Ariz. Court Rejects 'Clean Elections' Initiative

An initiative to dismantle Arizona's system for publicly funding state campaigns was kept off the November ballot by the state Supreme Court.

In a brief order Thursday, the justices upheld a lower court ruling that Proposition 106 (search), the so-called "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians" initiative, violated the state constitution's ban on including more than one subject in a proposed constitutional amendment.

In a July 1 lawsuit, opponents of the initiative had argued it violated the single-subject ban by both prohibiting public funding of candidates and by depriving the state agency overseeing the system of funding for its other functions, including voter education and regulating campaign finances.

Supporters of the initiative argue that public money shouldn't be used to finance politicians' campaigns, while opponents say the Clean Elections law reduces the influence special interests gain through traditional campaign funding.

"The big money special interests will be back," said Michelle Davidson, who managed the campaign against the initiative. "They still hope to turn back the clock to the days when all candidates had to rely on special interest money."

Nathan Sproul, a spokesman for supporters of the banned initiative, said it was unfortunate the Supreme Court had prevented the issue from reaching voters this year.

"This fight is a long way from being over," Sproul said. "We have every intention that in the not too distant future that ... the voters will have an opportunity to vote on this."

Arizona voters approved a system in 1998 that allows public funding for campaigns of candidates for governor, legislative seats and other state offices. It provided funding to candidates in 2000 and 2002.

Traffic and criminal fine surcharges fund most of the Clean Elections system, in which candidates can voluntarily participate.

Participating candidates must collect a set number of $5 contributions from voters to qualify for the public funding. Candidates can also receive matching funds if nonparticipating political rivals spend more money.

Through 2002, the system distributed $14.6 million to 198 candidates. In 2002, participants included Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, candidates for the Legislature and all statewide offices.

Maine also has a widely used public campaign financing system, while North Carolina, New Mexico and New Jersey are launching limited versions. Vermont's system is tied up in the courts and Massachusetts abolished its last year.