Clean Elections, or Taking Democracy to the Cleaners?

Posted on February 15, 2002 | Type: Press Release
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Phoenix, AZ-On Monday, February 18, supporters of Arizona's Clean Elections law will rally at the Capitol in support of public subsidies for politicians. Clean Elections' supporters say public subsidies clean up the political process, yet Goldwater scholar Robert Franciosi finds that, rather than "cleaning up" politics, the Clean Elections Act has taken democracy to the cleaners.

According to Franciosi, "The clean Elections movement is built on a foundation of sand and voters are paying the price."  Franciosi is the author of "Is Cleanliness Political Godliness?"-a study released in November that compares the voting records of privately financed candidates against publicly subsidized candidates and explodes the myths surrounding Clean Elections.

Myth #1:         Public subsidies will reduce the influence of special interests. 

Reality:           An examination of the record shows that publicly subsidized candidates during the last legislative session voted no differently than those who received private support.

 

Myth #2:         Public subsidies will reduce the cost of campaigns. 

Reality:           During the last election, the average Clean Elections candidate spent more than the average privately financed candidate. Just as public subsidies for farmers lead to a surplus of cheese, public subsidies for politicians lead to a surplus of political hot air. Candidates who normally would not garner enough public support to send out a flyer now have over $26,000 of taxpayer money to play with. 

 

Myth #3:         Public subsidies will make legislators more accountable to constituents. 

Reality:           If this is true, somebody should inform the legislators. When asked by a reporter what effect receiving public subsidies had on his decisions, a Clean Elections legislator, Rep. Henry Camarot, mentioned that he was able to discount the views of his constituents on a very controversial issue (Arizona Capitol Times June 1, p. 15). This example suggests that Clean Elections advocates are confused: do they want to free legislators from big money interests, or do they want them to be independent of any influence whatsoever-even that of constituents?

 

Myth #4:         Public subsidies will restore public confidence in political leaders.

Reality:           According to a poll by the Clean Elections Institute (which defends the Act), 92 percent of Arizonans have no idea what the Clean Elections Act is, and only 39 percent say they are more likely to support a candidate because he or she accepts only public subsidies.

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