Posted on January 13, 2016 at 10:15 AM
New Cause for Hope in Arizona Politics: Honest and Open Election & Campaign Finance Committees Formed to Support Two Constitutional Ballot Initiatives for the 2016 Arizona Ballot
PHOENIX — Arizonans across the political spectrum are fed up with the state of our government. Almost two-thirds of voters believe the State Legislature has the wrong priorities and that there is too much partisan conflict in the Arizona State Capitol. Now, there is finally cause for hope that together we can change the system and make it work for the people of Arizona
Two committees were filed yesterday with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office to support two constitutional amendments to promote fairness and transparency in Arizona candidate elections. The committees will be spearheaded by the Open and Honest Elections coalition which is driven by the fundamental premise that Arizona voters have the right to know who is contributing large amounts of money to influence our elections and the right to participate equally in all elections.
“I have been asking a lot of people if they believe the system is working and if they are happy with the result. The answer to both questions time and again has been a resounding no. It is clear that divisive and discriminatory elections driven by millions in undisclosed and unaccountable money are the root of many of our problems,” said Paul Johnson, former mayor of Phoenix, and co-chair of the Open and Honest Coalition. “I am proud to be a part of the coalition that is forming these committees to promote an electoral system that treats everyone fairly, regardless of party affiliation, and promotes transparency in our candidate elections.”
The Open and Honest Coalition has formed two committees to potentially back two separate, but aligned, initiatives:
Open and Honest Disclosure would require groups who spend money to influence candidate elections to disclose the original source of any contribution in excess of $10,000. With over $15 million of undisclosed money spent in the 2014 election cycle to influence Arizona candidate races, campaign finance disclosure rules must be strengthened to restore integrity and transparency into Arizona’s election system.
Open and Honest Elections would create a level playing field for all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, where they would directly compete under the same rules. It would also allow all voters to participate in elections – removing the current unfair and often burdensome barriers for independent and unaffiliated candidates and voters. Independents are the largest registered group in the State of Arizona, yet they are treated to a completely different set of rules when it comes to running for office and voting in primary elections.
“The American experiment as a constitutional democratic republic is in jeopardy. Voter turnout has dropped in the last two election cycles, more and more Americans are choosing not to identify themselves with political parties, yet those very same parties set the rules which govern our elections and choose our candidates. The American people have lost faith in our government to address some of the fundamental problems facing America today – America is still great, it is our two party system and undisclosed dark money contributions which have broken the system,” said J. Charles Coughlin, President and CEO of HighGround Public Affairs and Co-Chair of the Open and Honest Coalition. “We intend to fix that problem, to establish a level playing field for all candidates and voters and to protect our democracy from the corruption of undisclosed dark money contributions to support candidate elections in Arizona. I am confident, if we are able to get on the ballot, Arizonans will overwhelmingly support both of these amendments to promote Open and Honest Elections in Arizona.”
“I believe it is time for change in how we elect people to public office! The younger generations need something to believe in when it comes to our government system and the way we elect public officials. We need an election process that will bring us together to address the issues we all care about, such as Education, Employment, Immigration, and many others,” added Danny Ortega, an Open and Honest Coalition co-chair and former Board Chair of the National Council of La Raza.
The coalition is hoping to file ballot language by the end of January on both amendments. They are working to secure over $10 million in financial support from both local and national sources to back both efforts. In the upcoming weeks, the coalition will announce additional co-chairs to demonstrate that efforts to increase fairness and transparency are backed by a broad left/right coalition of business, community, civic and political leaders from Arizona.