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Big Money Contributions in Political Races Will Open Flood Gates in 2006 Race

By Todd Lang.  Posted by (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   No comments
Not too long ago, the citizens of Arizona realized a critical need to address how statewide and legislative elections are conducted. Recognizing a desire to remove special interest money from Arizona politics and to level the playing field in campaign financing, Arizona voters approved the ballot initiative establishing the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, in 1998.

Arizona's successful program has spawned many imitators. States such as New Jersey, West Virginia, Connecticut, Oregon and Washington are working to enact campaign finance laws and programs modeled after Arizona's Clean Elections Act.

Today, this voter-approved law is under attack by the state legislature via a last-minute "striker" bill (SCR1013) that would eliminate most Commission funding and cripple the advances Arizonans have made toward improving campaign finance reform. Even more troubling is the intention of the legislation to relax penalties for candidates who violate campaign finance laws, and allow for exorbitant contribution increases from both individuals and political action committees.

This new legislation would effectively end meaningful regulation of so-called independent expenditure committees and their attack ads. It also allows individuals to contribute up to $5,000 to a candidate's campaign committee. Currently, for the entire election period, the limit for statewide candidates is $760; and $296 for legislative candidates. In essence, if this proposed law is passed, the efforts by Arizona voters to remove special interest money from candidate elections and to regulate how candidates finance their campaigns would be completely lost. In a time when our nation is facing some of the worst campaign finance corruption scandals in its history, it is stunning that some politicians would want to open the floodgates for unparalleled big money contributions.

A January 2006 survey conducted by Phoenix-based Behavior Research Center reveals that 85 percent of Arizonans surveyed believe that Clean Elections is important to Arizona. More taxpayers are making $5 contributions and more candidates are participating in public funding each election cycle. The People of Arizona made a choice to reform our campaign finance system, and that decision continues to be the right one.

We all recognize that the Clean Elections law is not a panacea, and there are challenges with any new progressive law. However, I encourage the State Legislature to listen to the voters and work to improve the law through proactive legislation that builds on the original intentions of the voters who created and enacted this law.

Todd Lang,
Executive Director
Citizens Clean Elections Commission
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