On Thursday February 21, the Arizona House Judiciary Committee approved HB 2593. The intent of this measure, sponsored by Rep. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler), is to drastically increase the power of wealthy donors and PACs in determining the outcome of elections for both legislative seats and statewide offices, including the governor’s post. Passage would result in a 9-fold increase over the current limits on individual and PAC contributions to a legislative candidate – and there would be no limit on what a candidate could take from all PACs!
Concurrently the committee approved a separate measure, HCR 2026, sponsored by Rep Paul Boyer (R-Phoenix), which would eliminate public funding for candidates who elect to forego private financing for their campaigns. This would be accomplished through defunding the Citizens Clean Election Commission, created in 1998 to help level the playing field in elections for state offices.
If passed and signed by the governor, these measures will further erode the power of individual voters to determine election outcomes, thus perpetuating the existence of a government “by and for the well-heeled vested interests”.
As you are undoubtedly aware, both houses of the legislature are dominated by arch conservative ideologues who by and large gain access to office via the largess of wealthy contributors and PACs. Being acutely aware as to whom they are beholden to, these vocal extremists are strident in their efforts to defeat common sense measures proposed by conscientious legislators with the peoples’ interest at heart.
Clearly HB 2593 and HCR 2026 pose a serious threat to our ability to maintain any semblance of representative government in Arizona. The heavily funded vested interests will tighten their grip on the legislature and the governor’s office, and citizens of Arizona will once again be left holding the bag for “the best government that money can buy”.
Both measures will move on to the House Rules Committee, which will assess their constitutionality. Provided that the bills pass muster, they will be forwarded to the full House for a vote. If they pass the House they will go on to the Senate and ultimately to Gov. Brewer for approval once they have passed both houses.
If HCR 2026 passes a proposition will be placed on the 2014 ballot to strip the Citizens Clean Elections Commission of all funding sources, thus eliminating the option of public funding for candidates who choose to forego private financing.
Todd Lang, Executive Director of Clean Elections, charges that the language of HCR 2026 is clearly deceptive. While the measure proposes to divert to public education all public funds now going to candidates, the wording ignores the fact that the preponderance of these funds do not come from taxpayers. Rather, the funds allocated to candidates are generated by surcharges on civil, criminal and traffic fines. Lang also points out that even if voters ultimately reject Boyer’s proposal to defund Clean Elections, passage of HB 2593 will trigger an astronomical increase of funds flowing to selected candidates from PACs and other vested interests. That, in turn, will effectively eliminate all efforts to level the playing field in future elections.
What you can do
Passage of these measures will strip away the ability of individual votes to determine the outcome of elections for state offices. I urge you to call or email your representatives in the state house and senate, expressing your strong opposition to both HB 2593 and HCR 2026. Even better, also communicate your opposition to Governor Brewer and the leaders of both houses. Their email addresses are: Gov. Jan Brewer email@example.com; Speaker of the House, Andy Tobin (R-District 1) firstname.lastname@example.org; President of the Senate, Andy Biggs (R-District 12) email@example.com. You can also reach the sponsors of both bills at the following addresses: HB 2593, J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler), firstname.lastname@example.org; HCR 2026, Paul Boyer (R-Phoenix), email@example.com.
We must stand united on this one – we cannot afford to let either of these ill-conceived measures pass!
“Legislators seek boost in gifts to campaigns”, Arizona Daily Star, February 22, 2013