Reject SB 1516 – Reject Corruption
Dear Members of the Arizona House of Representatives:
As soon as this afternoon, you may be considering SB 1516. I urge you to reject it.
In Sunday’s Arizona Republic (3/27/16), Representative Ken Clark offered his opinion on why this bill should be defeated. For my part, I agree wholeheartedly with Representative Clark’s position and offer up some additional observations as to why members of the Arizona House of Representatives should overwhelmingly reject this legislation.
Public opinion poll after opinion poll continue to demonstrate that voters are overwhelmingly unhappy with the performance of our governing institutions. From Congress to the State Legislature, voters are unhappy with the status quo. This Presidential primary season should send all elected officials a clear message: Stop digging the same hole!
SB 1516 further undermines the public’s right to know who is buying favor with candidates and elected officials.
As Representative Clark points out, SB 1516 permits Candidate Committee to Candidate Committee transfers, allowing one candidate to curry the favor of another candidate by providing them direct campaign contributions (up to the legal limits). A Speaker, a Majority Leader, or a Committee Chairman would be able to funnel cash directly to another candidate campaign from their own. This reduces campaign spending transparency.
Additionally, the organized parties could pay for everything from campaign signs, to legal counsel for the candidates of their choice (up to a limit to the party’s nominee). This blatantly reduces the transparency of who is funding the candidates’ campaigns – not to mention that there are more Independent voters than either Republican or Democratic voters today and this provision will make their potential candidacies even less likely.
Finally, the proposed legislation relies on the IRS to regulate “dark money.” Let that sink in for a moment – relying on the hated IRS, THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, to do the job the State should be doing! How’s that going to look when your road sign advocating for your candidacy has a referential sign next to it saying: SUPPORTS DARK MONEY AND THE IRS?
Do you think that will go over really well?
Let’s get back to that hole of public opinion we have been digging. In a recent survey that we conducted, more than 88% of Arizona voters agreed that, “In order to protect our democracy from corruption, we must be able to demand financial disclosure on candidate elections. Voters have a right to know who is spending money and how much they are spending to influence our candidate elections.”
Similarly, we found that 84% of Arizona voters agreed that certain “Voters and candidates are not treated equally under the law and we don’t know who is pouring millions into our elections. It is no wonder that approval ratings are at an all-time low. I’m not happy with our political system and the status quo. We can do better.”
Finally, when told that “during the 2014 elections, more than $15 million in anonymous campaign contributions were spent in Arizona to ensure that specific candidates were elected,” more than 88% of Arizona voters agreed that, “to protect the integrity of our elected offices, we need to know who is spending money on their elections.”
Please let than sink in for a moment. We are not talking about a simple majority of Arizonans who believe in disclosure. We are talking about an across-the-board demand for transparency. A majority of Republicans, Democrats, Independents, seniors, Latinos, Millennials, and conservatives – you name it. Every cross section of the Arizona electorate is demanding transparency and SB 1516 flies in the face of that notion.
SB 1516 continues to further obfuscate and legalize the use of money without the public’s knowledge to influence the outcome of elections and the potential outright buying of votes during a legislative process. Even the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia believed in disclosure saying, “Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed.” By rejecting this legislation, maybe then can we begin to dig our way out of the hole we are in and begin to restore public confidence in our elected form of government.
J. Charles Coughlin