There are already multiple reasons as to why the Arizona’s “Clean Elections” system should be scrapped, but now we can add another abuse to the list—the government program is being used to fund political parties.
This funding loophole was discovered while reviewing campaign finance reports for several “clean” candidates running for office. Several Democratic Candidates running for office contributed over $80,000 to the Democratic Party from the funds provided through the program. The largest contribution came from Corporation Commission candidate Bill Mundell ($29,000). Other contributions to the party include:
- $12,000 from LD 12 Candidate Elizabeth Brown
- $6,800 from LD 11 Candidate Corin Hammond
- $7,000 from LD 8 Candidate Carmen Casillas
- $7,000 from LD 15 Candidate Tonya McBeth
- $4,500 from LD 21 Candidate Deanna Rasmussen
- $4,500 from LD 26 Candidate Athena Salmon
- $3,600 from LD 26 Candidate Isela Blanc
- $3,300 from LD 17 Candidate Jennifer Pawlik
- $3,300 from LD 17 Candidate Steven Weichert
It is not clear whether any strings were attached to the contributions to the party, but it is probably safe to assume that the contributions were a ‘thank you’ for assistance provided in qualifying for the funding.
For those not familiar with the Clean Elections program, in order to receive government money from Clean Elections, candidates need to acquire a certain amount of $5 contributions from registered voters. In the case of statewide races, candidates need thousands of qualifying contributions, which is an extremely difficult and time consuming task.
Both state parties and their local district affiliates have a long history of providing logistic support and manpower to aid candidates in collecting their $5 contributions. Now it appears that they have discovered a way to be financially rewarded for their efforts.
Don’t be surprised to see this abusive practice explode in the future. If both political parties know that they can grow their bottom line using the Clean Elections system, they will work to run publicly funded candidates in every race–especially in noncompetitive state House and Senate races where they can siphon off the Clean Election funds to be used elsewhere.
Lawmakers need to shut this down ASAP, and that means sending reforms of the program to voters so they can end this scheme once and for all.