The Arizona Republic quotes Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas as saying criticisms of his office spending millions of taxpayer dollars on publications and advertising bearing his name and photo are the product of an alliance of politicians and critics in the media who oppose my policies on illegal immigration. Not true.
Thomas has done some great things as County Attorney. But when I go to the movies, I don't want to see his face on the screen, knowing that the advertisement was either paid for by tax dollars or procured through the influence of his office. Nor do I want to see Governor Janet Napolitano's face on billboards while I'm driving.
The merits of the advertisements and publications are not at issue. The question for those who spend taxpayer money on them is whether they would spend that money if it couldn't be used for self-promotion.
The problem of taxpayer subsidized promotion of elected officials is even more acute given the misnamed Clean Elections Act, which might as well be dubbed the Incumbent Protection Act, at least for state-wide offices. The draconian contribution and spending limits place challengers at a severe disadvantage. Meanwhile, incumbents are spending millions in taxpayer dollars to raise name identification and boost approval ratings.
The Republic suggests three criteria for publishing names or faces of elected officials. We propose one: is the name or photo necessary to adequately convey the legitimate information? Most times the answer will be no. The rule can be easily enforced by in-house ethics officers at little if any cost, and perhaps will provide significant savings once self-promotion cant be subsidized.
A vast left-wing conspiracy? Nope. Just trying to get elected officials to keep their eye on the ball and not abuse the public trust.
Clint Bolick is the director of the Goldwater Institute's Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.
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