Public Campaign Financing Deal Reached

Apr 3, 2012

A deal reached Monday will short-circuit an attempt to get voters to scrap public financing of elections. 

The 1998 law allows but does not require candidates to get public funds if they agree not to take outside cash. Foes, including business interests, have been unhappy with the plan for years. And they had the votes lined up at the Legislature to ask voters to effectively repeal the law. Sen. John McComish said the deal allows the system to remain in place, but with some new restrictions on how it spends money on public relations.

"It can continue to educate people but not promote Clean Elections," said McComish. "In other words, no billboards at the hockey game, no TV ads saying Clean Elections is a wonderful thing, la, la, la."

McComish said there's no reason public funds should be used to promote public funding as necessarily preferable to getting donations from contributors. Todd Lang, director of the Clean Elections Commission said the advertising will not stop. What will go away are general statements of why public financing is a good thing.

"In other words," said Lang,  "no more 'everybody wins,' no more 'good for Arizona,' that sort of thing. But we can continue to tell people why they should run, why it's a good idea to run, how they can run, how they can get involved and how our law works."

The deal also eliminates state tax credits for donations to public financing but leaves in place its main source of cash: a surcharge on fines.