Ruben Gallego Says He’s ‘Not on the Hook’ to Lobbyists. He’s Sponsored Bills Backed by His Lobbyist Wife.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.) and Sidney Barron Gallego / @RubenGallego Twitter
February 23, 2024

Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego (Ariz.) says that if elected to the Senate, he will "not be on the hook" to lobbyists and other special interests. That might be news to his wife, a self-proclaimed "Democratic lobbyist" for a real estate trade group that frequently ranks as the top-spending lobbyist group in the country.

Since 2019, Gallego has voted for 38 bills for which his wife, Sydney Barron, has lobbied as director of government advocacy at the National Association of Realtors, lobbying disclosures show. Barron, who says her job is to develop legislative strategy that "target[s] House Democrats," has lobbied for 17 bills that Gallego has either sponsored or cosponsored, according to congressional records.

The National Association of Realtors has contributed $34,000 to Gallego’s campaign since 2014, according to campaign finance reports. In July 2021, the association gifted Gallego and Barron an all-expenses-paid trip to The Greenbrier, a swanky resort in West Virginia, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Gallego, who is running to unseat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I., Ariz.), has not been accused of wrongdoing. But the House Committee on Ethics has warned members that "special caution must be exercised" by members married to lobbyists in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

"At a minimum, such an official should not permit the spouse to lobby either him- or herself or any of his or her subordinates," the committee says.

It's unclear if Gallego has ever voted against legislation Barron lobbied in favor of. Neither he nor Barron responded to requests for comment on whether they have been on opposite sides of a bill, or whether Barron has directly lobbied Gallego or his staff.

Barron's employer publicly touted many of the bills that Gallego sponsored or otherwise backed.

Gallego sponsored the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act of 2020, a bill the National Association of Realtors endorsed, to provide tax credits to developers to build houses in low-income areas. The association backed the SAFE Banking Act of 2023, which Gallego cosponsored, to provide federal protections to landlords and banks that do business with state-approved marijuana dealers.

Gallego voted in 2019, the year he began dating Barron, for a bill that increased state and local tax deductions, a measure that many have criticized as a handout to wealthy blue state homeowners. Sixteen Democrats, including Arizona Rep. Greg Stanton, voted against the bill. The National Association of Realtors said it "advocated strongly" for its passage.

The House Committee on Ethics did not respond to a request for comment.

The apparent conflict of interest also undercuts Gallego’s criticism of his political opponents over their purported lobbyist ties. He said in a September 2023 fundraising email that he was "not on the hook to some huge corporation or a bunch of lobbyists" to vote in their favor.

"I’m never going to run a race like Kyrsten Sinema," he said. "She takes in millions from the wealthiest people in the country, but next to nothing from regular folks."

But Gallego has taken his fair share of money from wealthy donors. In March 2021, the U.S.-Qatar Business Council, a pro-Qatar trade group, paid roughly $22,000 for Gallego and Barron to visit Doha for meetings with Qatari officials. Gallego was photographed riding shirtless on a camel in the Qatari desert during the lobbyist-funded junket.

Gallego and Barron’s relationship began two years after Gallego filed to divorce his ex-wife, who was nine months pregnant at the time. He has said the divorce occurred while he was going through a period of PTSD-induced "extreme outbursts" and excessive drinking. Gallego has denied that any of those "outbursts" involved his then-wife, and has opposed the Free Beacon’s request to unseal the divorce records. Gallego says his family’s privacy and security concerns "override" the public’s need to know about the divorce.