Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Saturday, February 20, 2016

More GOP Campaign Finance Rewrite Subterfuge

The Arizona Capitol Times on Friday published an Associated Press story on state elections director Eric Spencer's campaign finance rewrite bill, announcing that (the Senate Judiciary) committee passed the measure.
Republican lawmakers are working with the Secretary of State’s Office to overhaul the state’s campaign finance system with a 54-page rewrite critics say is too long and complicated to rush through the Legislature.
A Senate panel passed the measure on Feb. 18. Sen. Adam Driggs, R-Phoenix, described it as an effort to simplify current law so that people don’t need to hire an attorney to understand Arizona’s campaign finance system.
“The attempt is to go from some legalese to maybe what some people might consider poetry,” Driggs said during the Judiciary Committee hearing, which he chairs.
Wow. That might be a description you'd find in the Oxford English Urban Dictionary next to the expression, "shiny object."

Now, I understand that the good folks at the Cap Times think of me in less than favorable terms. But for multiple reasons, it's their own damn fault. Not the least of which is that they made it clear to me a couple of years ago that they didn't like me quoting them as much as I sometimes do. But they essentially told me that if I criticize them when I do it, they recognize it as covered by the Fair Use Doctrine.

Of course, like now, sometimes they are just so easy to criticize. In other words, Adam Driggs with an assist from the reporter and the Capitol Times just insulted your intelligence.

The definition of shiny object from the Urban Dictionary,
Someone who is easily distracted by shiny objects, similar to a cat who gets distracted when you shake a shiny object or toy in his face. A person who is not very intelligent.
But wouldn't the Cap Times claim they didn't say that? Perhaps. But what really does bill sponsor Adam Driggs intend with SB1516? The reporter, Ryan Van Velzer, opens with the claim, "Republican lawmakers are working with the Secretary of State's office to overhaul the state's campaign finance system..."

If the reporter really wanted to illuminate the issue for readers, wouldn't he really want to figure out WHY they want to rewrite this law completely? I mean... it's not like he wasn't paying attention over the last couple of years when Dark Money scandals were dominating elections for statewide offices, right?

By the way, didn't VOTERS do something about rewriting campaign finance law a few years ago? Yeah, what about the voter approved Clean Elections Act? What makes Adam Driggs and Eric Spencer think they can just thumb their noses at the voters like this?

Well, much of the change in this bill is not directly to the sections of statute enacted by voters. So, they will say that they aren't tampering with Clean Elections. BUT...

What about those silly Republicans that claim everything will be peachy at the Capitol, free of undue special interest influence, as long as there is proper disclosure? Well,
But Tom Collins, director of the state’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission, said the bill would do more than change wording – it would limit public scrutiny.
It would redefine when candidates and political action committees have to make information available and under what circumstances candidates can accept money, goods and services, Collins said after the hearing.
“Some of these changes will mean that voters will receive less information about how money is at play in state elections than they would receive under the current law,” he said.
Would voters prefer to have full and proper disclosure of the influence of campaign cash? Would politicians who have the authority to write laws while limiting public scrutiny of them doing so rather protect that authority by... further limiting public scrutiny?
The bill would repeal and replace the state’s current campaign finance system. The proposal covers everything from political contributions and campaign-finance reports to disclosure requirements.
State Elections Director Eric Spencer said he has spent the past 10 months working with interested parties to craft the new system. Spencer described the bill as a house-cleaning measure to re-organize laws that have piled on top of each other for the past decade.
The objective is to simplify and create uniformity among existing laws with a goal of balancing campaign finance disclosure with free expression, he said.
Wouldn't a real journalist ask who those "interested parties" who want to "craft the new system" might be? And what exactly does Spencer mean when he describes the bill as re-organizing laws that have piled on top of each other?

"With an objective to simplify... with a goal of balancing disclosure with free expression..." doesn't that sound an awful lot like he's working to make it easier for whomever his "interested parties" are to have free expression without having to worry about compliance with laws reflecting the voters' right to disclosure (especially of Dark Money sources and interests)?
Opponents are concerned lawmakers haven’t had enough time to understand the possible impacts of the lengthy proposal.
“It’s a lot of public policy change in one bill, and I think it’s very difficult for anyone to discern how the various parts of it will affect each other and affect future elections,” said Sandy Bahr, who lobbies for the Sierra Club’s Arizona chapter.
One particular area of concern for Bahr was a provision that added disclosure exceptions for political action committees, she said.
Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, D-Green Valley, said that without the proper scrutiny, the bill could open too many loopholes.
“I don’t think we’ve had enough time to analyze the intended and unintended consequences,” she said.
The measure doesn’t include criminal provisions originally listed in the campaign finance section of law. Spencer said he will instead include those provisions in a separate bill for clarity’s sake.

So, at least Van Velzer lists one of the "simplifications."

Oops, Spencer says he'll worry about criminal provisions another time. You see, the time for lawmakers (of whom Spencer is NOT one) to file bills for consideration this year has already passed. But then again, there's always the trusty strike-all amendment so that whoever controls the legislature at any given time doesn't have to play by the same rules they impose on the minority party.
A "strike everything after the enacting clause" amendment (also referred to as a "strike everything" amendment or simply a "striker") proposes to delete the entire text of the existing bill and substitute new language, essentially making it a completely different bill, possibly on an entirely different subject. These amendments are sometimes used to allow legislators to circumvent the deadlines on introduction of new legislation, deal with an issue that arises after the deadline or revive a bill that has previously been defeated.
But no problem, Spencer says, for "clarity's sake" we didn't want to put that in a bill that already had 109 provisions.

Is it fair to surmise that Arizona Republicans really don't want to jeopardize their grip on the power at the Capitol? Or that if some pesky blogger (or reporter) might ask inconvenient questions and use social media to get the word out, might that challenge their power?

How much more attractive does "Oops, we forgot to reinstate any criminal penalties for anything related to campaign finance," make it "easier to ask forgiveness than permission" for Dark Money interests?

Isn't that special?

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