Reasonable, Level Headed, Pragmatic Business Leaders Support Pearce

So, let’s reiterate: if we get rid of that Clean Elections system, we’ll have fewer extremists (who, of course, are on both sides) in the legislature. This is true on the Republican side because responsible business leaders will weigh in and become a moderate, pragmatic force in their primaries.

Okay.

By the way, did I tell you that the Arizona chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses has thrown in with Russell Pearce?

What’s a bit of intimidation of fellow legislators, consorting with racists, and fearmongering lies as long as he votes against tax increases and regulation?

Word to Republican business leaders: instead of quietly complaining to Democrats about the slopeheads and knuckledraggers that have taken over your party, how about you stop supporting them?

By the way, Jerry Lewis, a conservative who likely will have the same record on business issues as Pearce, will be announcing his intentions regarding the recall election today.

-RRR-

Farrell Quinlan, I love you dude, but what’s with this quote in Phoenix Business Journal?:

His recall is a shameful abuse of the election process and a wasteful distraction from the Legislature’s important work of helping Arizona’s private sector create jobs again.

“Shameful abuse”? Come on. It’s a right voters have under the Arizona Constitution.

Supremes Strike Down Portion of Clean Elections Law

As reported in the Weekly the Supreme Court struck down the portion of the Clean Elections law that granted participating candidates matching money if a non-participating candidate out spent them. One Clean Elections supporter I talked to this morning was very quick to point out that the court left the rest of the system intact.

Money quote from the 5-4 decision:

Arizona’s matching funds scheme substantially burdens political speech and is not sufficiently justified by a compelling interest to survive First Amendment scrutiny.

Some Clean Elections supporters would like to see changes to the system to make it into a match based on small donations. This would preserve the intent of the system: to encourage candidates to look for support from their own districts rather than a few big donors. One supporter of this idea that I talked to this morning feels that it would pass the constitutional test established by this decision. This, by the way, is the system we have for Tucson city elections.

Elena Kagan’s dissent was golden, by the way.

UPDATE: After the jump, Arizona Advocacy Network’s press release on the decision.

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The Responsible, Reasonable People

An argument you hear from folks who want to ditch Clean Elections is that the far right has been empowered by the system, and the only way the calm, cool heads of the country club wing of the party can once again assert control when they are back in charge of the money to Republican candidates.

I’ve asserted here and elsewhere that once you get past the usual business demands of lower taxes and less regulation, there really hasn’t been, and likely won’t be, much pressure to rein in legislators on other issues. For example, attorney John Munger, under the auspices of his Imagine Arizona project, put out an e-mail this weekend entitled “Best Legislative Session in Recent Memory.”

Yep, the responsible grown-ups regard this session as the “best.”

His e-mail, given after the jump, details a list of tax cuts and restrictions on regulations. He doesn’t seem to mind that his favored pieces of legislation came coupled with severe cuts to our education system, thousands booted of AHCCCS (he actually likes that) and some of the most whacked out and embarassing right-wing whackjobery passed in recent memory. If he and his ilk don’t give much regard to this sort of legislation now, what incentive will they have to put a hold on it if Clean Elections disappears?

NB: He erroneously said that the Governor vetoed SB 1609. He later sent out an e-mail correcting this.

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And It Was On the Ballot Before Too

The legislature has decided to put our state’s Clean Elections system on the ballot in the next election. They have been framing this as some sort of noble, “It’s time to let the people decide” thing, as if it wasn’t passed by a vote by the people in the first place.

It’s silly that we have to fight this thing again, but there are reasons to be pretty confident that the system can survive a test at the ballot box.

When you dig around a bit, you find what appears at first blush to be a decent argument for getting rid of the system: that since the advent of Clean Elections, our state’s business community through the Chamber of Commerce no longer has the influence over Republican primaries that they once did, enabling the far right to dominate our state’s political discussion.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve heard this opinion voiced from one former Republican state legislator, a liberal leaning lobbyist and, of all people, Jim Nintzel on Arizona Public Media yesterday. It was even given as the reason for Democratic legislators to support the ballot referral.

Sounds nice, but I don’t have much evidence it will actually happen.

