Pimeria Alta Dispatch: They Are Coming After Clean Elections...Again!

Let's start with the full disclosure: I ran as a Clean Elections candidate for state legislature in 2010, and I'm signed on as a plaintiff in the lawsuit that I am talking about.

For all of the trouble with Arizona politics, we have a comprehensive financing system for candidates here. It's called Clean Elections. Candidates that participate qualify by gathering a certain number of contributions among their potential constituents and then get a check from the Clean Elections Commission to run their campaigns. It's been pretty successful, and recent polling shows it's got the support of 77% of voters.

There have been attempts to either gut or get rid of the system. The first big try came in 2004, when a well funded initiative got the signatures to be placed on the ballot. It was then tossed when it turned out it was in violation of the "Single Subject Rule," which prevents writers of initiatives and referenda from trying to confuse voters by packing too much into a ballot proposal.

The current lawsuit is over a measure passed by the legislature that would refer abolishing the program to the voters at the next general election. The referendum, according to the plaintiffs (again, I'm one), violates the single subject rule in much the same way as the 2004 initiative.

Interestingly, the referendum is written such that it also would get rid of a City of Tucson public financing system that has been in place since the 1980's.

The Clean Elections system was passed by the voters in 1998, after the AZScam scandal, a sting operation in which a man posed as a lobbyist and handed out campaign contributions in exchange for support for a bill. In a case of poor timing, this current push to get rid of Clean Elections comes in the wake of the still building Fiesta Bowl scandal. This time, real lobbyists were giving gifts and campaign contributions. Unlike AZScam. the Fiesta Bowl people were asking for actual favors from our policy makers.