What looks like an elephant but acts like a snake?
The Goldwater Institute.
Recently, a number of legislators have put forth a bill (HB2817) trying to stop the airport from raising access fees on ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. This bill is being pushed forward despite the fact that a Supreme Court case is already on the schedule to determine whether the interpretation of Prop 126 applies to Uber and Lyft.
Prop 126, as a reminder, was passed by the citizens of Arizona and sold as a restriction on the state raising fees on services like haircuts and dry cleaning, not something like access to private property.
Last week, speaking in support of HB2817, Jon Riches of the Goldwater Institute made a number of statements, ranging from misleading to just plain false, trying to prove the necessity of giving preferential treatment to two California Ridesharing Companies, at the expense of Arizona companies that all pay their fair share.
In his argument, Mr. Riches claimed that raising the fees would in effect hurt the lower income families who are the primary users of Rideshare services to the airport. According to the GlobalWebIndex Study, Uber users match the general income demographics of a given city, which means that the majority of rideshare users to the airport are in the mid to upper income bracket, putting only 22% of users in the lower income bracket.
If the Goldwater Institute was so concerned with lower income families having access to transportation, it would make more sense for them to support the raise in fees because it would help improve light rail access to the airport. But, by their own account, they oppose infrastructure improvements that actually help lower income families. Not to mention education legislation that could improve lower income schools. But I digress.
Mr. Riches also claimed that HB2817 is based on a clear and plain reading of Prop 126, barring the raising of fees on services statewide. However, when Representative Shah rightly pointed out that the raising of fees in question was not on the service provided but on access to the curb, Mr. Riches avoided the distinction by making a red herring argument comparing the airport with a municipal building.
Municipal buildings are maintained and funded through tax dollars, the airport is funded almost entirely by revenue generated from use and access fees paid by the 1100 companies sustained by their business at the airport.
In the end, all Mr. Riches proved was that HB2817 is a really good bill for Uber and Lyft, and a really bad bill for Arizona companies.
As Dave Warren, President and CEO of Blue-Sky Parking, stated in his public testimony, “We attended every stakeholder meeting. The Airport hired, at our request, national consultants to study all other similar urban airports to establish what fees would be equitable. We made recommendations, participated in the process and have executed private contracts with the airport to operate our business. The two TNC’s this bill would benefit only attended the last two stakeholder meetings – you would be rewarding bad behavior by passing this bill.”
And this is the deeper problem. Why is the Goldwater Institute, an organization named after Barry Goldwater, an icon of conservative thought and proud Arizonan, a man whose name is on Terminal 4 at the airport, a man who unwaveringly pushed for small government and non-intervention in marketplace issues, why is the Goldwater Institute seeking government intervention on the private interests of out of state companies?
It’s the question we need to ask as we look at this mirage of an elephant parading around. Why does the Goldwater Institute get behind so many causes and initiatives that work against the very values espoused by its namesake?
The answer is a simple one. The Goldwater Institute works on behalf of whoever pays their bills. According to their most recent 990, 44% of their total contributions came from eight donors, whom they have chosen to not disclose. That is $2,283,022 incentive to work on behalf of a very small group of financial backers. Without these eight contributions, they couldn’t meet their annual expenses of $4,375,405. If we want to know why the Goldwater Institute is betraying their roots, we should follow the money.
Except that we can’t follow the money. The tragedy of an institute with such significant history and pedigree peddling their services like a cheap injury lawyer should hit everyone hard.
The lack of contribution transparency is exactly what makes this possible. The downfall of the Goldwater Institute is what Justice Antonin Scalia warned about.
“Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed. For my part, I do not look forward to a society which, thanks to the Supreme Court, campaigns anonymously . . . hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism. This does not resemble the Home of the Brave.” – Justice Scalia
Standing for true conservatism is a revolutionary act. It is one that takes courage and grit. A stance that requires us to say no to the cheap buck and say yes to the long fight. True conservatism is a revolution of decency and preservation in a political climate dictated by special interests and emotional outrage.
Barry Goldwater himself said it best:
“Fellow Republicans, it is the cause of Republicanism to resist concentrations of power, private or public, which enforce such conformity and inflict such despotism. It is the cause of Republicanism to ensure that power remains in the hands of the people.” From The Conscience of a Conservative.
Working at the behest of private, out-of-state, companies is the opposite of the revolutionary act of keeping power in the hands of the people. The transition from an elephant to a snake is a disappointing one, but inevitable with lack of accountability of the Goldwater Institute in recent years.
In fact, even more troubling is the reality that Mr. Riches and others, who claim to represent the Institute, have never registered as lobbyists with the state, something everyone else has to do. Is that just another way to hide who pays the bills? We intend to find out, because HighGround is filing a formal complaint with Secretary of State to clarify this matter.
Perhaps it’s having a hard time finding its intellectual and financial footing in an environment so cloaked with change. Regardless, it might be high time for them to either go back to representing what Barry Goldwater believed or close their doors and let someone else represent the legacy their name espouses.