For one, and I’ve pointed this out before, the national Republican Party has moved to the right. This has happened even in places without public financing. You can’t blame something like Sharon Angle’s victory over an establishment candidate on Arizona’s Clean Elections. It’s hard to even blame Jesse Kelly’s primary win on it.

More importantly, who says that there would be a sudden burst of pressure to moderate Republican elected officials? I can’t see the Chamber of Commerce being the least bit interested, even if you buy that they would have all sorts of regained influence, in lobbying against the right wing social agenda such as restrictions on abortion or gay rights. It’s out of their baliwick. When it comes to immigration, despite their recent work against Russell Pearce’s latest pet projects, they rarely get involved. They were silent on SB 1070 and only went after Pearce’s bills because of the threat of a wider boycott. The last time they got involved in immigration, it was to go after employer sanctions that would have had grave legal consequences for their members.

The most painful actions of this session which have led to massive cuts to health care for the working class and our educational system haven’t led to even a handwringing press release from the Chamber. Two radical changes in our tax code, one involving a half billion cut in corporate taxes and another shifting the tax burden to homeowners, were actually supported by the Chamber.

If Clean Elections were ditched tomorrow, it’s crazy to think that the Chamber would stage some massive putch of the far right and all nutjobbery would cease. Why would they? They’ve been getting what they wanted.

Oh Go Johnny Kick Me In the Head

Jamelle Bouie over at the American Prospect had an article last week on Arizona’s Clean Elections case now snaking it’s way through the federal courts. One bright spot is that Bouie believes that McComish v Bennett, a dispute over the whether matching funds can be given to compensate for an opponent’s spending, is too narrowly construed to have the impact of Citizens United.

Still, it may weaken the system and make it a definite disadvantage to run as a “Clean Candidate.” It’s been funny watching some of the traffic on Twitter over this case from the conservative side crowing about what they see as the imminent death of the system, given how many of the über-conservatives in the legislature ran as Clean Candidates.

Which brings us to an argument that has been brought up to me by a friend of mine that’s a prominent local Republican. His argument, which I think is safe to assume is common among Chamber of Commerce types, is that the check writing crew of the Republican party can now be bypassed by candidates. That means the moderating influence of Republican business and civic leaders is gone, leaving the great unwashed to carry on as they please.

Defensible argument, yes? Until you think about the fact that the Republican party nationally has become more conervative. Those strident, uncomprimising voices in congress? Not one was elected with Clean Elections money.

Also, it begs the question: without Clean Elections, would the business community step up to support moderate candidates, or even -gasp- Democrats when the Republican is guilty of aggravated wingnuttery? Given that recent “pro-education” moves by business organizations in this state haven’t resulted in much change in their political support but lots of feel good billboards, I have my doubts.

Here’s a bit from an old issue of the Arizona Republic:

Her Reign of Error began in February with Blewster writing via e-mail that what “follows homosexuality is beastiality (sic) and then human sacrifice and then canabalism (sic).”

Such prowess with logic — rivaled only by her spelling.

Blewster got religious next, talking with fellow Republican Barbara Leff.

Rep. Leff said a night budget session would cut into her Passover. Blewster was shocked — that Leff was Jewish. Why?

Leff doesn’t “have a big hook nose.”

Some of you may remember who this article was talking about. Barbara Blewster was a representative from Dewey (once known as Agua Fria of “Big Iron” fame) who was famous not only for her conservatism but her untoward remarks about our state’s minority populations. The article goes on to detail a conversation she had with Leah Landrum (no Taylor yet) where she managed to insult African-Americans and Native-Americans in one fell swoop.

What’s important to remember here that Blewster was elected before Clean Elections (the article was from 1999, after the initiative was passed but before it was implemented). So, where was the business community’s moderating influence? Well, they gave her money for her campaign. The author of the piece, David Leibowitz, went through the list and found that PACs representing Del Webb, Motorola and produce growers all gave money to Blewster’s campaign. To his credit, he did more than just provide a list. He called them to have them justify their support. Needless to say, he didn’t get a lot of calls back.

One he did get back was from the Opthamologists PAC. He got a response from the ironically named Dr. Thomas Moore:

Dr. Thomas Moore explained that Blewster sides with his group in their fight against optometrists who want to expand in the eye business.

