An Interesting Reason to Get Rid of Clean Elections

This coming Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up a proposal by Senator Jonathan Paton to send to the ballot a measure to get rid of Clean Elections.  

I for one, support that measure for the same reasons many do who follow politics in AZ.  I believe that the system is irreparably flawed and serves as a drag on free speech.  I also oppose the idea of using public money for political campaigns.  

But courtesy of Freshman State Senator Steve Pierce there is another reason to get rid of Clean Elections that most of us haven’t thought of.  

From Today’s Capitol Times:

“Clean Elections gives you a lesser quality of people, and I think people should have to raise their own money,” 

Lesser quality of people?

Considering that a significant amount of Senator Pierce’s colleagues have utilized Clean Elections at one point or another in their careers, one can only imagine what Senator Pierce must think about the people he serves with.  


  1. Iris Lynch says

    Even more interesting, how many of his colleagues will want to know of whom he speaks?

  2. Matt Sh. says

    Certainly the tens of millions of dollars that come in each year through the additional assessment on civil and criminal fines and penalties could go for something better…perhaps to help law enforcment?

  3. Simon says: says

    What is Pierce talking about? Look at his campaign finance reports. He put in about a quarter million dollars of his own money into his campaign. Of course lobbyists will jump on the bandwagon when they see you’re buying your seat. He still only got about 25% of his money from sources other than himself.

  4. Like it or not Clean Elections gets people elected who otherwise wouldn’t ever have a chance. This usually involves those on the fringes whose ideology clouds their judgement and prevents them from making good laws.
    It is undeniable the fact that lower quality candidates are a result of clean elections.
    Dems were the ones that pushed for it and unfortunately, us R’s decry public financing but are some of the biggest users of it.

  5. I disagree Roger, I think Clean Elections get people elected who are free from the constraints that come with the checks that the lobbyists are handing you. Remember, this is the same Sen. Paton who told a group that the election process ran better “back when the chamber of commerce used to vet our candidates.” No thank you, I’ll take clean elections over the chamber of commerce anyday.

    And amen Simon, a rich guy who barely raises money from other people is the wrong person to lecture folks on quality candidates being those who raise money from others.

  6. First, maybe he was talking about all candidates, overall, being a lesser quality. Not necessarily his colleagues that actually won the elections. Whatever. In any case, what does it tell you about Pierce that he’s willing to talk frankly about the group people he serves with? Would you like him not to?

    Second, Pierce decided to take out an entrenched incumbent. The seat was not open. That requires lots of cash in a short period of time. Not a task for the faint of heart, or Clean Elections candidates. The fact that he succeeded tells you how important he thinks the job is, and he’s putting his money where his mouth is, and if he’s sore that some of his colleagues didn’t work as hard as he did to get elected he’s got a right to be.

  7. It’s no secret that I am party to the lawsuit against the State of Arizona’s Citizen Clean Election system. The crackpot doctor from Pima County, Mark Osterloh crafted the initiative which the voters barely approved by less than 3%. That law has caused more problems for our elections, candidates and an individual or group of individuals to exercise constitutionally protected free speech – all at the expense of the taxpayers.

    I am someone who believes that as long as the law is in place, conservatives should use it like a club to beat up on liberals and Democrats. I also believe in gaming the system through creative and legal mechanisms to trigger money to candidates who could use it. The philosophy is to use it until we lose it.

    I will be glad to see the law go away and hopefully that will happen soon. And when it does, the only real solution will be for campaigns to provide full and immediate disclosure (real time) for all the public and media to see.

    As a political consultant will the elimination of “Clean Elections” affect my livelihood? Most likely. But that’s one constitutionally acceptable outcome I could live with.

  8. Shivers, I have to disagree on your premise. Al Melvin beat an intrenched, well-funded incumbent, and he did so as a Clean Elections candidate. Toni Hellon had more than $125,000 and Melvin had less than half of that. Two years later, Melvin had less then $40,000 and beat Pete Hershberger (another incumbent) who had more than $100,000. It can be done.

    DSW, thank you for the convictions of your beliefs. And as someone who is professionally involved, I’m sure your checkbook is also busy at election time supporting good candidates. Still, if those of you who want to get rid of Clean Elections succeed, you will all have a very large responsibility for making up for that lost financial support for conservative candidates.

