‘It’s déjà vu all over again’: The plot to kill Citizens Clean Elections


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

I read in the Arizona Republic last week that the House Judiciary Committee approved by a 5-3 party-line vote House Concurrent Resolution 2026, sponsored by Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, that would ask voters in November 2014 to direct all future Clean Elections money to the K-12 schools. 2 Arizona bills target campaign finances:

Last year, Clean Elections had a $32 million fund.

Boyer called it a creative way to fund education amid tight budgets and said it’s time to ask voters to reassess Clean Elections.

But Lang called it a deceptive way to gut the public campaign-finance system.

“If you really want the voters to tell you if they like Clean Elections, ask them,” he said. But to wrap it up in a “Hobson’s choice” between funding for schools or elections, he said, is a ploy to kill off the system since he believes voters would opt for the schools.

The bills now move to the Rules Committee before facing a full vote of the House.

As the great baseball sage Yogi Bera famously said, "It's déjà vu all over again." Jonathan Paton attempts to kill Citizens Clean Elections (Feb. 16, 2010):

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-3 on Monday to effectively kill public financing of elections — but not entirely. Public financing of elections all but dead | The Sierra Vista Herald If approved, SCR 1043 would technically leave the Citizens Clean Elections Act approved by voters in 1998 in place. But it would leave no money in the fund for candidates in the 2012 election.

Sen. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, a foe of public financing, conceded that he fears the public, confronted with a measure that asks to repeal the “Clean Elections” system, would not see it the way he does.

This bill, said Paton, gets around that political problem. More to the point, it offers a carrot to convince voters to go along.

It has an excellent chance of passing,” he said. Paton said the measure provides voters with the choice of “funding junk mail and yard signs or funding our classrooms.”

* * *

Altering the measure to eliminate the up-or-down choice of retaining public financing gained the support of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “It will give the voters a choice to say whether publicly funded elections are more important than education,” said lobbyist Marc Osborn.

The chamber, however, is not a disinterested party. It attempted to convince voters to defeat the plan in 1998 and, when that failed, mounted lawsuits designed to kill it, all unsuccessful.

You can bet these guys are behind the revival of this previously failed attempt to gut Citizens Clean Elections with a purposefully deceptive ballot measure from the legislature.

Then there is the second part of this attack on Citizens Clean Elections, 2 Arizona bills target campaign finances:

The House Judiciary Committee Thursday approved [a strike everything amendment to] House Bill 2593 [that] turbo-boosts private donations to candidates[.]

Under the terms of HB 2593 [striker], the cap on individual and political-action-committee donations to legislative candidates would increase tenfold. The limits for statewide candidates, such as for governor or for seats on the Corporation Commission, would more than double.

The idea, the bill’s sponsor said, is to let candidates fight the onslaught of undisclosed outside money targeting them with more money of their own.

“As of late, many of our candidates have been relegated to mere onlookers in their campaigns,” Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler said.

That’s because independent-expenditure committees, empowered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, spent heavily in select legislative campaigns last fall. The ruling bars limits on independent expenditures by unions and corporations.

Mesnard’s bill would raise the limit in any campaign cycle for individual and PAC contributions to $2,500, up from the current cap of $488 for a legislative seat, $1,010 for a statewide seat and $390 for any other office.

Since the bill also defines the primary and general elections as separate campaign cycles, the effect is the current $488 limit on legislative races becomes $5,000.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said higher limits would give candidates and their supporters more money to run their own message.

He noted the state’s limits are low compared with others, and he suggested Arizona could be ripe for a lawsuit arguing that the current limits are so low they are a burden on a person’s free-speech rights.

[Translation: the "Kochtopus" funded lawyers at the Goldwater Institute will file another First Amendment lawsuit (money=speech)again, because they really hate Citizens Clean Elections and want to kill it.]

But Secretary of State Ken Bennett told lawmakers that if they raise the ceiling on the state’s private campaign-finance limits, they should do the same for the publicly financed Clean Elections system.

“You’ll have to look at doing something on the Clean Elections level,” Bennett said, adding it would keep the competition field fairly level.

Todd Lang, executive director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, said the bill, if it becomes law, would likely trigger a lawsuit because it would disrupt the “roughly competitive” balance between the state’s public and private campaign-finance system.

Clean Elections candidates for the Legislature will be allotted $15,253 in the 2014 primary. Under HB 2593, a candidate using private financing could match that limit with seven donors who give $2,500.

But Mesnard said raising the limit doesn’t mean a candidate would be able to hit it. There are scenarios in which a candidate using the public-finance system might be better off, he said, noting that Clean Elections money comes in one lump sum, while private candidates usually bring in money in fits and starts.

In an interview, Mesnard said he’s not interested in amending his bill to allow more money for Clean Elections. [I'll bet he's not.]

The bill passed on a 5-3 party-line vote, although some of the Republicans voting for it said they’d like to see Clean Elections funding addressed.

There are still some districts where Republicans running in Clean Elections is a better option. The plot to kill Citizens Clean Elections, however, is a desire by "Chamber of Commerce Republicans" and wealthy GOP establishment contributors to dry up the public funding of far-right fringe candidates from the Tea Party and the Christian Right in GOP primaries, who have used Clean Elections funding to great success since it was enacted to purge the GOP establishment from the party in GOP primaries.

The ultimate goal is to make all candidates reliant once again on "Chamber of Commerce Republicans" and wealthy contributors, in both political parties. In the Citizens United era of outrageously expensive campaigns, candidates will have no other option.

Ultimately, this is a move in the opposite direction that the public favors in polling, as a direct result of the negative impact of Citizens United v. FEC. Elections will be more expensive, dissuading qualified candidates with few resources from running, and this will concentrate more political power in the hands of fewer and fewer wealthy elite plutocrats.


  1. Hi!

    I suggest checking out Arizona Advocacy Network. They have successfully fought every effort to kill Clean Elections. Their public forums and action opportunities are always worthwhile, IMO.


    P.S. Yikes that Ken Bennett is the voice of reason among Arizona Republicans on this issue, but encouraged by his remarks.