The recent manufactured chaos in the Congress points to the need for change. Campaign finance reform would fix dysfunction without term limits.
Congress Is Broken. Change Is Necessary
After more than three weeks without a Speaker of the US House of Representatives, the “Freedom” Caucus’ Tyranny of the Minority ended on October 25, 2023 with the election of Trump loyalist Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) as Speaker.
Many Americans … including me … were wringing their hands over the lack of a fully functioning government in the US for 22 days, while the world was flying apart with multiple wars involving our allies; climate change causing extreme weather and population migration; domestic terrorists shooting innocent Americans in bowling allies, bars, schools, churches, grocery stores, sporting events and homes every day — AND no federal budget.
Given all of this, the Republicans’ election of an ultraconservative fringe candidate to Speaker of the House shows a shocking disregard for the seriousness of the issues facing our nation and the world.
Why elect a Congressional newbie, whose ideas are out-of-step with the majority of Americans and who has no management experience or background relevant to a position that is third in line for the Presidency? It makes you wonder who will really be in charge. Who will be writing the script … and thus, controlling the narrative?
One of my pet peeves is reading a cliff-hanger news story, only to be left hanging when there is no follow up. Several stories reported in my previous podcasts have had newsworthy developments since those episodes aired.
To catch you up on the details, Episode 8 is a compilation of updates.
Many of my podcasts referred to petition drives and court cases that were trying to stop bad Republican bills from being enacted. These issues were decided last week. Why last week? Because September 29, 2021 is the 91st day after June 30, 2021, which was the end of the Legislative session. Unless passed with an emergency clause or stopped by the courts or the voters, bills passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor are enacted 90 days after the end of session.
Three previous guests return to discuss the status of the contested laws – particularly the flat tax, the alternative tax to get around Prop 208, the voter suppression bills, the bills attacking the power of the Secretary of State and the power of the governor, Arizona’s latest radical anti-choice bill SB1457, and mandated COVID public health protections.
The good news is that progressives had some wins in the courts. We also had some disappointments. Needless to say, the struggle to beat back oppressive legislation continues. Of course, Governor Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich are appealing cases that the state lost. Brnovich is even appealing the court’s ruling that Republican Legislators acted unconstitutionally when they stuff dozens of unrelated failed bills into the budget. Who is paying for these unnecessary lawsuits generated by unconstitutional or burdensome laws enacted by Republicans? You are. The taxpayer.
The citizens of Arizona created the Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) and the process to run as a “clean” candidate in 1998. It was a reaction by the people of Arizona to widespread corruption in the Arizona Legislature, following the AZ Scam investigation. Every year since then, Arizona Republicans have mounted an attack on Clean Elections. Heaven forbid … we should allow politicians to run for office on their ideas and values and deny big money donations. Every year that he has been in office, Rep. Leo Biasiucci has been the CCEC hit man. His HB2014 weakens the watchdog function of the Clean Elections Commission by adding more bureaucracy. I believe that Clean Elections should be expanded — not repeatedly attacked and weakened.
Millions of dollars are being poured into Arizona this year to sway your vote. I’m sure you have seen the street signs, the social media posts, and the TV commercials and received the emails, robocalls, text messages, mailers, and pamphlets dropped quietly at your doorstep.
Candidates raise and spend money to get elected, but that is the tip of the iceberg. Special Interest Groups create Political Action Committees (PACs) to raise and spend money to support some candidates and causes and attack others. Donations to PACs are transparent. Independent Expenditures (IEs) are non-transparent, dirty money campaign expenditures that are not supposed to be coordinated with the candidate. There were millions of dollars in IEs spent to tear down or build up candidates in the August 2020 primary in both Democratic and Republican races. In the General Election, the money is even worse.
Next time you receive a mailer or see a TV commercial, check who paid for it. IEs are usually behind the really nasty mailers based on half-truths, heavy spin, or just lies.
On Thursday afternoon, we debated HCR 2020 in the Arizona House. This is the Republican Party’s latest attempt to create … wait for it … more government!￼
You may remember that since Democrat Katie Hobbs became Secretary of State, Governor Doug Ducey decided to remove the Department of Administration from the secretary of state’s job duties and create a new top-level government position￼ as head of ADOA and appoint former Speaker of the House Andy Tobin to the position.
