Today's News Herald: Why Not Clean Elections?

By Today's News-Herald

As the filing deadline for candidates running for office in the 2012 election cycle approaches, it’s as though the last cycle never ended.

Petitions for all those intending to run for county and state offices must by turned in by the end of business May 31 and then the fun will begin in earnest.

Toward that end, the first candidate to qualify for funding through the Arizona Citizens for Clean Elections Act was announced Monday.

Pat Fleming, who is running for Senate in LD14, received $14,355 for the primary election. According to the Arizona Advocacy Network, as a Clean Candidate, Fleming has agreed to run under Arizona’s anti-corruption law that prohibits participating candidates from accepting individual contributions including corporate, lobbyist or PAC money, thus focusing on voters and not donors.

The Citizens Clean Election Act was passed by the people of Arizona in 1998 to restore citizen participation and confidence in the political system, according to the organization’s website.

The Act allows candidates running for the Legislature or statewide offices the opportunity to forgo special interest money by collecting a certain number of $5 donations. In return, candidates receive full funding for their campaigns.

Funding for the Act comes from a 10 percent surcharge on all civil penalties and criminal fees, civil penalties paid by candidates and the $5 qualifying contributions collected by the candidate.

Of the 181 legislative candidates that have already filed, 55 have declared intentions to run under Clean Elections, none so far from Congressional District 3 or Legislative Districts 2 and 3.

The fund makes it possible for someone with good ideas for Arizona and a less than overflowing war chest to run for office.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in 2010, approved the formation of Super PACs — a decision that changed the landscape of campaign financing.

Technically known as independent expenditure-only committees, Super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to advocate for or against political candidates. The decision allows such activity to take place without complete or immediate disclosure of who funds such communications. So much for transparency.

We would like to see more candidates in Arizona take advantage of CCEA funding to eliminate special-interest pressure. Those who voted for the Act in 1998 would like to see it, too.

The original article can be viewed here.