The ‘Kochtopus’ Death Star kills Citizens Clean Elections

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

DeathStarI have to admit that I was surprised by how quickly the Arizona Supreme Court entered its order setting aside the injunction of the Court of Appeals and agreed with the arguments of the "Kochtopus" Death Star, the Goldwater Institute, on higher campaign finance limits. It's as if there was no deliberation at all and the minds of the Justices were already made up before oral argument. That does not look good for appearance sake.

With its order allowing the higher campaign finance limits to go into effect, State Supreme Court lifts campaign finance limits, the Arizona Supreme Court has effectively ruled on the case despite the fact that a trial on the merits is pending before Superior Court Judge Mark Brain in the Maricopa County Superior Court. I am not sure what purpose would be served by proceeding with this litigation, other than to allow the "Kochtopus" Death Star to make its argument that there should be no campaign finance limits at all because "money=speech," under its gross distortion of the First Amendment.

The Arizona Supreme Court has now signed off on two attacks by the the "Kochtopus" Death Star on Arizona's Citizens Clean Elections law. Several years ago the Court agreed with the "Kochtopus" Death Star in striking down the "matching funds" provisions of the law meant to equal the playing field. That left Citizens Clean Elections candidates at a distinct financial disadvantage.

Now the Court has allowed the GOP-dominated Arizona Legislature in a party-line vote to create a two-tier campaign financing system, a "traditional" system with higher campaign finance limits, including PAC contributions, and the Citizens Clean Elections system, which did not have its limits raised by the legislature. The GOP-dominated Arizona Legislature imposed a structural financial disadvantage on any Citizens Clean Elections candidate to discourage its use, and to cause it to wither on the vine — because the legislature knew that a ballot referendum for a straight up repeal of Citizens Clean Elections would fail.

No serious candidate for political office in a contested district or statewide campaign would run as a Citizens Clean Elections candidate at this point because the candidate would put himself or herself at such a financial disadvantage (unless they are aided by an independent expenditure committee, which raises ethical questions of illegal coordination).

This exposes the lie of the "Kochtopus" Death Star that the higher campaign finance limits gives candidates more control over their own campaigns and reduces the influence of PACs and independent expenditure committees. Bullshit! There is plenty of money to go around from far-right billionaire funded PACs and "dark money" independent expenditure committees seeking to buy a state legislature, as occurred in Arkansas and North Carolina in 2012. The "Kochtopus" dark money organizations have a hub in the Phoenix area.

The cost of campaigns is about to exponentially increase in Arizona. Those candidates who run for office will either be well off or well connected. The promise of Citizens Clean Elections to allow the average citizen to serve in the American tradition of "citizen legislator" is now over. It is only a matter of time before the Citizens Clean Elections law becomes a relic in the Arizona Constitution.

The broader issue which needs to be addressed immediately is this gross distortion that "money=speech," first formulated by Justice William Rehnquist in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976). This was later followed by the "millionaire's exemption" in Davis v. FEC, 554 U.S. 724 (2008), and culminated in Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 (2010). The pending decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in McCutcheon v. FEC, challenging the overall contribution limits for individual donors to candidates and to parties, could be the final blow. All constraints on campaign finance limits could be swept away.

The U.S. Supreme Court has left American citizens no other option but to pursue a constitutional amendment to the U.S. Constitution and to state constitutions expressly overruling Buckley v. Valeo and its progeny, declaring that money does not equal speech, that corporations are not people, and that Congress (and state legislatures) are empowered and authorized to regulate campaign financing and expenditures in elections, including to establish a publicly financed election system.

There are several national organizations that have been working on this amendment, including Move to Amend. By the time the U.S. Supreme Court announces its decision in McCutcheon v. FEC next year, it will already be too late. The last remaining constraints on wealthy elite plutocrats from purchasing candidates for office may be swept away, along with any remaining semblance of democracy.

UPDATE: Secretary of State Ken "Birther" Bennett had asked the court to keep the old spending limits in place. Erasing campaign contribution limits now would create problems, Bennett tells court:

[Bennett] said the purpose of an injunction is to “preserve the status quo” while an issue is litigated. But in this case, Bennett said, supporters of the law want to immediately reinstate the contribution and donation limits that actually had existed for just 32 days.

He said it is better to leave the old limits in place until there is a final resolution of the matter.

"Birther" Bennett is running as a Clean Elections candidate, which means that he will now be greatly outspent by "The Deuce," Doug Ducey, and GoDaddy Girl, Chrisitine Jones. Buh-Bye, Bennett.

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