“We didn’t have any clue into what her views were on other issues,” he said. “We don’t try to inquire about those other issues. That’s not our business.”

Right. Why put the community ahead of your bottom line? Hey, here’s a hypothetical: Would you have given to Hitler as long as he hated optometrists?

“That’s a ridiculous question.”

Leibowitz violated Godwin’s law there, but he wasn’t writing on the internet, so it’s okay. Still, if these guys were willing to shovel money to candidates like her in the years before Clean Elections as long as those candidates pledged to keep taxes low and regulators off their backs without any regard for broader consequences, why the heck would we expect any different if Clean Elections went away?

What Was Weak Last Week

Some stuff I missed out on last week:

– The folks over at Gila Courier decided to pull a quote out of context from Gabrielle Giffords and play like she called people in her district “crazy.” Kenny Jacobs over at his a Pithy Diarist blog called them out on it. I suppose their mischaracterization of Giffords’s statements entitles me to, I dunno, pull things out of context to say that they are racist against Asians, or I could pull a headline out and claim that they hate Tucsonans.

– And speaking of the Gila Courier: I loved the headline “Martin ahead of Brewer in new poll.” They imply that this is good news for the man they refer to as a “solid conservative,” except numbers from that same polling firm show that prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination Terry Goddard would defeat either Dean Martin or Jan Brewer with relative ease.

– This week’s moment of “Eh?” came when consultant Constantine Querard testified at now former Representative Doug Quelland’s appeal of sanctions after violations of the Clean Elections act. Querard claimed there was no contract signed, and that he avoids asking that contracts be signed so that his clients (but they aren’t his clients yet, you see) won’t get dinged by the Clean Elections Commission. Here is Querard as quoted in the Yellow Sheet on Wednesday:

[A]t attorney Tim Casey’s prompting, he said he had never heard of a legislative candidate paying $15,000 in consulting fees for a race, much less one with an uncontested primary. “It’s too much money. It’s so beyond the market price,” he said. “I’ve never heard of an amount like that at this level. It would be a waste, or just dumb.” Of course, Quelland would admit later that day that he did, in fact, sign just such a contract.

Does this mean that Querard called his client dumb and a liar?

– Paradise Valley Mayor and “Exploring” Gubernatorial Candidate Vernon Parker took some shots at Terry Goddard this week, complaining about career politicians and implying that Goddard thinks that he is entitled to the office because his father was governor. First off, I’ve been to several events where Goddard has spoken and he’s rarely, if ever, invoked his father’s name. There wouldn’t be much point in doing this anyway, since Sam Goddard served a single term (back when terms were two years) in the mid-1960’s. Given how short memories seem to be in this state (political and otherwise), I don’t see how this would help him. Sam passed away several years ago; I doubt he is in any position to arrange things for his son.

Secondly, Parker invokes this anti-career argument as if he is some mere babe in the woods. The guy’s own website brags of a variety of federal appointments. You can’t claim you are some sort of outsider, while at the same time bragging that you worked as an assistant to George H. W. Bush.

Oh, for those of you wondering: there are already invocations of Parker as “The Republican Obama.” Given that the last guy I heard this about was Bobby Jindal, I am not all that worried.

So, wait, the Democrats have an African-American president, and the closest equivalent the other side can come up with is the executive of a string of gated neighborhoods and resorts with less than 15,000 people? What the heck does that say?

So, What Is That Crazy Mustached Man Up to?

Raul GrijalvaFunny you should ask.

Earlier this week, Congressman Raúl Grijalva introduced the Clean Money, Clean Elections Act, which would in essence make Arizona’s Clean Elections System for state office holders the law for federal candidates as well. The bill has been assigned a number, HR 1614, and is also sponsored by Democrat John Tierney and Republican Todd Platts. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Dick Durbin and Arlen Specter.

Today, Grijalva sent a letter to the President, calling for the ouster of Alberto Gonzales. Grijalva said in his letter:

Not only have these recent revelations called into question Gonzales’s basic managerial competence at the Department of Justice, but they have also impeached his own previous testimony and demolished any confidence this Congress and the American people may have had in his personal veracity.