Campaign Finance & Election
Campaigns should be open and free, not prone to manipulation through government financing schemes. And now the U.S. Supreme Court agrees.
What started as a simple political endorsement in March by J&G Gun Sales has resulted in a state investigation. In its regular catalog, J&G outlined its support for Republican primary gubernatorial candidate Len Munsil, because he supports the constitutional right to own and carry firearms. The investigatory hubbub centers around how to interpret the endorsement under Arizona's Clean Elections Act.
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.
In the wake of recent scandals in the U.S. Congress, some type of lobbying reform appears to be in order. Unfortunately, the issue seems likely to get tangled up in "campaign finance reform." But the issues should not be conflated.
We need to separate lobbying reform from campaign finance reform. They are not the same thing. More regulations on American Indian tribes and 527 organization political activities won’t prevent future Abramoff-type scandals.
At first, reformers hailed Connecticut's new Clean Elections law as a major victory for advocates of public campaign financing. Now two unlikely allies are raining on the reformers’ parade. State lobbyists and the Green Party both oppose the law on well-reasoned constitutional grounds.
The First Amendment might be on the mend. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument challenging the constitutionality of Vermont’s far-reaching campaign finance system.
Like an unruly teenager, Vermont challenged tradition by drafting the law in defiance of good standing Supreme Court precedent. Vermont’s law limits how much candidates can spend to get their message out and sets dramatically low contribution limits.
In a recent Arizona Republic article reporting on political giving by Indian Tribes, the author writes that Tribes, "aren’t limited in the amounts of money they can contribute," and then quotes James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University in Washington, D.C. saying, "It is perhaps the last frontier of essentially unregulated campaign cash contributions."
The Clean Elections law was supposed to increase citizen participation in the political process, but an administrative flight policy might be having the opposite effect.
Commission regulations require publicly financed candidates to pay for flights and normally report them as expenditures. That sounds reasonable at first glance. However, it has created an unforeseen problem in its wake.
Can restrictions on freedom of speech be lifted? Two cases just added to the U.S. Supreme Court docket may signal the start.
The outcome in either of the two cases could affect Arizona's Clean Elections Act.
The first case, Randall v. Sorrell, concerns a Vermont law that set an extremely low limit on how much money citizens could contribute to candidates and limited the amount of money candidates could spend on their campaigns.
Arizona judges are about to face increased voter scrutiny.
The Arizona Supreme Court has changed disclosure rules to give voters access to all complaints filed against Arizona judges, not just those that lead to formal sanctions. Formerly private reprimands for judicial indiscretions such as tardy rulings, DUI arrests, and accessing pornography on court computers will now be a matter of public record.