turn had it funneled from a fourth, based near Washington, D.C. Drug cartel money headed for an offshore account?  No, just state electioneering in a post-Citizens United world.

The current state of campaign finance affairs, laid out in a report Thursday from Stateline, exemplifies how the growing role of independent national political groups is causing problems for state officials trying to enforce their own election laws. Independent spending had unprecedented influence on state elections this year, with millions of dollars in corporate and other outside money shaping races across the country.

'Stealth' budgeting and 'striker' bills eliminate public from the processArizona House of Representatives

By Kathleen Ingley and Maureen West

Arizona’s legislative session this year was as hard to track as a Stealth bomber, even for many Capitol regulars.

A bill focused on attorney’s fees turned into a controversial measure about abortion. Other bills changed subjects too. And the Legislature took just one morning of public testimony about the budget. The real wrangling over state spending was done in two months of private meetings between the governor and legislative leaders. But the details of the blueprint weren’t public until lawmakers were on the floor ready to vote.

State integrity news for Arizona, from the Arizona Republic:

Seventy-two of nearly 200 state and legislative candidates in this year's election are choosing to run using Arizona's publicly funded Clean Elections program.

Voters concerned about corrupt candidates passed the act in 1998 after collecting enough signatures to put it on the ballot. Clean Elections candidates agree to not accept money from special-interest groups.

Read the rest of the story at the Arizona Republic.


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