Let us say that you vote very election. You consider it a civic duty. During this election cycle, you have been paying more attention, and want to become more involved by helping your favorite candidate financially.
Nice idea, but donâ€™t bother because you canâ€™t.
â€œCanâ€™t what, send him a check?â€ you might ask.
â€œNo,â€ I would reply, â€œyou canâ€™t help him.â€
â€œHow does that work?â€ you say.
Hereâ€™s how: say you want to give a hundred bucks to your guy in your local legislative district. Well, if he has met the arbitrary limit set by the state, the state will give a hundred bucks to each of the competing candidates, thereby neutralizing your helpâ€¦ you know, to make it fair.
â€œBut my guy is not participating in Clean Elections!â€ you add.
â€œYeah, thatâ€™s why he can raise the extra money, but his participating opponents get the match. Like it or not, everyone participates, though not everyone signs up,â€ I explain with a sigh.
At this point you shake your fist and scream, â€œWhat the heck is fair about denying me the ability to help my candidate!?!â€
Welcome to the whacky world of â€œArizona Clean Elections.â€ Thatâ€™s right, the act that was designed to increase political participation, increase the number of candidates, and reduce the incumbent re-election rate, actually does none of those things. In fact, it often makes matters worse.
It is an atrociously bad law. Not only does it fail to fulfill the promises of its creators, it also removes an important tool with which the people influence their elected representatives.
There are three ways with which we, the people, do that â€“ voting, campaign financing, and petitioning (letters, phone calls, etc.). The vote is clearly the most powerful. With it, we can â€œthrow the bums out.â€ Campaign financing is next, it relates to the vote so it is right up there in significance. Once the critter is in there, we can communicate praise or displeasure, the old carrot and stick, which might spook him during and election year.
Arizona Clean Elections removes direct constituent influence over campaign financing. That means that the candidate gets the money, the â€œmotherâ€™s milk of politicsâ€, not by pleasing his constituents, but by pleasing the some state employed bureaucrat.
Look, I know that at this point, you figure the political game is rigged, and you want to forget about it and go back to playing Halo or Grand Theft Auto, but donâ€™t. There is hope.
Clint Bollick, up there at the Goldwater Institute, has filed suit on behalf of an angry mob of candidates who are getting hosed by this thing. Heâ€™s arguing that preventing people from supporting their candidates interferes with their free speech rights.
Now hereâ€™s the best part: there is United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) case law that supports the claim! The case is Davis vs. F.E.C., you can look it up. It should be a slam-dunk for Clint.
â€œBut why,â€ you ask, â€œif it doesnâ€™t work and creates problems, donâ€™t they just repeal the bad law?â€
My friend, you have much to learn about politics. Remember, things are not always as they appear. Perhaps it never was about increased participation, more candidates, and all that crap. Maybe it has always been about control, about shifting power from the people to the state.
If that is the case, then it appears to be working just fine.