Politicians are door-to-door salesmen hawking defective merchandise.
They peddle themselves, promising the moon but providing neither the knowledge of an encyclopedia nor the protection of, say, roof repair.
Their sorry product is a very, very tough sell.
Imagine how much easier it would be for such hucksters if, instead of having to market their faulty ware to hundreds of gullible neighbors, they could sell their entire inventory to one wealthy customer.
That’s pretty much what the political peddlers at the Capitol had in mind when they passed House Bill 2593 earlier this year.
The new law, which was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer, dramatically increases the amount of campaign money an individual or a political-action committee can contribute to a candidate.The Republicans who control the Legislature loved the idea.
Why traipse around a bunch of neighborhoods knocking on doors when ringing a single fancy doorbell will do?
This week a lawsuit was filed that would prevent the new law from going into effect.
The Citizens Clean Elections Commission, Commissioner Louis Hoffman, the Arizona Advocacy Network and state Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, have asked the Arizona Supreme Court to take the case, hoping the justices will declare the law unconstitutional before it takes effect in September.
If that doesn’t happen, the suit would go to Superior Court. In that case, the commission and its lawyers would ask a judge to issue a temporary injunction against the law until the issue is settled. “We were really hoping the governor would have vetoed this bill,” said Sam Wercinski, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network. “Since that didn’t happen we had no choice but to go this route.
Those who pushed the legislation said it was necessary because Arizona’s campaign contribution limits are too low.
In our state, politicians can successfully make the argument – to other politicians, anyway – that wealthy influence peddlers should be able to give them more money.
The current limit is $440 for legislative races, $450 for local races and $912 for statewide races. That now jumps to $5,000 for the primary- and general-election cycle. In addition, so called “super PACs” can hand over up to $10,000. That limit used to be $2,000.
Back in April, when this first came up, I was told by supporters of the legislation that increasing the campaign contribution limits would be a way for candidates to combat the “dark money” being infused into campaigns because of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allows independent expenditure committees to collect cash from anonymous donors and then spend that money to influence elections.
I asked state Sen. Steve Farley, D- Tucson, about that. At the time he was trying to get the Legislature to shine a little light on dark money. He didn’t have any luck.
“You can’t solve the problem of too much dark money being spent on campaigns by allowing individuals and groups to spend even more money on campaigns,” he told me. “What’s been frustrating is that I haven’t run into any people saying we need to keep these donors secret. I’ve been running into people who throw up roadblocks.”
The current campaign limits were set by voters.
Still, is ignoring the will of voters so bad? What’s wrong with allowing politicians to accept more cash?
“It’s about whom a politician is beholding to,” said the Arizona Advocacy Network’s Sam Wercinski. “Money influences elections. Influence gains access. Access drives policy. This will have a significant impact on all races. This isn’t just a problem with the legislature. We’ll see the effect on school board races. Judicial races. Town councils. This will have an effect throughout all politics. And our politicians are actually saying this will be good for voters?”
In an old-fashioned “bait-and-switch” scam shady pitchmen will offer customers what seems like a great deal and then slip in a high-priced alternative that profits only themselves.
It’s a popular sales technique with con artists. And politicians. (Or am I being redundant?)
(Column for July 19, 2013, Arizona Republic)