The next step in the grand plan is to pass HCR 2020, which is a ballot referral creating a lieutenant governor’s position.￼ I spoke against and voted against this bill.￼
With HCR2020, after the gubernatorial primaries, the Democratic and Republican candidates will pick a lieutenant governor as a running mate, and they run as a team for the top two slots in our government. If something happens to the governor, lieutenant governor becomes governor and that person has the ability to choose their successor– another lieutenant governor. This would give us to appointed people in the top spots of our state, removes the voters from the process, and keeps the party in charge. I disagree with this idea because it is a way to game the system. There are far too many political appointees in the government, thanks to the changes that Governor Jan Brewer and Ducey have made. Our government should be run by people who are elected by the people not by political appointees.￼￼
As in 2019, Rep. Leo Biasiucci from LD5 in Mohave County is carrying the anti-Clean Elections torch. Two years in a row, he proposed a bill to limit the independent watchdog function of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) by putting it under the Governor’s Regulatory Review Commission (GRRC), a political entity packed with Governor Ducey’s appointees. That bill narrowly lost in 2019 and is back again as HB2054 in 2020. It was debated in Committee of the Whole (COW) on Feb12 and will come up for a vote soon.
Biasiucci’s a second bad bill (HB2055), according to Legislative staff, would eliminate 80% of Clean Elections funding.
Why does Biasiucci hate Clean Elections? Why do Ugenti-Rita and Townsend attack voting rights… annually? Because they fear another Blue Wave in 2020. Republicans want to put roadblocks up against any Democratic paths to victory rather than compete on a level playing field of ideas.
Biasiucci is a freshman. He replaced one-term freshman Republican Rep. Paul “Lead Foot” Moseley in 2018. Biasiucci knows that his next opponent– whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat– who would likely run clean against him. In 2020, 35 Legislative candidates are running clean– 17 Republicans, 17 Democrats, and one Independent. Of those 35, only the five most Progressive Democrats run clean as incumbents: Senators Juan Mendez and Andrea Dalessandro and Reps. Athena Salmon, Isela Blanc, and me. The Legislature is fueled by big-money politics and dirty money donations; the idea that anyone would dare to buck the the dirty money system is an anathema.
You’ll remember that in 2019 as a freshman, Biasiucci proposed several bills requiring driving school because, of course, his family owns a driving school. He’s not the only one of the Republicans who proposed bills that would directly benefit their businesses.￼￼ (David Gordon of Blog for Arizona wrote about this.) He also fought to add a driving school requirement to teach people not to text and drive.
Every year when the Republicans attack Clean Elections, it’s my job to stand up and remind everybody that the citizens created the Clean Elections Commission with a Citizens Initiative. It was a direct response to corruption in the Arizona Legislature in the 1990s.￼ The Maricopa County attorney’s office did a sting operation called AZSCAM. It made national news when several Arizona legislators (from both sides of the aisle) were charged with bribery and money laundering. Then Speaker of the House Jane Hull removed them from their seats and their chairmanships. Some of them were charged.￼ The Legislature passed campaign finance reforms back then, and the voters created the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. The process to run as a clean candidate, CCEC’s voter education efforts, and the CCEC’s independent campaign finance watchdog functions were created in direct response to corruption in the Legislature. During the Tea Party Reign of Terror, some of those reforms were eliminated, campaign donations were dramatically increased, and Clean Elections was weakened repeatedly.
I’m sick of the Republican Party’s nationwide strategy of “if you can’t win, cheat” with voter suppression, gerrymandering, dirty money, and zero transparency.
Besides ignoring the will of the voters, the Republican Party is marching backwards and trying to drag the rest of us with them. Do you want our elections to be controlled by money or voters? Please voice your opinion on these bills on the Request to Speak System (RTS).
Protect Your Voting Rights by Backing the Fair Elections Act on Nov 3
If you want to protect your voting rights, make it easier to register to vote, and update Clean Elections, please support the Fair Elections Act, sponsored by the Arizona Advocacy Network. This Citizens Initiative will be on the 2020 ballot; signatures are being collected now.