'Lobbyist’ is not a dirty word - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

'Lobbyist’ is not a dirty word

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Allison Hurtado

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Posted: Sunday, September 18, 2011 9:00 am | Updated: 4:57 pm, Thu Nov 15, 2012.

I don't know about anyone else, but I am pretty sick of hearing the word "lobbyist."

I always thought of a lobbyist as someone who works at the Legislature, but Phoenix's run for mayor has turned the image of a lobbyist into greedy businessmen, buzzing in politician's ears to get them to vote for something the average taxpayer would never approve of - and getting paid for it.

Greg Stanton says Wes Gullett is a high-paid lobbyist. It's somewhat true, Gullett is a registered lobbyist with a long list of clients, but Gullett says he does maybe 20 hours of lobbying a year. Most of his work doesn't require lobbying.

Gullett says partners in his company do some lobbying, and laws require that he register, but that's not his job. His job is strategic planning. Companies come to him with a goal in mind and he helps them reach that goal.

"A lot of the work I do doesn't have any impact on government," Gullett said over the phone on Thursday. "When we're doing a strategic plan for how a company can be a bigger part of the community it doesn't have anything to do with government. Sometimes when we're running a campaign it doesn't have anything to do with government either.

"When we worked for the Realtors, Greg says I'm a lobbyist for the Realtors. What I was doing for the Realtors was developing a strategy for a ballot initiative to constitutionally prohibit real estate transfer taxes. That didn't have any government interface except changing the law.

"We weren't working with government officials but we were taking the constitutional right to change the constitution to protect homeowners from paying an additional tax."

Still, even if he himself doesn't do a lot of lobbying, Gullett is the head of a company with a lot of clients who do business at the city.

Stanton says it took too long for Gullett to promise to break all financial ties to his company if elected. He's also calling on Gullett to reveal a list of all current and past clients.

My question is whether Stanton is holding all the people in his office to the same standard as Gullett. He wants Gullett to reveal a list of all possible conflicts of interest in past clients.

Will every member of his staff do the same? Stanton says one of his biggest issues is more transparency in the government.

Now, Gullett is calling Stanton a hypocrite because he says that Stanton himself was a lobbyist. It's true, Stanton was a lobbyist for the Attorney General's Office.

He lobbied on behalf of Arizona residents for issues like fraud, border security, protecting the future of Luke Air Force Base and protecting seniors from those who might prey on them. So maybe not all lobbyists are bad?

The Arizona Department of State, which keeps a list of registered lobbyists, defines lobbying as: "Attempting to influence the passage or defeat of any legislation by directly communicating with any legislator; or in the case of bonding lobbyists, directly communicating with any school district employee or a school district governing board member or attempting to influence any formal rule making... by directly communicating with any state officer or employee."

Doesn't that sound like any concerned citizen could be a lobbyist? They're not, of course, but maybe it's not such a dirty word.

"This is not an issue about good or bad, it's an issue about public confidence in the decision making at the city," Stanton said. "The public needs to have complete confidence that the leaders of the city are making decisions only in their best interest... My only former client was the people of Arizona. Before that I represented the people of District 6. My experience and my background is only in serving the people."

This leads to an entirely different discussion of whether it's wrong to have work experience outside of government to become an elected official. I don't think my mind can handle that one.

Basically, there are a lot of lobbyists. I don't think it's a bad thing. Let's think of something new.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

 

 

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