Phoenix--This year's election season is unlikely to be "cleaner" than previous seasons, according to a new Goldwater Institute report, Campaign Promises: A Six-year Review of Arizona's Experiment with Taxpayer-financed Campaigns.
When Arizona's Clean Elections Act passed in 1998, proponents hoped it would mark the beginning of a new era in elections: one of improved voter turnout, increased candidate participation, and less special interest influence.
But the new policy report, Campaign Promises, finds those promises haven't been kept. The report's author, Allison Hayward, is a leading campaign finance attorney who has served as the chief counsel to the Federal Election Commission chairman, authored the book Teach Yourself E-Politics Today: Using the Internet to Participate and Interact with Your Government, and blogs at skepticseye.com.
Since the implementation of the Clean Elections system, voter turnout has not improved, incumbency reelection rates have remained near 100 percent, the number of candidates fell substantially in the most recent primaries, and the law has not increased minor or third-party participation in politics. Furthermore, there is no indication that campaigns have become more positive or issue oriented.
Supporters of the system claim the vast majority of Arizonans support Clean Elections and that the number of candidates receiving funding shows the system works.
However, at a public open house yesterday announcing the study findings, Bradley Smith, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and Goldwater Institute Senior Fellow responded, "Of course people support the concept of 'clean elections', but when you ask if they support taxpayer funding for politicians' reelection campaigns, the answer is no. And saying the system is working just because candidates take advantage of it is like saying welfare must be working when there are a lot of people receiving it."
The law also imposes a confusing and frustrating regulatory regime that threatens constitutional liberties and limits free speech. Arizona's Clean Elections system faces serious court challenges on those grounds. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering a challenge to Vermont's taxpayer financed campaign system that could have implications for Arizona as well.
Read a copy of Campaign Promises: A Six-year Review of Arizona's Experiment with Taxpayer-financed Campaigns here.
Starlee Rhoades, Goldwater Institute Director of Communications, 602-462-5000 x 226, firstname.lastname@example.org