  9. You have to wonder about someone who would spend $250K of his own money to win a seat in the Legislature.

  10. Maricopa GOP says

    Pierce should look at the facts before shooting. Clean Elections funding was a primary factor in our having: Ron Gould replacing Linda Binder, Jerry Weiers replacing Bill Arnold, John Huppenthal replacing Slade Mead, David Stevens replacing Jennifer Burns, Rick Murphy replacing Phil Hansen, Judy Burges replacing Carole Hubbs, Al Melvin instead of Pete Hershberger while allowing solid legislators like Steve Yarbrough, Warde Nichols, Andy Tobin, John Kavanagh, David Gowan, Steve Montenegro, Nancy McLain and Laurin Hendrix have a chance to win.

    There are definite problems with “Clean Elections”, but our legislture would be much more liberal and would most assuredly be supportive of the Brewer tax increase proposal without it. So, until conservatives have the same well-spring of cash that the elitist moderates and liberals have, I will support keeping a flawed tool that is doing a lot of good.

    In other words, Bev is correct – don’t advocate the elimination of it until you have a ready replacement that will get us equal or better results.

  11. Maricopa GOP, your argument is simply that the ends justify the means and because Clean Elections has elected some conservatives, we need to keep it.

    Clean Elections contradicts conservative principles. It uses the coercive power of the state to tax money from many who can ill afford it and then spends that money on something that is not even close to an essential function of government – public funding of campaigns. Clean Elections has also had very bad effects, along with the ones you cite. While conservatives have been elected, there are also far left candidates who have used it to do an end run around the more moderate wing of the Arizona Democratic Party. It will soon lead to a second Republican legislator being tossed out of an office they were duly elected to and without it, Janet Napolitano, who did incalculable damage to the state, could not have been elected – Pederson had hit his limit for her and would not have kept up with all of Salmon’s funding sources. In the past, it has also placed tremendous power over the process into the hands of a few committed liberal Democrats who have used it to damage Republicans anyway they can. The initiative was funded with money from George Soros’ foundation.
    Ultimately, finding that the matching funds provision violates free speech is right in line with a decision handed down by the 4 conservatives of the US Supreme Court (and Kennedy) and we should hope our own courts will reach the same conclusion.

  12. Matt Sh. says

    Fellow bloggers,

    I am convinced that there was one reason and only one reason for Clean Elections; to get Janet Napolitano elected Governor. That was it; end of story.

  13. Any time the private sector has to compete against a government-owned/subsidized/funded entity, the private sector loses. And let’s keep in mind that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Almost every conservative is complaining about the federal government taking over private industries (automobile, financial, insurance, health care) for these very reasons => The private sector can’t compete against the government.

    Please tell me how this is not different from our clean elections system? Any candidate who takes state money or gets triggered state money during an election will usually have a competitive edge over a traditional candidate – with the exception of the timing of the disbursement (the weekend immediately preceeding election Tuesday).

    Back to the solution: Full and Immediate Disclosure. We have the technology to reveal who is giving to who and how much and if the media and bloggers are doing their job, and the voter was well informed, anyone could see that some fat cat or special interest was dumping tons of money into a candidate’s campaign coffers.

  14. Bev, I see your point, but you have to admit that running under CE also allows people to run often, and with no personal financial penalty. Each time you run on public money, win or lose, it’s quite easy to do again. It’s like a perpetual campaign. Your name ID is cumulative from one election to the next. CE allows that to happen. Carl Seal is another example. He ran a number of times and finally all those signs, junk mail a database of people who already gave him $5, got him into office. Maybe you think it’s clean, but certainly not fair.

    CE permits repeat candidates to use publicly-paid-for resources from one campaign cycle into the next. A computer, camera, website domain, signs, stuff like that, all paid for with public money. So if you ran three times clean and your opponent is just getting in the first time, you are tens of thousands of dollars ahead of him.

    Anyway, successfully raising money means more than just cash. Sure, Pierce put in his own money but also raised $75,000 from individuals. That proves he has widespread support, know-how, maturity, respect, credibility, and therefore the potential for statesmanship. All CE proves is that you got a couple hundred “friends” to give you $5. On those terms, which campaign funding method is going to produce better quality candidates?

