Clean Elections & Scandal: Case studies from Maine, Arizona & New York City
by Jason Farrell, Center for Competitive Politics
On June 27, 2011 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett that the election policies of several states were unconstitutional. Specifically, the Court declared the use of “matching funds,” whereby a privately-financed candidate for political office would be forced to trigger state-granted matching funds for any publicly-funded opponent if he or she spent above a certain threshold, were an unconstitutional demand on a candidate whose speech would be chilled by the mandate.
The ruling was greeted with horror by a number of pro- regulation reform groups such as Common Cause. The presumption, however, that “clean election” (i.e. taxpayer funded) systems have been an effective firewall against corrupting influences in the political process has little basis in fact. The reality, as will be shown here, is that “clean elections” laws often favor corrupt incumbents against upstart challengers and creates a number of new problems within the electoral system that are anything but “clean.”
This report will show how a number of candidates and their associates, in New York City, Maine and Arizona willfully abuse the campaign finance system, exploit loopholes ensuring they can keep much of their donation money off the books, and once in office, often further abuse public funds and even find themselves under investigation for criminal conduct. The abuse of public funds is so severe and the record of corrupt practices and other misdeeds are so rampant, particularly in the city of New York, that such a system cannot possibly live up to the “clean” moniker that has been assigned to it by proponents.
Read report here.
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What Does Research Say About Public Funding for Political Campaigns?
from Center for Campaign Freedom
In this research brief, CCP Academic Advisor David M. Primo, an Associate Professor of Political Science and Business Administration at the University of Rochester, answers five questions related to taxpayer-funded campaigns. Proponents of taxpayer financed campaigns often argue, among other things, that these programs enable greater political speech, promote public sentiment about government, boost voter participation and electoral competitiveness, and diminish both corruption and “special interest” influence. Primo succinctly takes each one of these charges and provides an overview of existing research on the topic to assess the validity of the “reformers’” claims. Predictably, in regards to each of the five claims, the research is either inconclusive on the subject or the opposite of what tax financing proponents claim is true.
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Campaign Finance Reform: Experience of Two States that Offered Full Public Financing for Political Candidates
from Center for Campaign Freedom
The 2000 elections in Maine and Arizona were the first in the nation’s history where candidates seeking state legislative seats had the option to fully fund their campaigns with public monies. In 2003, GAO reviewed the public financing programs in Maine and Arizona and found the programs’ goals were to (1) increase electoral competition; (2) increase voter choice; (3) curb increases in campaign costs; (4) reduce interest group influence; and (5) increase voter participation.
This report: (1) provides data on candidate participation and (2) describes changes in five goals of Maine’s and Arizona’s programs in the 2000 through 2008 elections and the extent to which changes could be attributed to the programs. To address its objectives, GAO analyzed available data about candidate participation, election outcomes, and campaign spending for the 1996 through 2008 legislative elections in both states, reviewed studies, and interviewed 22 candidates and 10 interest group officials selected to reflect a range of views.
The GAO’s 2010 report concludes that the benefits supposedly derived from taxpayer financed campaigns do not occur in any way that can be shown by generally accepted techniques of analysis.
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