Sierra Vista Herald: Clean Elections Act is Worth Keeping

EDITORIAL: Clean Elections Act is worth keeping

By Sierra Vista Herald Editorial Board

Next in the targeting scope for the state Legislature is the Clean Elections Commission and voting laws in general.

We’ve watched the conservative majority move to restrict open government laws, so adding legislation that would change Arizona elections shouldn’t be a surprise.

A House committee moved last week to ask voters in the 2016 election to overturn the 1998 Clean Elections Act and eliminate the commission.

This is the organization that seeks to “… restore citizen participation and confidence in our political system. The Act allows candidates running for the Legislature or statewide offices the opportunity to forego special interest money by collecting a certain number of $5 donations.”

In the 2014 gubernatorial race, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett was a “clean elections candidate,” in an unsuccessful bid to capture the Republican Party nomination.

Legislators have argued that in today’s campaign world, the Clean Elections Commission is antiquated and an unnecessary state expense. Candidates running for state offices can’t afford to ignore sizable campaign contributions from special interests.

Gov. Doug Ducey may be the best example of this. Among GOP candidates, his campaign was the top fundraiser, with much of that money coming from special interests.

Because of current campaign finance law, serious candidates are almost certain to run a campaign that has less money — and therefore less exposure — than the opponent.

But there is another side to the Clean Elections Act that elected representatives are also extinguishing by moving to kill this 1998 voter-approved law.

Providing access to public funds for a candidate who meets the $5 donation requirement keeps the door open to people who don’t serve special interests in a quid pro quo for campaign contributions.

It’s also cheap.

In a state budget that tops $90 billion, the Clean Elections Commission is a $9 million agency

Ultimately, the question of whether Arizona will stick with its 1998 decision or overturn the Act and publicly funded campaigns will be decided at the ballot box.

Lawmakers are pushing to eliminate a comparably affordable option for candidates who may not have access to special interest groups, or choose not to accept their contributions.

Original article can be viewed here.