The View From 1776

Clean Elections, or Dictatorship of the Proletariat?

      http://www.thomasbrewton.com/index.php/weblog/clean_elections_or_dictatorship_of_the_proletariat/

Arizona Conservative columnist Carol Turoff describes an astonishing process that invalidates voters choices at the whim of unelected commissioners.  In addition to forcing voters to contribute to candidates whom they oppose, this new Arizona law effectively guarantees reelection of incumbents.

Be ready to oppose this scheme if it rears its head in your state.


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CAROL TUROFF
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David Burnell Smith: A Lesson in Voting for Slogans
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August 29, 2005

Clean Elections, the voter approved election reform measure, became Arizona law in 1998. The catchy title was enough to put the wind in its sails. Who is inclined to vote in opposition to something ?clean??? The inference implicit in the name is that any other system would be dirty. Cast that ballot for sweetness and light!
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Omitted from disclosure is the fact that public funding of campaigns, which put nearly $13 million of taxpayer?s money into 2002 candidate?s coffers, requires donations to those with whom contributors may disagree.?Opponents consider this an infringement of First Amendment protections.
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Fast forward to the present.?State 7 Rep. David Burnell Smith (R-D7), a freshman legislator from Carefree, is teetering on the precipice of being ousted by the Arizona Citizen?s Clean Elections Commission, with the sanction of an administrative law judge. The spectacle of a duly elected representative of the people under threat of removal from office, by an unelected panel at the recommendation of an appointed judge, cuts to the heart of the elective process. Thanks to the not-so-Clean Elections, Rep. Smith is in the precarious position of becoming the only elected legislator in the United States, not convicted of a crime, facing removal from office?without being?impeached or recalled.
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Smith, a Republican, is accused of overspending his public funding by approximately $6000 during the 2002 primary election, a violation of campaign finance regulations. Although he disputes the claim and vows to fight the charges in court, the commission has determined that Rep. Smith should be removed from office, pay a fine of $10,000 and refund $34,625 in public funds.
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A lawyer since 1972, Smith is no novice to the intricacies of the law. Licensed to practice in Colorado, Maryland and Arizona, he has instructed in constitutional, civil and criminal law. From 1985 through 1998, Smith served as Presiding Judge for the Peoria and Cave Creek Municipal Courts and as Pro Tem Judge in Wickenburg. He has instructed new judges for the Arizona judiciary.
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However, complying with the ?Clean? Elections? financial filing process is a complex morass, less well navigated, it appears, by Republicans than by Democrats. With few exceptions those with the targets on their backs lean to the right. In the 2000 election cycle, Dist. 18 legislative candidate, Democrat Victoria Wold, was accused by the commission of misusing $25,000 in public funding.? Ultimately, she faced no censure by the commission and paid no fines.
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?I went to Clean Elections because I thought the campaign had overspent in the primary election,? explained Smith. ?Instead of providing help, the commission stabbed me in the back and is trying to remove me from office. Since I approached the commission, my new accountant, Jeff Hill, found numerous errors in the campaign, including an overpayment of about $3000 to my campaign vendor, Constantin Querard, which Mr. Querard has reimbursed,? said Smith. ?That money was then reimbursed to Citizen?s Clean Elections. They accepted the money, but never gave me credit for repayment.?
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Accountant Jeff Hill, a former six-term state senator, was majority whip and chaired the senate finance committee during his tenure in the legislature. His credentials along with those of Rep. Smith are impressive.?Whether these professionals are able to withstand the assault of a reckless commission intent upon unseating an elected legislator and subverting constitutional authority remains to be seen.?
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Rep. Smith has promised the voters of his district that he will continue to represent them next year and will seek reelection in 2006. Meanwhile, the citizens of Arizona have a problem of major proportions on their hands. While public funding proponents point with pride to the increased number of candidates whom they say would not enter the fray without taxpayers picking up the tab, the marketplace is still the best equalizer. Those who bring constructive and innovative ideas to the political arena have always found others willing to support their candidacies.?Compelling voters to finance those whose views they oppose is an impediment to truly ?clean? elections.
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Voters have an obligation to inform themselves and look deeper than slick slogans attached to ballot initiatives. For those fond of such glibness however, this is worth committing to memory: Taxpayer funded they are—Clean they are not.

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Carol Turoff is a former two-term member of the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. During her eight years on the commission, she participated in the selection of?four of the five current Arizona Supreme Court Justices as well as 17 judges on both Division I and II of the Arizona Court of Appeals. Appointed by two governors, Turoff served with three chairing Supreme Court Justices.

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