Facing defeat, measures to gut Clean Elections system held in committee
Published: April 1, 2010 at 1:47 pm
A pair of measures designed to gut the Clean Elections campaign finance system were held in the House Judiciary Committee after it became apparent the legislation would have been defeated.
About 90 minutes into the committee hearing, Chairman Adam Driggs announced the two ballot referrals would not be considered. When the meeting began, the Phoenix Republican had scheduled SCR1009 and SCR1043 to be heard at the end of the hearing.
Driggs didn’t say why the legislation was being held, but Todd Lang, executive director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, said Republicans and business leaders backing the two measures were unable to secure the five votes needed to pass the eight-member committee.
“Instead of acknowledging they didn’t have the votes, they held it,” Lang said.
One of the measures, SCR1009, would ask voters to amend the state constitution to ban the use of “taxpayer money” for legislative and statewide campaigns. That would all but end the Clean Elections system, which funds those campaigns largely through surcharges added to civil fines, though it would not repeal the campaign finance system that voters approved in 1998.
Its companion referendum, SCR1043, would ask voters to redirect current and future Clean Elections money to the Classroom Site Fund, where it would be used for teacher compensation and other education purposes.
Two Republican members of the committee told Arizona Capitol Times they were prepared to vote against the measures, despite pressure from chambers of commerce and GOP leaders aimed at swaying their votes.
Rep. Steve Montenegro, a Republican from Litchfield Park, said he was troubled by the wording of SCR1009.
“I’m not convinced that the language is being as honest with voters as what they originally voted for,” he said. “I don’t think it’s being accurate with the voters.”
Similarly, Mesa Republican Cecil Ash said he would prefer voters be asked to directly repeal Clean Elections. Voters clearly don’t want state money being used on campaigns, he said, but calling Clean Elections funding “taxpayer money” distorts how the system is set up.
“It’s going about it in a little bit of a misleading way,” Ash said.
Both Ash and Montenegro ran under the Clean Elections system in 2008. For this year’s election, only Ash is using the public financing for his campaign.
SCR1009 is supported by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as other business groups. It also has the backing of Government for Arizona’s Second Century, the lobbying arm of the O’Connor House Project.
That group, which was led by retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, gathered community leaders and special interest groups from across the state last year to develop a package of reforms to send to voters this fall. Repealing the Clean Elections system was one of the changes that group chose to pursue this legislative session.
Next week is the final week for committees to consider legislation.