State Capitol News
11:04 am
Wed June 9, 2010

US Supreme Court Bans Matching Funds for Political Campaigns

Phoenix, AZ – Arizona's voter-approved Clean Elections law lets candidates for
statewide and legislative office get public financing if they
don't take outside cash. And the law guarantees them extra money
when privately funded foes spend more. But all that changed
Tuesday when the nation's high court blocked the state from
providing those matching funds, at least while the justices
consider challenges to the legality of the system. The most
immediate beneficary is Republican Buz Mills. He's already spent
$2.3 million on his gubernatorial campaign. And now Jan Brewer
and Dean Martin are going to be limited to just $707,000. Mills
said, though, that doesn't necessarily give him an advantage,
particuarly over Brewer who has the benefits of being the
incumbent.

(We were not involved, for instance, in the Proposition 100 deal.
And the governor was heavily involved in promoting that. And I
think a couple of million dollars was spent on that. And I can't
say that she didn't get some campaign benefit from all those
appearances.)

Brewer released a statement calling the decision of the high
court to halt matching funds this close to the election -- quote
-- terribly troubling. Campaign spokesman Doug Cole said he
doesn't think the order will make a real difference and that the
governor remains prepared to run the primary race with just
$707,000. But the Brewer camp clearly is fine-tuning its message
to make the most out of the fact that Mills is going to outspend
her.

(She has an opponent who has put $2.3 million of his own money,
some that have argued has been from defrauding his business
partners. But the fact of the matter is, he's trying to purchase
the governor's office.)

That shot to Mills stems from a 2001 ruling by a Florida judge
that had cheated a partner out of about $3 million in connection
with the sale of their company. That judgment was set aside --
but only after Mills and his partner settled out of court for
some undisclosed amount. And Mills still denies he did anything
wrong. As to the charge of buying the governor's office, Mills
said he had taken a path earlier in life to go into business and
he was, as he puts it, reasonably successful.

(So now we have money we can spend on public service. Other
people elected to go the other way and do other things and
dedicate their life to public service. You know, it's not a
matter of buying a campaign. At least I'm not having the
taxpayers buy it for me.)

Martin also said he was not concerned by the fact Mills can now
outspend him by a large amount.

(If that money would be able to buy him more points, he would be
doing a lot better. I mean, the guy's doing mailers every single
week, hundreds of radio commercials. And he's barely moved. He's
actually started dropping. So, from an overall campaign
perspective, he can write as big of a check as he wanted. That
doesn't change with this. That just changes how much we can
respond.)

So how much can he respond with just $707,000?

(Not as much. But we'll still be able to run a good grassroots
operation.)

Pollster Earl de Berge said that, as much as publicly fuinded
candidates minimize the effect of Tuesday's order, there will be
an impact.

(It obviously handicaps them very, very significantly, cause it
puts them in a box, unless there's some other legal action, that
they can't get out of, and they'll be outspent. Money is the
grease of politics these days. So I know it's not everything. But
it's a lot.)

Other statewide races also will be affected -- possibly even more
severely. For example, candidates for attorney general running
with public money will get just $183,000 for their primary
campaigns. That includes Republican Andrew Thomas who is running
against Tom Horne whose campaign is privately financed. But
Thomas' campaign manager Jason Rose said he thinks the race can
be won.

(We have had a plan all along to win, with or without Clean
Elections. I said that six months ago. I say that today.)

Horne, however, probably starts with more statewide name I-D by
virtue of his last eight years as state school superintendent.
But Rose said Thomas will do better in Maricopa County where he
was county attorney -- and where more than 60 percent of
Republican voters are located. For Arizona Public Radio this is
Howard Fischer.