Common cents campaigns
Three weeks ago (Feb. 9), I concluded my slubbering bitchoid diatribe about the stinking, fetid mess that is our political system by concluding, with unabashed cynicism, that nothing close to real election reform will happen for about a hundred years. Turns out I was off by about a hundred years.
There are currently 14 states that have some kind of “clean money/public campaign funding” program. (You can get this info at commoncause.org.) Most of them appear to be of minimal-to-somewhat significant significance. Arizona, though, passed a law in 1998 that seems to be made of sterner stuff; a law that is, perhaps, worth lifting for ourselves:
“The people of Arizona declare our intent to create a clean elections system that will improve the integrity of Arizona state government by diminishing the influence of special interest money, will encourage citizen participation in the political process, and will promote freedom of speech under the U.S. and Arizona constitutions. Campaigns will become more issue-oriented and less negative because there will be no need to challenge the sources of campaign money.”
Now why do you think our southern neighbors might be all hissied out about the current state of our political machinery?
“The people of Arizona find that our current election-financing system: 1. allows Arizona elected officials to accept large campaign contributions from private interests over which they have governmental jurisdiction; 2. gives incumbents an unhealthy advantage over challengers; 3. effectively suppresses the voices and influence of the vast majority of Arizona citizens in favor of a small number of wealthy special interests; 4. undermines public confidence in the integrity of public officials; 5. drives up the cost of running for state office, discouraging otherwise qualified candidates who lack personal wealth or access to special-interest funding; 6. requires that elected officials spend too much of their time raising funds rather than representing the public.”
Nicely put. Who could possibly disagree? This new law is already having a positive effect. Candidates are running on public money and winning seats in the legislature. Governor Napolitano ran a “clean” campaign. And heads up, Californians—your legislature is wrangling with Assembly Bill 538, a very similar “Clean Money” proposal that could honestly shake things up, and shake ’em up a bunch. So, good luck to you with that. And why not here? Why not here? Say, in time for 2008?