Sierra Vista Herald
Republicans introduced a bill and a House committee advanced the proposal to more than quadruple the campaign contribution limit, opening future election cycles to even greater influence by special interests representing even smaller, wealthier individuals and/or organizations.
The irony of the legislation is that its originators are making a solid argument that the current contribution limits prevent candidates from getting their message to voters.
In other words, candidates and their campaigns are being overrun by independent organizations — usually representing national groups or other out-of-state special interests — with messages that may be consistent with the political stance of a political party but not necessarily the candidate. Increasing the campaign contribution limits, proponents argue, will help candidates keep better control of their messages and will encourage special interests to donate directly to the campaign instead of an independent organization.
A consequence of the legislation, however, will discourage all candidates from participating in the state’s Clean Elections program.
Created in 1998 by Arizona voters, the Citizens Clean Elections Commission uses surcharges on criminal fines and civil penalties to fund candidates for state office. Participants qualify for public funding by gathering $5 contributions from eligible voters and agreeing to comply with spending and contribution limits.
By changing the state campaign finance law to allow significantly larger contributions, candidates who agree to accept Clean Elections money would be at a serious disadvantage against opponents who are successful in attracting large campaign donations. Well-financed candidates have more money for advertising, mailers, signs, time on television and bigger staffs and campaign organizations.
That’s a consequence state Republicans are more than willing to incur. Those who follow State Capitol politics will remember the GOP sought to eliminate the Clean Elections program last year -— and failed — and this represents a new effort to accomplish the same goal.