With the 2016 election still over a year away, we are already being inundated with ads and soundbites. Fortunately, several candidates have rallied behind an agenda that puts an emphasis on campaign finance reform, overturning Citizen’s United and taking “big money” out of politics.
Unfortunately Arizonans see political corruption and corporate cronyism all too often. Nearly two decades ago voters countered the politicians lack of genuine reforms by passing the Citizens Clean Elections Act. Approved in 1998 by a citizens’ initiative, the Act established campaign finance laws, including the option for candidates to run Clean and focus on voters, not donors. The Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) was established and is empowered to provide much needed oversight of all candidates, privately funded or running Clean, and groups spending money to influence our elections, both disclosed money and secret, dark money. Arizonans are proud of the Clean Elections Act and continue to support our toughest anti-corruption and campaign law despite constant attempts to weaken and repeal the voter created law.
Arizonans also value the principles that are at the foundation of the state Constitution, and the power voters have to respond to inaction, corruption and an unresponsive government. Through the Arizona’s unique form of direct democracy, voters enact statewide laws that more accurately reflect the will of the people. Arizonans directly created the Clean Elections Act and commission through a citizen’s initiative, in addition to the Voter Protection Act and the Independent Redistricting Commission. Is it surprising that Arizona’s strongest anti-corruption law was created by voters and not the Legislature? Or that big money, special interests want it killed?
Working Arizonans want our elected officials to be more accountable to voters, not donors. In response, politicians in power and the money groups backing them, undermine the will of voters through legislative attacks and frivolous lawsuits. Instead of promoting transparency and accountability, politicians defend and empower secret, ‘dark money’ that allows out of state, and big corporate groups to influence policy decisions. In the end, it’s the voters who pay the price.
A recent example: it is now very clear that candidate Michele Reagan’s priorities have morphed from trumpeting disclosure to aiding ‘dark money’ groups and muzzling the voices of working voters as Secretary of State Reagan. While she publicly aligns herself with secretive groups (such as the Iowa based Legacy Foundation), voters grow more skeptical of her willingness to fight corruption and oversee elections in good faith. It should be inevitable that petty, personal politics will interfere with the best interests of the people. Sadly, they already are.
The Secretary of State should respect the history and the authority that Arizonans placed in the CCEC through the voter-approved Clean Elections Act. Voters have consistently supported full disclosure and transparency, especially as the influence of secret, ‘dark money’ continues to be a dominant force in state politics. Arizonans appreciate clarity in our campaign finance and election laws. While Secretary Reagan refuses to stand up for voters, Arizonans can rely on the nonpartisan, independent CCEC, to fulfill their mandate and enforce the Clean Elections Act. Arizonans want to expose the secret, unaccountable money influencing our elections and policymaking today. Regardless of naysayers and the secretary, the CCEC can and should clarify campaign finance rules regarding “dark money” groups, within the context of the Clean Elections Act. This clarification will fulfill the CCEC’s constitutional duty and support the will of the People.
Cross-posted from Medium.