We have never pretended Arizona’s Clean Elections system of publicly financed political campaigns is without flaws.
The 1998 Citizens Clean Elections Act provided matching funds for candidates relying on public dollars against privately funded opponents. The courts have since dispatched that constitutionally star-crossed practice.
As for the funding, much of it comes from a 10 percent surcharge on civil penalties and fines, a tax that advocates argue is not a tax, because it is assessed against taxpayers who have been caught speeding and such. Since when are speeders not taxpayers? That never made much sense.
Still, the system frees candidates to spend time convincing voters of their adequacy as opposed to clocking hours raising funds.
In that regard, it qualifies as a public good.
Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, wants to defund Clean Elections by diverting its $10.5 million annual revenue to public education.
Boyer’s proposal is a diversion. He wishes to defund Clean Elections because he dislikes publicly funded elections, and the “send the money to education” ploy is simply for raising support.
Campaign-finance law is fluid. Fewer candidates use Clean Elections because it no longer offers matching funds and the funding it does provide is inadequate.
It may die of neglect. Or a new plan may renew its popularity.
Either way, polls indicate voters approve of the system. That’s enough reason for critics to stop playing games with it.