Monday, September 23, 2002

Stupidity or Cupidity--You Make the Call

For those of you not steeped in Arizona politics, you might not realize that Matt Salmon, the GOP nominee for governor, is working as a lobbyist while he campaigns for governor. Ever read one of those right-wingers who attack liberals because we're so beholden to government and conservatives are morally superior because they'd rather be in the private sector? What does it mean that in Arizona, they've nominated someone who doesn't know how to earn a living apart from government, either as an official or a lobbyist?

I now have to take back my claim (entry of 9/12/02; link not working) that Dick Mahoney hasn't attacked Matt Salmon without going after Janet Napolitano, too. This one was too rich to resist, even for Dick. And what does it say about the Betsey Bayless campaign that they completely missed this issue during the GOP primary?

The editor deleted the last line--apparently for space considerations, but who knows? Bob also didn't like my original opening line, that even more than The Tribune likes Matt Salmon, The Tribune hates light rail.

East Valley Tribune, September 22, 2002

Matt Salmon isn’t even running for governor full-time. Instead, he schedules campaigning around his regular job -- as a lobbyist for light rail and the phone company. Nice work if you can get it. (And just how do you think he got it?)

The Tribune originally disclosed Salmon’s lobbying (ahem, consulting) client list back in May. This past week, The Arizona Republic reported that Salmon still represents three: The City of Phoenix, Maverick Convenience Stores, and Qwest Communications. In campaign speeches, Salmon may recite the cliché about working for Arizona, but currently he’s working to snag federal funds for Phoenix light rail and for our friendly neighborhood under-SEC-investigation phone company.

Salmon defends his high-paying lobbying gig thusly: “I am a real guy . . . that works for a living and I’m proud of it.” (I’ve deleted his references to family because they aren’t running for governor and deserve their privacy, even if Salmon wants to hide behind them.) Just a regular guy, proudly working for a living -- a “Lunch Bucket Lobbyist.”

Here’s Matt Salmon’s definition of what “a real guy” does when he “works for a living”: He “advises” Qwest executives on getting what they want from state and federal regulators. He meets with other “policy-makers” on Qwest’s radar, like mayors and city council members. For Phoenix, he maintains and develops contacts with members of Congress and the Bush administration on city priorities; advises city officials on their own contacts; and participates in a weekly conference call.

Qwest won’t say how much it pays Salmon for advising and schmoozing, but Phoenix had to disclose that it paid $187,000 for his services over the past year. This summer, Phoenix cut the contract in half because campaigning put a crimp in Salmon’s schedule, so now he only gets $75,000 annually. A campaign spokesperson said that Salmon does his lobbying during his “private time.” Thus, his day consists of campaigning throughout the state, then earning his potential six-figure lobbying income. And then if there’s any time left, maybe he helps out around the house.

While he pays his “expenses” (which also get publicly reported; go to it, reporters!) out of the monthly fees, he’s still raking in at least four or five times the average income for an Arizona family, while asking for their votes.

Salmon’s lobbying put the upcoming GOP fundraiser in perspective. Of course George W. Bush will raise money here. He’s spending more time than even Bill Clinton did raising political cash all over the country, but in Arizona, the GOP fundraising machine can eliminate potential inefficiencies.

Instead of raising money from highly-paid lobbyists for mere politicians, now they can raise money from highly-paid lobbyists to benefit another highly-paid lobbyist -- cutting out the middleman. It’s Bush’s and Salmon’s idea of Nirvana: Government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, and for the lobbyists.

Lobbying for private clients while running for public office is perfectly legal. Oh, some good government types worry about the appearance of impropriety; how can you be working the levers of government this year to benefit Phoenix and Qwest, then take control of those levers next year and treat your former clients just like everybody else?

But this isn’t a legal or ethical issue. Instead of fretting about the appearance of impropriety, worry instead about the appearance of stupidity. Who else would be either dumb or brazen enough to call lobbying “real work for a living” by “a real guy” during a political campaign?

Salmon may claim that he’s a different kind of politician. But he’s just another of the same old kind of lobbyist.

No comments: