Campaign Finance & Election

Campaigns should be open and free, not prone to manipulation through government financing schemes. And now the U.S. Supreme Court agrees.

<p>Campaigns should be open and free, not prone to manipulation through government financing schemes. And now the U.S. Supreme Court agrees.</p>

Phoenix--Today a diverse group of candidates filed a lawsuit challenging the matching funds provisions of Arizona's Clean Elections Act. The suit contends the matching funds provisions violate the free speech and equal protection rights of candidates who do not participate in the taxpayer-subsidized campaign finance system. The candidates are seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent matching funds from being distributed before the September primary.  

An initiative campaign launched Tuesday would put a $42 billion, 30-year transportation funding plan on the books by boosting the state's sales tax by a penny for three decades.

Backers need to collect signatures of roughly 154,000 voters by July 3 to get it on the ballot in November.

The centerpiece of the so-called "Transportation and Infrastructure Moving Arizona's Economy Act" is the one-cent increase in the state sales tax. That tax is now 5.6 cents on the dollar before county and municipal rates are added.

Two months after another politician was criticized for using public money to promote his own name and image, one of the state's top elected officials has done roughly the same thing. Last week, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard released a 28-page booklet with a full-page cover photo in which he's featured prominently. The thousands of dollars it cost to design and print the booklet came from money intended for public use.

Arizonans decided 19 ballot propositions this election, the most of any state. That's a lot of direct democracy. Maybe its time to ask how well its all working.

Our states founders were very sure they wanted the people to have the privilege of direct access to the ballot. They saw it as a fundamental protection against unresponsive government, even a popularly elected one. Citizens were given the rights to strike down enactments of the Legislature (referenda) or bring measures to the ballot themselves (initiatives).

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

When Arizona's Clean Elections Act was passed in 1998, proponents hoped it would mark the beginning of a new era in elections: one of improved voter turnout, increased candidate participation, and less special interest influence.  But just how has the Clean Elections Act changed Arizona campaigns? This policy report finds Arizona's Clean Elections system has largely failed to live up to its stated goals. 

Connecticut Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr. recently declared that "public financing is the cornerstone of election reform." Thomas Jefferson disagrees. So do I.

All eyes are on Arizona. States around the nation are watching to see whether voters will agree this fall to continue paying for politicians' campaigns.

Advocates for a state constitutional amendment to end the use of public money in political races have filed enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. Proponents of the current system are amassing a war chest to stop the proposed change. As the rhetoric heats up, voters deserve an honest appraisal of Arizona's experience with Clean Elections. 

U.S. Sen. John McCain, who spent years fighting for campaign-finance reforms finally enacted last year, doesn't fully understand what the new law does, a top regulator said Friday in Phoenix.

"From listening to Senator McCain's comments on the subject through the summer and fall, . . . I don't think he had as good an understanding as someone playing such a major role should have (had) in what the law was before his bill passed, or in what was in his bill to change the law," Federal Election Commission Vice Chairman Bradley A. Smith said.

As the Beatles song says, money can't buy you love.

As Arizona's recent election has shown, money also can't buy substantive campaigns, freedom from attack ads, the elimination of special-interest influence, or political victory for non-mainstream candidates.

Those were the promises made by the backers of the Clean Elections Act when they successfully wooed voters four years ago. But handing out $12 million of taxpayer money to political candidates has only bought us politics as usual, except more of it.

It was a tag-team fight at last night's gubernatorial debate in Tucson, pitting the field against Democratic front-runner Janet Napolitano.

In a candidate forum co-sponsored by the Tucson Citizen and the Goldwater Institute, Republican Matt Salmon, independent Richard Mahoney and Libertarian Barry Hess pointed fingers at Napolitano for not coming clean with voters, and they said she'll raise taxes if elected.

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