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.
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.￼￼
Some aspects of the Arizona legislature are highly predictable– like the ideological bills from the left and the right that are proposed to show where members stand on the issues.
For the Republicans, attacks on Clean Elections, voting rights, and the Citizens Initiative are perennial favorites.￼ There are multiple bills based upon voter suppression and unnecessary election tinkering from Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita (SB1014, SB1020, SB1032, SB1092, and SB1520) and House Elections Committee Chair Rep. Kelly Townsend (HB2043, HB2267, HB2268, HB2305, HB2306, HB2307, HB2308, HB2364, and HB2647). Although I do not have bill numbers, I hear that there are bad ballot referrals attacking the Citizens Initiative process and Independent Redistricting.
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.
Voter suppression and unnecessary tinkering with elections have been themes in the Legislature this session.
SB1154 was defeated last week but passed the House today on reconsideration. This bill changes the primary date from the end of August to the beginning of August.
At first blush, this doesn’t seem to be a very big deal. Having the primary at the end of August makes it very close to the general election. Having the primary at the beginning of August gives candidates more time to win the general election l, but it could artificially suppress the primary vote, in my opinion.
If the primary is at the beginning of August, mailed ballots will go out around the Fourth of July. What do Arizonans like to do in July? Leave town! Also, the vast majority of college students will not be in town to vote in July/early August.
We should be facilitating voting — not pass laws that will make it more difficult for some groups.
Arizona House Republicans recently passed SB1451, Senator Vince Leach’s latest attempt to kill the Citizens Initiative process. Every year, Republicans add new regulations to the popular Citizens Initiative process–like dramatically increasing the number of signatures, strict compliance on petitions (forcing us to write in between the lines or risk having our signature knocked off), or eliminating the pay-per-signature practice for paid circulators.
The worst part of 1451 was taken out in the Senate. That was the section that made people group the petitions by circulator and allowed for elimination of whole petitions if one volunteer’s petitions got mixed up with another. The house added another amendment to give the attorney general the power to change the language used to explain the initiative. (This is a scary thought, after all of the intrigue and BS that surrounded the language of the initiatives on the 2018 ballot. You’ll remember that the anti-Clean Elections initiative was allowed to be purposefully misleading.)
SB1451 is a bad bill that over-regulates the Citizens Initiative process, adds bureaucracy and slows the process of circulator recruitment and signature gathering down.
If you often scratch your head at the bad bills that the Republicans pass in Congress and in the state legislatures and wonder what their end game is, you should read Democracy in Chains by Nancy McClean.
What you may think are random bad ideas that have somehow gotten into law are actually part of a grand scheme that has been playing out since Brown versus the Board of Education attempted to desegregate public schools in the United States.
An academic, McClean has studied the articles, books and letters of James Buchanan, the economist not the former president. Buchanan was the primary theorist of public choice theory. In the 1950s, public choice theory was used as a rationale to close all of the public schools in the state of Virginia (rather than comply with desegregation) and is being used today to support state-funded vouchers for private and religious schools. In Virginia in the 1950s, the state gave money to white parents for private school vouchers and allowed hundreds of black children to go uneducated for years. Needless to say, this was a travesty of justice.