Arizona’s Triumph

Arizona and other states have managed to make money irrelevant to politics, and it’s changing the face of democracy.

Originally published 2004

This post from PublicCampaign.org says it all:

“Every day corporations and other wealthy special interests pump another $2 million into the coffers of our elected officials in Washington and their party committees. For their money they get an estimated $160 billion a year in tax breaks, subsidies, and other sweet deals. That’s $160 billion lifted from taxpayers’ pockets—or about $1500 per taxpayer per year!”

The post goes on to describe their book, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket? It looks like a darn good read.

Somehow, though, Arizona managed to pass sweeping campaign finance reform. Another post at that site describes the  Clean Money, Clean Elections initiative. They say it has been instituted in  Maine, Vermont, Arizona, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and North Carolina, and that their example is inspiring activity in other states, including California, Minnesota, and Illinois.

The site even provides a model bill for the initiative. It’s not entirely clear whether or not that particular bill is the one Arizona used. But there is definitely something to be learned here.

Folks I’ve talked to tell me that all the candidates are competing on equal terms in Arizona and that, as a result, third party candidates are emerging and even succeeding. Another source said that as far as they knew, only one candidate that decided not to accept the rules and run on their own money has won.

I get the idea that there is definitely a story, here. In particular, I would like to know:

  • How did they manage to get the law passed in those states?
    (There must be some incredible stories of political maneuvering.)
  • What do the laws say?
    (Without the legalese. Are they identical in all major respects, or are there some differences?)
  • How well are they working?
    (Political scientists are probably collecting statistics, but I’d settle for a few anecdotes.)

This is dynamite stuff. The process seems to be working, and it seems to be spreading. If we can find a way to share the information about how folks made it happen, there’s real hope for our future! (I’m reminded of Doug Engelbart here. He’s always recommended Networked Improvement  Communities (NICs) as a way of advancing human progress. (Eugene Kim writes about them here.) That’s what we need for this purpose!

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