A meme has developed that “right-wing extremists” have disproportionately benefited from public campaign financing in Arizona. But the Goldwater Institute’s Legislative Report Card shows this supposition is far from the truth. In fact, public financing has empowered substantially more big government believers than principled proponents of limited government.
The Goldwater Institute’s study grades and ranks state legislators based on their commitment to the principles of limited government as revealed by the bills they have supported. The ranking is from an unabashed classical liberal perspective—that the best government is the one that taxes, spends and regulates least. An “A” grade describes a legislator that would make Barry Goldwater proud; an “F” grade describes a state legislator in the mold of Nancy Pelosi.
As shown in the Institute’s report, publicly-financed candidates in both the State Senate and House disproportionately receive failing grades. More publicly-financed candidates rank in the bottom half than in the top half. And publicly-financed candidates that rank in the bottom 10 are nearly double the number of publicly-financed candidates in the top 10.
In short, conservative strategists who support public financing are being too clever by half. Co-opting big government policies to advance principles of limited government has not worked and will not work. But that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Nick Dranias holds the Goldwater Institute Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan chair for constitutional government and is the director of the Institute's Dorothy D. and Joseph A. Moller Center for Constitutional Government.
Goldwater Institute: "2009 Legislative Report Card for Arizona’s Forty-ninth Legislature, First Regular Session"