PHOENIX – On Tuesday, Republican senators joined their House colleagues in a partisan vote to pass HB2593, raising political contributions from $500 to $5,000 per individual and PAC while increasing SUPER PAC amounts to $10,000. “Working Arizona voters can’t compete with the influence and representation that big money special interests and individuals buy using current political cash amounts. How are working Arizonans to be heard or represented now when PACs can give $10000 to any candidate running for office – school board, legislature, judge or governor?” said Sam Wercinski, executive director of Arizona Advocacy Network, a non-partisan civic engagement group leading the effort to stop the measure.
Arizona Advocacy Network is already asking the governor to veto the bill on the basis that it violates the voter passed 1998 Citizens’ Clean Elections Act and the Voter Protection Act. Concurring with their opinion is the Secretary of State’s office, Citizens’ Clean Elections Commission and Arizona League of Women Voters in past testimony opposing the bill. Legislators completely ignored this fact and pressed ahead expecting to spend more taxpayer money defending an unconstitutional action contrary to stated voter goals in ARS16-940, to diminish the influence of special interest in our government and increase voter representation.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Goldwater Institute were among a handful of backers lobbying with little effort for the bill while hundreds of voters from around the state had called, emailed and tried to meet with legislators over the past three months, asking them to vote no on the bill.
Originally, HB2593 was a veteran’s bill that was gutted to become a Trojan horse, attacking campaign contribution amounts established by voters in the 1998 Citizens’ Clean Elections Act. The end result of HB2593 is expected to be more influence and representation at the state capitol for those groups and individuals capable of giving political contributions of $5000 and $10000.
Tory Anderson, a Goodyear resident and working mother of two, said “I’ve told my friends about this bill and no one can believe that it’s actually happening. Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or none of the above, there’s one thing we all agree on – none of us support more private money for politicans. Money talks, right? It feels like the voices of every day Arizonans are drowned out by the loud voice of money.”
While the public clearly is seeking greater disclosure of unreported money spent by independent expenditures and shell corporations influencing our elections at record levels since the Citizens United case, HB2593 offers no real disclosure reform but does provide groups and lobbyists with deep pockets more influence over elected officials and representation in our government. The public is well aware of this fact since the Fiesta Bowl scandal showed how “laundered” campaign money is used to buy votes, just as the 1980’s AZSCAM bribery scandal bought favors.
Dr. Doris Marie Provine, retired professor of Justice & Social Inquiry at Arizona State University, said “Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision gave corporations equal political rights as flesh and blood Americans, the worst qualities of our national elections have rapidly seized our local political system with no voter-centric response by lawmakers. Gross amounts of undisclosed money are pouring into our elections through independent expenditures and shell corporations. The result: Working voters have less representation as their elected officials are more dependent on special interests that bankroll their campaigns and big money’s helpful but hardly “independent” expenditures.”
Just as big money special interests lined-up behind HB2593 to buy more representation at the Capitol, Arizonans find their popular Clean Elections system under another attack to defund the voter guide, campaign oversight and public campaign finance system. Voters passed Clean Elections as an anti-corruption law that also provides an alternative to raising private, lobbyist and corporate money to run for office. Because Clean Elections candidates agree to a spending cap and agree not to accept private money or use personal funds, they must focus on voters, not donors. The attacks on the system come as no surprise to advocates who are opposed to HB2593.
For nearly 15 years, candidates who demonstrate viability and are vetted by their voters have used Clean Elections public campaign financing to win office. Clean Elections has helped hundreds of candidates compete and engage with voters against more well-heeled privately funded opponents. At the very least, Clean Elections candidates can focus on voters and communicate their ideas rather than constantly seeking donors as is typical for privately funded candidates.
State Senator Steve Gallardo, who opposed HB2593 said “We need to stop this war on voters, and instead lawmakers should offer comprehensive campaign finance changes for privately funded and Clean Elections candidates. This includes incorporating adequate disclosure requirements for independent expenditures and shell corporations that spend millions during our elections to influence who wins. Let's work on the real problem Citizens' United created and that’s the lack of disclosure behind IEs and LLCs attacking candidates with half-truths and outright lies.”