Monday, June 29, 2015

Clean Elections carries out voter-mandated duties

Recently, The Arizona Republic published a response to its June 14th editorial broadside against the Citizens Clean Elections Commission by former chair and author of the Clean Elections Act Louis Hoffman

Commissioner Hoffman is right. Indeed, Doug MacEachern's editorial for the paper was unfortunate.  Unfortunate because it didn’t fairly address the Commission’s duties to enforce and administrate the Clean Elections Act as passed by the voters.

Voters understand that we need more information in our elections and more transparency.  That’s why they passed the Clean Elections Act and empowered the Commission and only the Commission to enforce it on an independent, non-partisan basis.  Given our state’s struggle with corruption and transparency in elections, the purpose of the Clean Elections Act is to promote participation and restore integrity to state government. 

That’s why, in 1998, Arizona’s voters themselves created the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, tasking the CCEC with three equally paramount mandates – voter-driven financing of campaigns for qualified candidates; voter education programs and debates among candidates; and the enforcement of Arizona’s election laws regarding issues like campaign contribution limits and the filing of appropriate campaign finance reports by candidates and independent spenders.

It’s this last voter-authorized duty which continues to draw objections from Arizona’s politicians and from the June 14th editorial. These complaints come despite multiple court rulings outlining the Commission’s enforcement role, including exceedingly clear language reaffirming this authority by the Arizona Supreme Court..

As Justice Ruth McGregor put it, “the Commission enforces the provisions of (Arizona election laws) dealing with administration and enforcement.” She added that the Commission’s roles and authorities “do not relate to the public financing of political campaigns.”  Enforcing these laws is a paramount duty, Justice McGregor wrote in Clean Elections Institute v. Brewer.

The Commission’s authority to enforce election laws is clear. So is the Commission’s track record of enforcement in a non-partisan, objective manner.  

While the June 14th editorial characterized Clean Elections’ enforcement role as submitting candidates to the potential for “double jeopardy” should the CCEC and Secretary of State disagree, I would submit that’s not the case. (Notably, the out-of-state spender the Commission find is seeking a second opinion from a different Superior Court judge after its appeal was bounced. So much for consistency.).  

The only jeopardy faced by most Arizona political candidates and operatives who flout election laws is being held accountable by the Commission – a five-member body consisting of two Republicans, two Democrats and one Independent appointed to enforce the will of the people as transcribed in law.

Arizona voters are smart.  Presented with an elections system full of gaping loopholes and flush with special interest cash, they created a Clean Elections system to push corruption out by bringing voters in with information and opportunities to participate.  And, instead of the so-called “foxes guarding the hen house,” voters instilled in the Clean Elections Commission the authority to create exactly that – clean elections, or, at the very least, cleaner elections.

What voters want is clear.  They want resources they can rely upon and they want to cast their ballots with the confidence that the rules will apply fairly to all.  That’s what the Clean Elections Act says and it’s what the Commission does.