Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Arizona Judge Affirms Clean Elections Agency's Ouster of State Representative

As KPHO (Phoenix) reports, Arizona state Representative David Burrell Smith is now one step closer to getting booted from office for violating the state's Clean Elections Law, after an administrative judge affirmed the Clean Elections Commission's decision (scroll down to Arizona)which did the same. The case will now return to the Commission, which will have the opportunity to ratify its earlier decision. If it does so, Burrell Smith can appeal that decision to a court.

In Arizona's publicly financed elections, candidates who seek public funds for their campaigns must agree to abide by a spending limit. This helps to ensure that public dollars are truly being spent to level the playing field for all candidates, rather than to subsidize the campaigns of those with or supported by private cash. Burrell Smith got in trouble by overspending the AZ limit by some $6,000 and for obscuring some of his expenditures.

Burrell Smith's violation of the spending limit undermines Arizona's Clean Elections law, which is very likely why the law mandates ouster for those candidates who accept public financing and its requisites but fail to adhere to the spending limit. For public financing to work to level the playing field for candidates not in the pocket of special interests, its spending limits must be strongly enforced.

Burrell Smith plans to take the judge's decision to court, where he will challenge the constitutionality of Arizona's voluntary spending limits. Perhaps some of the "constitutional heavyweights" Burrell Smith plans to hire will infomr him that the Supreme Court has upheld - and even suggested - voluntary public financing programs with spending limits.

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