By Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux
March 03, 2008
The next logical step is publicly funded elections-commonly called Clean Elections. This will provide elections that are funded by individuals and public money rather than by special interest groups. Plutarch said "There is no doubt that the real destroyer of the liberties of any people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations, and largess."
Seven states and two cities presently have forms of this law. There will be an initiative on the ballot in the fall to enact a law in Alaska. Senator Bill Wielechowski and I have introduced identical bills in the House and Senate. Legislators have an opportunity through the committee process to modify this bill along the way in order to make the legislation something they can live with.
Governor Palin has said that she thinks this is an issue that the public should vote on because it is their money. She has a very good point. However, legislators usually prefer to work a bill through the system rather than have an initiative thrust upon them that may have flaws that could have been remedied through the committee process.
Two members of the Anchorage Assembly, which introduced a resolution supporting Clean Elections, are facing scrutiny for questionable fundraising. Some of the states who have enacted Clean Election laws are ones that, like Alaska, have endured similar ethical quagmires and decided this was the better route.
In Arizona, state officials including the Governor can participate in Clean Elections and many do. This does not apply to federal races and recent events show the difference between the two. The Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has placed Congressman Rick Renzi (R-Az) on its list of "Most Corrupt Members of Congress" two years in a row. He now faces 35 federal indictments.
In 2006, candidates for state office in Alaska and those groups who support them raised more than $17 million. One way of determining whether Clean Elections works is how many voluntarily use this system. For example, in Maine, use of Clean Elections has grown from 62% of candidates in 2002 to 79% in 2004 to 81% in 2006.
This system affords candidates the opportunity to spend more time talking to people about policy issues rather than dialing for dollars. Or worse yet becoming indentured to special interest groups who can provide substantial contributions from many sources so that candidates don't have to get small amounts of money from many regular citizens.
Many people who would be worthy candidates shy away from the process because elections are so expensive and making cold calls begging for contributions isn't something any sensible person wants to do.
In 1998, 79% of the candidates in Arizona with the largest war chests won. In 2002, after implementation of Clean Elections, this was true for only 2%. In just four years, Arizona politics changed dramatically, with a 77% reduction in the number of races determined by money.
Is Clean Elections something
we as a State can afford? The answer is yes. Is it something
that we want to pay for with money that could be put to other
worthwhile pursuits? That is a question each legislator needs
to ponder. It has been speculated that money is lost to the State
on a regular basis because some legislators feel a sense of obligation
to the entities that have funded their campaigns and may do so
in the future.
Received February 29, 2008 - Published March 03, 2008
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