At least one state agency is in the holiday spirit.
Check out the website for Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission and you’ll see a nicely wrapped gift of $20 million that was “donated” to the state’s general fund. “This badly needed transfusion of funds,” proclaims executive director Todd Lang, “would not be available were it not for the existence of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.”
Well, that’s true, sort of, in the same way as chemotherapy wouldn’t exist if not for cancer. That’s not exactly something to put in a gift basket.
And the commission’s generosity didn’t come willingly. If Arizona taxpayers have a Santa Claus, in this case it’s the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued an injunction in June 2010 against the practice of giving matching funds to taxpayer-subsidized candidates when their privately supported opponents raise or spend above specific levels. The injunction led to a sizable surplus in the commission’s funding.
Happily, the Supreme Court just decided to hear the merits of the Goldwater Institute’s legal challenge to matching funds. By next June, matching funds could be forever barred, and the commission cheerfully can reduce the state’s budget deficit even more.
Better yet, let’s eliminate subsidies for politicians altogether. The Cronkite News Service reports that candidates this year used taxpayer funds for such high-minded purposes as lap-top computers (which the candidates get to keep after the election, win or lose) and mariachi bands. And, as my colleague Mark Flatten reports, the commission spends millions of dollars on self-promotion and lobbying. Indeed, the commission’s website reads like a campaign ad against a likely future ballot measure to end subsidies for politicians once and for all.
Putting the commission out of existence and further reducing the state’s deficit surely would merit a hearty “ho ho ho” from Arizona taxpayers.
Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
Goldwater Institute: McComish v. Bennett
Goldwater Institute: Clean Elections Agency Spends Millions to Promote Itself
Citizens Clean Elections Commission: CCEC Gives $20 Million to Arizona’s General Fund
Cronkite News Service: What Clean Elections money bought