Last night the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee heard a bill that, if passed, would refer to voters in November 2012 a proposal to prohibit taxpayer-funded elections. It’s a straightforward amendment to the Arizona constitution that effectively bans the current practice known as Clean Elections, which allows candidates running for office to receive public funds to pay for their campaigns. It also makes crystal clear to voters what they are being asked to do.
The only opposing testimony of the government-run system came from the government. The Clean Elections Commission tried to persuade lawmakers that this effort was somehow sneaky and misleading because the language of the bill didn’t explicitly repeal Clean Elections. The lobbyist for the Clean Elections Commission chimed in that polling results showed that if voters were asked to repeal Clean Elections it would fail. But if voters were asked to ban public funds from going to political campaigns, it would probably pass. He said this with a straight face. It wasn’t lost on anyone in the room why he knows this since supporters of the Clean Elections system used the same methodology to come up with their name. Publicly-funded campaigns? No. Clean Elections? Yes.
“Clean” is not synonymous with “publicly-funded” no matter whom you ask. Clean is the opposite of dirty. Clearly, some voters hoped that a ballot question titled Clean Elections would clean up the negative ads people everywhere claim to be tired of. Of course, publicly-funded campaigns did not stop or even slow down negative ads. Instead negative ads were financed by the public, whereas before they were financed by private individuals.
The backers of Clean Elections who are crying foul over the wording amendment have no one to blame but themselves. There can be no more honest description of what the amendment does.