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Jason Donofrio,
Arizona PIRG

Accountability, Transparency Urged for the Arizona Commerce Authority

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

At the September 27, 2011 meeting of the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), the Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Americans for Prosperity called on the new entity to be transparent and accountable to taxpayers.

During the last legislative session, Governor Jan Brewer and the Arizona legislature eliminated the Arizona Department of Commerce and replaced it with the ACA. The Authority’s board is comprised mainly of corporate executives, but the Authority is funded with public money and controls a $25 million “deal-closing” fund, which they can disburse to businesses to entice them to relocate in Arizona.

“The Arizona Commerce Authority needs to adopt policies that guarantee transparency in its operation,” said Serena Unrein, Public Interest Advocate for the Arizona PIRG Education Fund.  “The Arizona Commerce Authority has control over a significant amount of taxpayer dollars, so it needs to be accountable to the public.”

“When government gets into the business of trying to pick winners and losers in the private economy, a huge potential for corruption exists,” said Tom Jenney, Arizona director of Americans for Prosperity. “Taxpayers must keep careful eyes on how, and on whom, the Authority spends our taxpayer dollars.”

More than 275 people signed a petition circulated by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund calling on the Arizona Commerce Authority to implement “safeguards to be fully transparent and accountable to the public.”

“The Arizona Commerce Authority should abide by existing public open records and public open meeting laws. Unless information about the Arizona Commerce Authority is easily accessible for the public, there’s no way to ensure that their decisions are fair and that they can be held accountable for their actions,” said Unrein.

In addition to asking the ACA to follow open records and public meetings law, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund called for the ACA to publicly disclose which companies receive subsidies, the amount of the subsidy, and the number of jobs created as a result. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund also urged the ACA to adopt policies that would prevent ACA board members from handing out subsidies to their own affiliates or related industries.

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