The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

84° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Legislators sound off on free tickets

The UA has regularly sent out offers for free season tickets to members of the Arizona Legislature.

Some legislators say the tickets are a chance to network and meet their constituents, not an attempt to sway their opinions.

The UA External Relations office and Office of the President sent out the ticket invitations, according to Tim Bee, associate vice president of State Relations. Greg Byrne, athletic director at the UA, said the athletics department was not involved. Mike Stoops, head football coach at the UA, was not available for comment as of press time.

Democratic Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford of District 27, which includes the UA, has accepted gifts in the form of 2011 skybox football season tickets from the university.

Cajero Bedford said she has been attending games since 1973, when her mother was a legislator.

“Sports is not primarily on my mind (when attending games),” Cajero Bedford said. “Meeting the people that I represent is of great importance.”

She refused to comment about if she sits with her constituents during games.

Legislators can choose to sit in the stands or the skybox, according to Robert Shelton, executive director of the Fiesta Bowl and former UA president. He said he did not know which option legislators choose the most.

“With 35,000 people, what am I gonna do?” Cajero Bedford asked. “When I’m walking around, I talk to people. This has been a tradition and that’s all I have to say.”

Arizona lawmakers can accept tickets to sporting events if all 90 legislators receive an invitation, said Daniel Scarpinato, a director of communications for the Majority Caucus and House Republicans in the House of Representatives. Other gifts do not have such provisions.

“If you’re a lawmaker and I gave you a new computer, that’s legal, even if I don’t offer it to everyone,” he said. “If I come to you as a UA president and say, ‘here’s a ticket to a game,’ that’s illegal.”

He said he does not know why the law works that way.

“You’d have to ask the folks that drafted the law,” he said. Speaker of the House Andy Tobin is considering changes to the gift disclosure process to improve transparency, Scarpinato said. Tobin could not be reached by press time.

Shelton said the goal of the ticket offers is to keep legislators informed about what’s going on at the UA. Bee added the games might be one of the few opportunities lawmakers have to be on campus and improve their understanding of the institution.

Six Republicans and eight Democrats will attend games this year, according to Susan Donaldson, executive assistant in the Office of State Relations. Bee said he did not know the number of invitations historically accepted by legislators.

Rep. Vic Williams, a Republican from District 26, said he attended one UA game in the past to understand its impact and significance on the community and it is a good experience for legislators to have.

“However, to attend every single game with multiple tickets is borderline on abuse of our position,” he said.

Rep. Steve Farley accepted tickets to four UA games this year. He said he goes to get in touch with his constituents and said he sits both in the “nosebleeds” and in the stands with fans. “When you are getting tickets for the president’s box, you’re giving away some of your opportunity for fun,” he said. “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”

No one from the UA has ever suggested he vote or act in a certain way over the past five years he has accepted tickets, Farley said.

“If people are concerned that there is undue influence happening where the university is giving legislators tickets to the games for favorable treatment, then you should look at what happened in the last few years to the university’s budget,” he said. “It didn’t work.”

Farley added he would be happy to pay for his own tickets, but the UA does not allow him to.

Bee said it’s against the UA’s interests to stop offering tickets to lawmakers.

“It’s beneficial to our students, faculty and institution as a whole to have an excellent relationship with our lawmakers who make decisions about our institution,” Bee said.

Shelton said he thinks a tense political climate, as was seen during the recent discussions on the debt ceiling, may cause people to become frustrated and view legislators accepting tickets as a negative thing.

“Some people are always going to have that opinion,” he said. “And who’s to say that they’re wrong?”

More to Discover
Activate Search