Since the meetings, most of the lawmakers have changed jobs. Tobin is now the powerful House speaker, McComish was elected to the state Senate and Cambell lost his 2010 reelection bid. Weiers still has the same job but is planning to leave after his term ends at the end of the year.
The timing of these meetings matches closely with dates laid out in the recent indictment against Arredondo. Federal prosecutors say he began his alleged lawbreaking on Feb. 18, 2009 while he was still a small time city councilman in Tempe, Ariz.
The indictment said Arredondo started pressuring the undercover agents, posing as Longford executives, to pay for things like tables at charity events that the lawmaker could then use for himself.
The pattern continued, according to the indictment, for weeks after Arredondo got elected to the state House in November 2009. During that time, prosecutors allege, he took thousands of dollars in tickets and other gifts from the undercover agents.
Meanwhile, Williams, the lobbyist, kept working on Longford Solutions’ behalf, even traveling to places like Philadelphia and Atlanta to attend swanky conferences where state lawmakers and lobbyists from throughout the nation could meet behind closed doors.
One of those meetings, according to Arizona records, was the 2009 annual gathering of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, widely known by its initials ALEC.
Hosted in Atlanta and featuring guests like former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the conference was the kind that the organization has come under intense scrutiny for in recent years. Journalists and liberal activists have uncovered evidence showing conferences like this were used as a conduit for lobbyists and big corporations to write their own laws, which were then handed directly to lawmakers for introduction in statehouses all over the nation.
On July 15, 2009, Williams spent $123.10 at the conference on behalf of Longford Solutions, according to the records.
Less than a week later, from July 21 to 23, Williams was at another gathering of lawmakers in Philadelphia. This time it was the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual summit. Speakers like then-U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke headlined the event and it was another chance to mingle with influential state politicians from throughout the nation. There, records show, Williams spent $196.70 on behalf of the phony company.
As with the lawmakers, no one from ALEC or NCSL has been accused of wrongdoing and there is no indication the organizations or their practices are under federal investigation. The trips simply open a window into what exactly went into the investigation that ensnared Arredondo.
Meagan Dorsch, a spokeswoman with NCSL, said she hadn’t heard about the investigation before being contacted Friday by TPM and that the organization doesn’t generally release rosters of conference attendees. She declined to provide any other comment. A message left with an ALEC spokesperson was not immediately returned.
Federal authorities have made it clear that their investigation is still ongoing. Recently, prosecutors filed documents in U.S. District Court in Arizona asking for evidence in the Arredondo case to be sealed because it could affect other people who have not yet been named.
In his order granting the request, federal Magistrate Judge Lawrence Anderson said the evidence included “materials relating to the investigation of third persons and/or entities” as well as “materials relating to individuals who have agreed to cooperate with the Government in the investigation of other persons or entities.” He acknowledged that the release of the information could have an effect on ongoing federal probes.