Thursday, July 08, 2004

News: AZ Tries to Stay Clean

At Wednesday's Legislative Council hearing, the ballot language for the 'No Taxpayer Money for Politicians' initiative was decided. It was determined that the ballot language for the initiative would have to indicate an intent to repeal the Clean Elections system. Arizona law says descriptions printed on petitions and ballots must describe the principal provisions of the initiative, be accurate, and be free from political argument. The description on the NTMP petitions failed to mention that the initiative will de-fund the Clean Elections system, de-fund the Clean Elections Commission and contained several political arguments about the voter-approved Clean Elections Act. NTMP advocates certainly wished to stay on message on the ballot, but the Legislative Council's decision precludes this. Clean Elections opponent and State Representative Randy Graf (R) reportedly commented that the decision was "a dagger in the heart" of the initiative. He is almost certainly correct.

A large majority of Arizonans support the Clean Elections system, therefore, clear language on the ballot, despite any misleading campaign advertising by the initiative's proponents, will greatly undermine chances of the initiative's passage. A majority of Arizona state office candidates are running under the Clean Elections system this cycle. The appeal of the system crosses partisan lines. There are actually more Republican candidates running clean than are Democrats. Many credit the Clean Elections system with enabling moderate Arizona Republicans to defy the far Right elements of their own caucus to pass a bi-partisan budget with Democrats this year. Of the 31 Representatives who voted for the compromise budget, 26 were Clean Elections candidates. Therein lies a possible motive for NTMP backers.

To even make it onto the ballot this fall, the 'No Taxpayer Money for Politicians' initiative will also have to survive a legal challenge. Attorney Charles Blanchard filed suit on behalf of the Clean Elections Institute requesting the court to enjoin the initiative from appearing on the ballot.

The basis of the suit is that Constitutional amendments in Arizona must address only a single topic. The 'No Taxpayer Money for Politicians' initiative contains a provision preventing any public funds from being spent for political campaigns, and a provision de-funding the Clean Elections Commission itself. Thus it is possible that the initiative, as written, may be disqualified from being on the ballot.

"This proposed amendment is fatally flawed," said plaintiff Mike Valder, a board member of the Clean Elections Institute. "In their haste to protect special interest candidates from competition, the committee has tackled two issues at once, violating the very constitution they seek to amend."

Nathan Sproul, former Arizona field director of the Christian Coalition, and current director of the effort to overturn the Clean Elections system is on the record regarding some of these criticisms. Decide for yourself who to believe. But regarding the process of signature collection, take a look at this first.


At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The dagger comment was attributed to Speaker of the House Jake Flake - AZ Capitol Times July 9th


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