Recently, an independent report was released documenting the spending habits of the annual college football Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona. Investigators found that several Arizona lawmakers accepted gifts from Fiesta Bowl lobbyists. One of the politicians embroiled in the controversy is Arizona state Senate President Russell Pearce (R). The state lawmaker who rose to the limelight after introducing Arizona’s tough immigration law is reportedly among the public figures who were flown out to football games and accepted thousands of dollars worth of free tickets. The Arizona Republic reports:
The Fiesta Bowl investigative report clearly states, however, that Fiesta Bowl employees paid for and were reimbursed for non-Fiesta Bowl tickets given to Pearce in 2007 and 2008. The September 2007 tickets for the Navy/Air Force matchup were valued at $2,140. The September 2008 tickets to the University of Southern California/Ohio State matchup were valued at $4,060, the report said.
Lawmakers are required to report any single gift or accumulated gifts in excess of $500 or more in personal financial-disclosure statements. However, in many cases they did not appear to properly follow those reporting rules.
Pearce, for example, stated on a financial-disclosure statement covering May 2007 through May 2008 that he received a gift from the Insight Bowl. But more recent reports do not list any such line items. Pearce’s older reports were not immediately available for inspection, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Pearce prides himself as being a defender of the rule of law. In fact, he has often claimed that his moral rectitude is deeply intertwined with his Mormon faith. Yet, as the Arizona Republic notes, Pearce may have broken the law. Arizona state statutes prohibit state employees and elected officials from accepting tickets or “admission to any sporting or cultural event” for free. Pearce is also a tea party conservative who assumed his post promising a “bottom-up approach that listens to the people’s will on fiscal accountability issues.” As chairman of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, he has stated, “I am the gate keeper not the gift giver.” Apparently just a gift receiver.
He has not responded to numerous requests for comment.
Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ), Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and John McCain (R-AZ) are also implicated in the Fiesta Bowl controversy.