Special interests seek end run to gut Clean Elections - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Special interests seek end run to gut Clean Elections

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Posted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 11:34 am | Updated: 3:30 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

It’s been a dozen years since Arizona voters passed the landmark Citizens Clean Elections Act, allowing candidates to seek office without depending on corporate brass, labor unions and deep-pocketed special interests. Clean Elections has given community leaders, teachers and small business folk the chance to run for office and govern answerable not to Big Money, but to Arizona’s voters.

By Bonnie Saunders and John Loredo

It’s been a dozen years since Arizona voters passed the landmark Citizens Clean Elections Act, allowing candidates to seek office without depending on corporate brass, labor unions and deep-pocketed special interests. Clean Elections has given community leaders, teachers and small business folk the chance to run for office and govern answerable not to Big Money, but to Arizona’s voters.

Clean Elections is working as advertised. So it should come as no surprise that developers, bankers and the like are trying to pull off a power grab this November. Their goal? To fool Arizonans into gutting Clean Elections and returning our state to the “good old days” when controlling politics was as simple as controlling the money given to candidates.

Turning back the clock would rob Arizonans of the right to have their voice heard on election day and in the halls of power. That’s why SCR 1009, the resolution that would put Clean Elections on the 2010 ballot under a different, contorted name, must fail, either by legislative vote or on Nov. 2 at the polls.

Before Clean Elections, statewide and legislative candidates begged for campaign cash from a small pool of power players: CEOs, union heads, lobbyists, residents of the state’s priciest ZIP codes, and out-of-state operatives. If officeholders proved insufficiently loyal to their agendas, away went the money. In came new candidates all too happy to bend to the will of these interests.

It’s a ruthlessly efficient system, if you have the money to sit atop it.

Clean Elections changed that one $5 bill at a time. Candidates able to demonstrate community support by collecting a set number of $5 qualifying contributions are allotted funds to run competitive campaigns. As a result, corporate Arizona lost sway and voters have been in the driver’s seat.

Not a single dollar of Clean Elections funds comes from Arizona’s cash-strapped general fund. It’s funded by voluntary contributions or through surcharges on criminal penalties and violations like traffic tickets. In fact, Clean Elections has donated $20 million to the general fund in the last two years.

Clean Elections has helped elect a different breed of leader. After a majority of the Arizona Corporation Commission won “running clean,” the ACC passed a law requiring that 15 percent of all power produced in Arizona come from renewable energy sources by 2025. Who hates that idea? The power companies. Is it any surprise they’re now helping fund the campaign to kill Clean Elections?

They’re joined in this effort by a “who’s who” of Big Money: The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Arizona Homebuilders and Qwest. They’re hoping we’ve forgotten about AZScam, when newscasts featured grainy video of legislators taking bags of cash in exchange for their votes. No doubt it galls them that, in polling done annually by the Clean Elections Commission, citizen support for the new system remains steady at 77 percent.

Clean Elections is a new way, a historic path chosen by Arizona’s voters. It represents progress and political equality. No wonder inside political power players and lobbyists want so badly to kill it.

For more information, go to www.savecleanelections.com today.

Bonnie Saunders is the president of the nonpartisan Arizona League of Women Voters. John Loredo, a political consultant, is the former Democratic leader of the Arizona House.

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