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?