Whither Clean Elections?

Word from the Capitol is that Clean Elections has hired powerhouse lobbyist Mike Williams to lobby for a proposal to give every candidate seeking public financing the maximum amount of money.  This is, of course, in response to the court decision invalidating the matching funds provision of the Clean Elections Act.  To their credit, Clean Elections realizes that without matching funds or a change in the law to give candidates seeking public financing the maximum amount which in the case of the State Legislative races would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $55,000 or so, Clean Elections will effectively cease to exist as a credible means to run a campaign.  

However, the likelihood of getting the requisite 75 percent necessary to make changes in the law is all but a non-starter at the Capitol.  Why would any Legislator who does not use public financing vote to give their potential opponents $55,000?  Money that would, if races from recent years are any indication, be used to attack them.  That answer is that they wouldn’t.  Furthermore, giving every candidate the max would require any candidate choosing not to use public financing to work that much harder to raise money.  

In addition, there is an argument to be made that giving all candidates the max would in effect compel even more candidates to use public financing.  If you were guaranteed upwards of a $100,000 for the primary and the general, you would have no choice with our low donation limits but to use public financing.  

The more likely outcome, pending a reprieve from the 9th circuit, is that Clean Elections will cease to exist as a realistic funding source for any credible candidate and slowly whither away.  

And for those who oppose the concept of using public money to finance political campaigns, it won’t come fast enough.  


  1. Iris Lynch says


  2. Moveon.org has already started advertising in areas where there is an R voter majority but Obama carried the vote. They are pushing the idea that the GOP had failed them and they should become D’s and support the President they elected.

    We must be prepared to counter the huge 527 money that will be very much a part of the next cycle. The economy will not make way for small average donors, corporate $$$ will be very important and necessary.

  3. I wonder if “Voter Education” funds will be used for this.

  4. Time to eliminate Clean Elections and install a system of full and immediate disclosure of campaign transactions.

    Any “Joe Public” should be able to log on to a website to see where a candidate is getting their money and how they’re spending their money.

  5. I loathe the whole concept of taxpayer funded elections, but this post is somewhat premature. The Court did not invalidate the matching funds provision – they stated it was very probably unconstitutional, but refused to grant a preliminary injunction. The summary judgment deadline in the case is six months away and trial is set for ten months from now. Even if the Court grants summary judgment, that will not happen until September at the earliest. Expect a motion for reconsideration to string it out a little more. The question then becomes, will the Court stay enforcement during the 2-3 years it is on appeal? If yes, then the 2010 election cycle will be free of the matching funds provision. If no, then it will apply through 2010. Also, look for the extremely liberal Ninth Circuit to reinstate the matching funds provision. This would force the Supreme Court to reverse them, consistent with the decision that gave rise to this entire litigation, but would also saddle us with the matching funds provision for another election cycle. I agree that getting 75% of the legislature to agree on massive lump sum payments to all qualifiers is a non starter, but legal machinations could well keep the matching funds provision in play for 2010 and/or 2012.

  6. It’s a darn shame that that 10% surcharge on all civil and criminal fines and penalties goes into the Clean Elections fund. I wonder how much the Commission gets from this surcharg each year?

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