In the movie The Da Vinci Code, Tom Hanks plays a famed Harvard professor who solves a puzzling biblical mystery. You may have missed a similar drama that's playing out at the Clean Elections Commission, an investigation of the governor's alleged Clean Elections violations.
On March 1, Napolitano unveiled her reelection website and launched an e-mail campaign. Both events occurred before she received public funding. The governor argues she didn't violate the law because the bills for these services would be paid later, when she was a publicly financed candidate. Her counsel has publicly stated that the Clean Elections guidelines are vague and "not artfully crafted."
Many campaign finance reform laws nationwide have been struck down by federal courts because they're unclear. These systems leave candidates, political parties, and grassroots organizations wrapped up in administrative proceedings trying to decipher the meaning of the law and less time communicating with voters about issues.
If Arizona's top elected official, and number one supporter of Clean Elections, can't understand the law, something's dangerously amiss. Keeping unclear laws, like the Clean Elections Act, on the books affords unelected bureaucracies expansive authority to interpret the law and control the ebb and flow of ideas in Arizona's electoral discussion.
Understanding Clean Elections is like decoding a cryptex. But the Constitution permits no mysteries when it comes to the defense of protected liberties, including political speech.
Benjamin Barr is a constitutional policy analyst with the Goldwater Institute Center for Constitutional Studies.
-Citizens Clean Elections Commission: "Statement of Reasons of Executive Director
-Goldwater Institute: "Campaign Promises: A Six-year Review of Arizona's Experiment with Taxpayer-financed Campaigns
- Buckley v. Valeo: 424 U.S. 1 (1976)
- East Valley Tribune: "Clean elections will investigate Napolitano