Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com
I haven’t gotten around to addressing it, what with the marriage equality hoopla and teenage abortion explosions taking place at this very hectic pre-election time, but last week the Clean Elections Commission allowed GOP Corp Comm candidates to walk with an insultingly low fine of $1K each after they admitted to violating Clean Elections law.
Per the AZ Capitol Times:
The commission voted 4-1 to adopt the a settlement, which the candidates proposed just before the commissioners met to discuss commission executive director Tom Collins’ recommendation for a full investigation into the candidates. Tom Collins reported that a staff analysis showed there was reason to believe the two broke campaign finance laws while investigating two complaints filed with the commission by the state Democratic Party.
Here’s the lame explanation Collins gave for the decision:
“The public interest is also served by having these things cleared up,” Collins said Thursday. “Nobody wants campaign finance complaints to be the driving force in elections. Campaigns are about candidates, not campaign-finance law. So when there is an opportunity to reach a reasonable conciliation, our statute expressly calls for that to occur.”
Seriously, dude? Some of us have this weird notion that the public interest is best served by there being consequences for blatantly violating laws governing the use of public funds in an election. Those consequences are spelled out in the Clean Elections statute:
C): Any campaign finance report filed indicating a violation of section 16-941, subsections A or B or section 16-941, subsection C, paragraph 1 involving an amount in excess of ten percent of the sum of the adjusted primary election spending limit and the adjusted general election spending limit for a particular candidate shall result in disqualification of a candidate or forfeiture of office.
That’s some pretty unambiguous language there. I’m not sure why Executive Director Collins that the board members who voted for that paltry fine (paid in monthly installments, no less) are struggling to understand what the whole point of implementing a public campaign financing system in Arizona was. Those rules were put in place so that voters would have confidence that candidates aren’t engaging in fraudulent activity with public money. This sets a really bad precedent since the next candidate who blatantly violates the rules can simply point to the slap on the wrist Forese and Little got and demand the same deal. The Commission has basically declared open season on public campaign funds.
I’m one of the strongest defenders of AZ Clean Elections out there. The reason, as I’ve explained before, is because attacks on our state’s program are intended to end all public campaign financing, everywhere. But the program is not without its flaws, clearly one of which is arbitrary and inconsistent enforcement of violations. Bad call, Clean Elections Commission.