Pamela Powers, a progressive voice for Arizona
Are you upset that the Outlaw Dirty Money and Invest In Ed Citizens Initiatives were tossed off of the November ballot by right-wing, activist judges? Many constituents have asked me what they can do about it. Here are three suggestions: vote NO on Prop 126, Prop 305 and Prop 306, and here’s why.
Along with hundreds of Arizonans, my volunteers and I carried petitions through the summer heat to get the Outlaw Dirty Money and Invest In Ed on the ballot. I’m upset that the Arizona Supreme Court tossed both of these initiatives off the ballot– despite their obvious popularity with the voters and despite the gargantuan signature drives that were mounted by the people. The only people who declined to sign these two petitions when I asked them were people who had already signed.
Outlaw Dirty Money was an attempt to bring more transparency to campaign finance laws. Invest In Ed would have raised the income tax on Arizona’s richest residents to pay for stable funding for public education. If you believe in these ideas– campaign finance transparency, getting big money out of politics, sustainable funding for public education, stopping the tax giveaways, and stopping school vouchers– there are three important “no” votes you can make on Nov. 6– No on Prop 126, No on Prop 305 and No on Prop 306.
Prop 126 is the Arizona Realtors Association initiative, which preemptively exempts all services from TPT (sales tax) FOREVER. This is a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in potential future revenue. Invest In Ed would have raised $690 million in stable, long-term, dedicated funding for public education. Vote NO on Prop 126 if you believe that we must leave the door open to new strategies that can raise revenue for public education. A no vote maintains the current status quo. It does not raise your taxes.
Prop 305 is the Save Our Schools Citizens Initiative to stop school vouchers. Citizens from across the state collected signatures for this to get on the ballot. Empowerment Scholarship Awards (ESAs) is a fancy name for diverting your tax dollars from public schools to private or religious schools or to homeschooling families. Currently, there is no oversight regarding how the parents spend $5000 per child ESA and no evaluation of student progress. The effectiveness of the ESAs would not be evaluated; the public will never know if this extreme experiment in “school choice” works or not. Vote No on Prop 305 because public funds should be spent on public education– not private school vouchers.
Prop 306 is the Republican Legislature’s latest attempt to kill the Clean Elections system and weaken the campaign finance watchdog duties of the Citizens Clean Election Commission (CCEC). Donating Clean Elections money to a political party is already prohibited by rule. This proposition goes far beyond that and prohibits Clean Elections candidates from paying any money to political parties–even to buy services like access to the VAN database or the predictive dialer. Without access to the voter data in the VAN, it would be impossible for Clean candidates (like me) to compete because we would not be able to target our walk lists or mailing lists. We would be forced to buy lists and services from private companies OR take the big money donations and run traditional.
The CCEC also has the power to review and audit anyone’s candidate campaign finance reports and look for violations. When they find discrepancies, they can fine candidates and/or force them to resign their elected positions. There have been two high-profile cases of campaign finance irregularities since the 2016 election– Gowan and Rubalcava. The Citizens Clean Elections Act was a Citizens Initiative passed by the voters in 1998. It was in direct response to corruption in the Arizona Legislature. Do you rememberAZScam, when seven Arizona Legislators were charged with corruption and accepting bribes, and several others resigned from the Legislature in disgrace? I do. Arizona needs a campaign finance watchdog and better laws regarding transparency in donations.
During the campaign finance section of the required Arizona House ethics training in January 2018, Speaker J.D. Mesnard warned House members that some of them were being “too prescriptive” with the lobbyists, and some members were attending too many lavish dinners hosted by special interest groups. He suggested the “optics aren’t good.” What was the Legislature’s response? They passed a law that makes it less apparent who is paying for those lavish dinners. When Republicans are pushing for less transparency and bigger donations, it is no time to defang the campaign finance watchdog. In addition, the CCEC also educates the public by distributing the paper voter guide, publishing candidate and voter information on their website, and running the Clean Elections debates.
Vote NO on Prop 306 if you want to protect a system that audits campaign finance reports, educates voters, and allows candidates to run Clean and say no to big money politics.
Cross-posted from PowersForThePeople.net.