Fortunately, people asking me why I have never participated in the “Clean Elections” program, are getting fewer and fewer, and further in between. Most have come to understand that though I clearly could make the cut, if I chose to participate, I can’t. How could I? I harbor no ill will toward any individual there who’s trying to make it work at the Commission; my beef is with the program’s very existence.
The whole debate about State funding for political campaigns really centers around the public’s desire to insure that EVERY candidates’ plans, thoughts and ideas are brought to the attention of as many people (Voters) as possible; without regard to how much money they can raise from special interests, or their party affiliation. CEC was supposed to ‘level the playing field’, so the “little guy” could compete with the candidates whose corporate donors have deep pockets. But in the end, it hasn’t changed a thing in terms of increasing the Public’s choices for elective offices.
What has changed is where the money, the big-money campaigns get to spend; comes from. It used to come from actual voluntary donors. Now it doesn’t.
Over the last decade, the Public demand for more, and better choices, has surged because the Republican and Democrat Parties only offer candidates who agree on just about everything. Where they do differ are distinctions that are measured only in percentages and degrees. It’s not to cast blame on the Republican-Democrat team that I bring it up; it’s to recognize that (‘we’) the Public, brought on our own current miseries by falling for the idea that “2 political parties were enough”. Once we fell for that one, it was only a matter of time before the ‘only’ candidates who could afford to pay for exposure in the Olde Media were those who could be bought off by special interest groups. Winning elections is all about ‘exposure’ and recognition of a candidate’s name and issue positions.
Most people overlook the obvious, but those who pay attention realize that the Olde Media outlets were controlling ‘who’ would get coverage… and ‘who’ wouldn’t get coverage, either through advertising, or biased ‘news’ reporting.On one level, it’s easy to understand how ‘the party’, or candidate who offered to spend the most on their campaign advertising might get, uh, ‘special’ treatment, by extending their advertising into ‘news’ coverage.
So, in the end, the Media is driving the exposure candidates get as ‘news’, and as we’ve all experienced, good candidates are pushed to the side (Dr. Ron Paul is a good recent example), out of sight, unless they can raise serious campaign funds from special interests—and are willing to spend it on their advertising.
What the current concept of “Clean Elections” sought to correct, was to give candidates money to compete with the ‘big’ candidates, in terms of paid-for Media exposure. That sounds good on the surface, and I am confident that the intentions were ‘good’, but if you think about it; all it’s done is allow the Media to raise their advertising rates—and they still control the exposure individual candidates get. That’s not a solution.
I chose to not buy into the scheme simply because I believe campaigns should be funded by actual supporters, not by money that comes from a ‘special tax’ on statutory infractions (like parking tickets). I would have a serious problem trying to tell people that I will ease their burden…by taking more of their money, just to fund my own political aspirations. To me, integrity counts.
I couldn’t deny that there IS a problem when ONLY the corrupted politicians can afford to compete in public view, so I came up with what I think is a better alternative; if the objective is to get all of their elective choices into the Public’s view, so they can make fully-informed choices.
In order for a candidate to be heard, they have to have ‘exposure’; so instead of giving politicians ‘other people’s money’ to run their campaigns—wouldn’t it make much more sense to give them exposure, beyond the normal Media outlets?
I’ve come to think that we would be better-served to simply provide a political website that featured links to every single person who qualifies as a candidate at that particular point in time. For instance, after the signature-gathering date has passed, only those candidates who were successful in their efforts would be left on the site. After the Primary results are in, only those who will appear on the General Election ballot will be left.
In this way, the public can visit the official State Election site repeatedly, for updated information.
The hosting of the sites for candidates, and some technical assistance is a cost the State can easily bear, to eliminate most of the hidden costs of campaigning.
The State can also provide live-streaming forums and debates that are not locked into a specific length or time slot, and a periodic, multi-page newspaper insert displaying ALL of the candidates (at each point in the process)…and maybe some TV commercials directing people to visit the only ‘official’ Clean Elections site. On the site, candidates can put up as many videos, photos and commentaries as they like, as often as they like. Visitors to the site would see all of their options in one place, cutting out their need to look up each candidate individually, or to expend time, energy and gas to go to a million forums in hopes of catching a glimpse of their favorite(s).
Think of the savings. Outside signs wouldn’t need to be cluttering up our roadways to draw attention to any candidate—everyone would know where to find all of their choices in a central location. The need to print literature would be greatly lessened, and through video, each candidate could speak to specific issues in a timely fashion without outside editing or bias.
This is the kind of ‘Clean Elections’ I’d like to see, and my reasoning is that Arizona needs the best possible candidates in the competition in order to wind up with the best possible Governor, so it is imperative that the ALL of the voices of the People’s choices be heard.
The Secretary of State recently implemented a new on-line means of signature-gathering (to qualify for the Primary ballot) that I believe should be expanded to allow all signatures to be gathered electronically, and/or on paper. It seems to me that if someone honestly believes they have something special to offer to the People by their service in office; they would jump right out there and expend their own time and effort to get themselves on the ballot.* (*as long as the same rules apply to all candidates) That’s what it’s all about; proving to ourselves, and to those supporters we gather along the way, that we really are “In it, to WIN it!”, and willing to work for it. Of course, I also think that visitors to the ‘central Clean Elections site’ should be able to sign on-line petitions for those candidates they want to see in the mix; but some candidates want to get out there ‘belly-to-belly’ with folks, so why not make it an ‘either/or’ option? Either way, the two signature-gathering means should both be allowed.
So, what would be left for the candidates to do once they’ve gathered their signatures? Prepare regular messages to supporters, and update content on their website, and then get out and attend all the forums, debates and events that they can, so Voters can hear their story right from the horses’, ah, mouth.
Who would try to stand in the way of such an open and unbiased political forum? I can foresee the two major parties objecting because their fundraising efforts would quickly go away, and their ‘special’ relationship with the Olde Media will be disturbed because the Old Media won’t be able to hide candidate choices from the Public anymore…and candidates wouldn’t have the same need to plaster themselves all over the advertising pages of regular newspapers. At some point, the public will respond negatively to any candidate who ‘overspends’ on additional advertising, by pegging them as someone supported by special interests, so there are ‘unintended benefits’ to be had.
I’m guessing the Old Media will also resist this common sense idea, as well as those who currently operate the CEC; but they shouldn’t be concerned. The Olde Media need only come up with good commentary (that can be verified on the central campaign site) about the actual issues as they come up. I have no animus for the good people who run the CEC in its current form, so I would ask them to simply implement the new CEC.
The current, “Give money to politicians” plan called ‘Clean Elections’, hasn’t expanded Voter choices in the slightest, nor has it given us a wider variety of candidates from which to choose; so, why not try a plan that can actually provide the Voters of Arizona with more choices…and did I mention that my proposal wouldn’t cost what is now given to a single state-wide candidate, for everything?
Are you with me?
I remain at your service,
Vice-Chairman/ Communications Director
AZ Libertarian Party
Candidate for Arizona Governor 2014