PHOENIX — Two years ago the Republican-controlled Legislature sought to get voters to kill the Citizens Clean Elections Act, claiming it’s wrong for politicians to get public money.
Now some of those same GOP lawmakers want to belly up to the bar and get handouts of public dollars for everything from sending out communications to constituents to buying tickets for special events.
Legislation awaiting House action would automatically give legislators $4,900 a year every year from the Clean Elections Fund for those expenses. The measure already cleared its first hurdle this week with a 7-1 approval of the House Education Committee.
The architect of the measure is Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills.
Kavanagh acknowledged he voted three years ago to constitutionally ban the use of public money in political campaigns.
He rejected arguments by proponents of public funding at that time that the system provides a realistic alternative to candidates having to seek money from — and be beholden to — lobbyists and other special interests. Kavanagh said it instead involves government interference in elections.
That measure never got to voters after being ruled illegal by the Arizona Supreme Court.
Now Kavanagh is espousing those same arguments about reducing the reliance of elected officials on special interests so he and his colleagues can get guaranteed — and publicly funded — expense accounts.
Tom Collins, the commission’s executive director, defended the arrangement.
“We think that this package is consistent with what the Clean Elections Act is about,’’ he said.
How much the commission might get, however, is unclear.
Aside from providing $4,900 allocations to lawmakers, HB 2651 would also require the commission to provide $49,180 every year to the governor, $25,840 to the secretary of state and attorney general and $12,920 to other statewide officeholders.
The 1998 voter-approved system allows — but does not require — candidates for statewide and legislative office to get public funding for their campaigns if they agree not to take private dollars. The amount of money available to each candidate depends on the office sought.