Public funding ban measure lands on Arizona 2012 ballot

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April 15, 2011


PHOENIX, Arizona: Voters in the state of Arizona will once again have a say on whether or not to allow the use of public money to fund political campaigns. Although the 2012 general election is more than a year away, Arizona lawmakers passed the proposed public election funding ban measure on April 14, 2011. The measure would also overturn the Clean Elections Act that was approved by voters in 1998.

According to the current Clean Elections Act, public funds are provided to Candidate A if his or her opponent, Candidate B, is running on private funds and outspends them. If Candidate B spends more money than the public funds given to Candidate A, that would trigger additional public funding to Candidate A.

The proposal that voters will see in 2012 took the long road towards ballot placement. Previously, in 2010, the original bill had only one more obstacle left in order to be placed in front of voters that November. The Arizona House of Representatives had to approve the measure with a majority vote, which would have certified the proposal. However, the measure was not sent to the ballot as legislative session concluded. Lawmakers then focused on placing the measure on the 2012 ballot.[1][2][3]

The Arizona State Senate was scheduled to vote on the measure on February 28, 2011 in order to send it to the Arizona House of Representatives. The vote took place that day, where the Senate voted in favor of approving the measure, with a final tally of 20-9. The measure was then sent to the State House, where it was approved with a vote of 43-13 on April 14, 2011.[4][5][6]

The U.S. Supreme Court could have an impact on the issue, as the high court, on March 28, 2011, heard a challenge to the Clean Elections Act. The case is officially called McComish v. Bennett, referring to State Senator John McComish, who stated that the clean elections law has had a "chilling" effect on races.[7]

Opponents of the law also argue that the additional funding yields a restriction on the free speech of candidates who are running privately funded races, which could be deemed unconstitutional.

According to Campaign Legal Center's Gerry Hebert and Tara Malloy in a written statement, "The [ U.S. Supreme Court ] case could have a broad impact on federal and state efforts to create alternative methods for funding election campaigns. Depending on its scope, an adverse ruling from the high court could undermine public financing systems across the country and increase still further the grossly disproportionate voice given to corporations and unions in our elections."

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