In a surreal turn of fate, Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs’ extravagant taxpayer-funded Superbowl spending spree will be investigated by running mate and fellow Democrat, Attorney General Kris Mayes. The $2.1M expenditure on Super Bowl LVII, a thriller in which the Chiefs edged the Eagles 38-35, included high-level parties, hotel rooms, sponsorships, and free tickets for teachers, staffers, and political allies, raised some eyebrows in a state struggling to provide essential services such as helping the homeless and managing the exploding illegal immigrant invasion at Arizona’s southern border.
Hobbs defended the expenditure, telling Capitol Media Services (CMS), “It is absolutely one important tool that we use to attract economic development to our state.”
Hobbs’ Director of the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), Sandra Watson, concurred. “The CEO program really gives us an opportunity to really educate decision makers on the value proposition that we offer for businesses,” she told CMS.
“What we want to do is position Arizona in the best possible way,” Watson continued. “Utilizing the Super Bowl and other major events gives us an opportunity not only to talk about the business climate in Arizona but our quality of life.”
An audit of the ACA’s CEO attraction program, which allowed the massive expense, provided details of the outlay. It included a block of 70 rooms at the Arizona Biltmore, an open-host hospitality lounge, paid dinners, and a welcome event hosted by the Governor. It also included gift packages, which included commemorative event items such as hats, sunglasses, and more.
The most significant portion, $1.85M, was spent on a Super Bowl sponsorship, yielding a VIP tailgate party and entry to the “Super Bowl Experience” at the Phoenix Convention Center, which included access to the “4-D” theater and an equipment room allowing participants were able to “suit up” and participate in a post bowl “immersive celebration.” It also provided 140 Superbowl game tickets, which the Governor awarded to donors, other VIPs, teachers, and five staffers, including her chief-of-staff.
Auditor General Lindsey Perry and her staff are investigating the expenditure, expressing concerns about the legality of such use of taxpayer funds. Despite the Governor’s argument that the event was vital to attracting new businesses to the state, Perry cited several cases where invitees had already been awarded a grant or tax incentive before the event.
Although the audit showed that program expenditures correlated directly to 15,000 jobs from 23 companies, many were “proposed, potential, nonbinding jobs.” However, Director Watson claims that the numbers were “reliable,” and that the 23 companies “have made a commitment to Arizona.”
Despite the arguments in favor of the spending by Hobbs and her minions, Perry remains unconvinced. The Arizona Constitution requires that public funds be used for a “public purpose,” with a provable net benefit. Perry is referring the case to AG Mayes’ office for further investigation.
The Arizona Globe contacted Senate Majority Leader Borrelli and House Speaker Grantham, requesting statements about the Legislature’s oversight of this issue. This story will be updated if either gets back to the Globe.
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