  15. AZRep actually writes – ” It uses the coercive power of the state to tax money from many who can ill afford it” as though we’re going to feel guilty for folks who can “ill afford it”? AZRep is trying to make us feel bad for folks paying fines for their traffic violations. It also implies that AZRep would not oppose the Clean Elections system if it taxed money from those who could afford it. Ah, one of those “soak the rich” conservatives.

    AZRep also uses the words “the more moderate wing of the Arizona Democratic Party” Such a wing simply does not exist, so mourning its passing is hardly productive.

    For DSW, I can’t reconcile your opposition to Clean Elections with your phrase “And let’s keep in mind that he who pays the piper calls the tune.” That is precisely the argument AGAINST letting the lobbyists and PACs and Chambers of Commerce fund the campaigns.

    Maricopa GOP gets the prize for understanding the problem and the situation. DSW’s solution of eliminating the one system that frees conservatives to be conservatives in such wildly successful numbers is short-sighted and foolish.

  16. “For DSW, I can’t reconcile your opposition to Clean Elections with your phrase “And let’s keep in mind that he who pays the piper calls the tune.” That is precisely the argument AGAINST letting the lobbyists and PACs and Chambers of Commerce fund the campaigns.”

    My point exactly.

    By making the system FULL and IMMEDIATE disclosure. When the voters see who’s trying to influence the election they should vote accordingly.

  17. Maricopa GOP says

    Matt Sh

    You can thank the rotten campaign by John Kaites against McGovern for Janet winning her first campaign here in Arizona.

    I would rather that conservatives had the money to run traditional – and win – but the fact is that big business, the unions (teacher, fire, labor and government) and the Chambers generally will not support real conservatives. Even when some do, they expect favors that requires compromise.

    CCEC is like many things in America – bad, but better than any alternative available.

  18. This is what cracks me up about some in our party and why the “ultra-conservatives” can’t be taken seriously by some. You stand on your high horse about taxes and proposed tax increases, claim to be pure yet are unabashed about using publicly financed campaign money. You can’t have it both ways.

  19. I love freedom, I love the constitution, I love the my family, and I hate clean elections.
    I promise that when I run for elected office, I will use no public funds!

  20. I ask all true conservatives to take a step back and ask themselves if their elected officials are using their authority to spread freedom or using as means to plunder from the citizenry.

  21. Chris, I admire your stance, but tell me, if you’re running as a candidate for the first time and donations are restricted to a few hundred dollars, exactly how are you going to amass the tens of thousands of dollars needed for your campaign?

  22. Chris, you ask “I ask all true conservatives to take a step back and ask themselves if their elected officials are using their authority to spread freedom or using as means to plunder from the citizenry.”

    The answer is that virtually all of the true conservatives who are spreading freedom got elected thanks to Clean Elections. Gould, Harper, Gorman, Gray, Pearce, Melvin, etc. in the Senate. Burges, Seel, Barnes, Kavanagh, Lesko, Weiers, Montenegro, Ash, Pratt, Stevens, Gowan, etc. in the House.

    Is our movement prepared to fund ALL of these candidates in the future? We never have in the past.

  23. Cons of Clean Elections:

    1) according to Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts, similar public funding provisions violate the First Amendment;
    2) it has been used to elect horrible liberal democrats (see, Napolitano);
    3) it clearly violates conservative principles of limited government; and
    4) it gives (frequently Democrat) bureaucrats the power to depose duly elected Republicans, like Smith and Quelland.

    Pros of Clean Elections:

    1) it’s a free government handout that some of us have have benefited from.

    Bev, if you found out that Burges, Seel, Barnes, Kavanagh, Lesko, Weiers, Montenegro, Ash, Pratt, Stevens and Gowan, were all on AHCCCS, would you be calling for its expansion also?

  24. Did you not read the Federalist Papers? Pierce is right; people do not have equal character or skill, and to force them to be equal by “leveling the playing field” with Clean Elections is government shooting itself and citizens in the foot.

    And to accuse someone of hypocrisy by playing by the current rules even though they disagree with them is not right.

  25. T$ I don’t fault people for using the system, but quit acting sanctimonious when you trash all over it and act like you’re above it. If you’re truly against something, be against it and do so quietly. Don’t step up on your soapbox while trashing the very system that got you there.

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