It's not a problem with Clean Elections
In her Washington Post column this morning, Ruth Marcus tried to conflate Arizona's controversial immigration law with the successful and popular Clean Elections program.
We think her analysis is wrong.
First, whether an Arizona lawmaker was elected using Clean Elections or not has no positive correlation with their vote for the immigration bill. Eighty percent of elected lawmakers voting against the immigration statute used Clean Elections to gain office, while just 54 percent of those supporting the bill used Clean Elections to win.
Second, Latino leaders in Arizona support the Clean Elections system. If Marcus' thesis that the immigration law passed partially because of Clean Elections, then it would stand to reason Latino lawmakers in Arizona oppose the law. That couldn't be further from the truth. Clean Elections has been popular with Arizona's Latino lawmakers, the vast majority of whom have used the law to get elected. In fact, just today, we posted a profile of Arizona Assistant Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, a member of the Arizona Legislative Latino Caucus. A Clean Elections candidate and advocate, she says:
"At the end of the day Clean Elections allows non-typical candidates to run, be it minorities, young people or women," said Rios. "We have a number of people serving in the legislature who were Clean Elections candidates who wouldn't have had a shot in the dark if they were running traditional - no political connections, no money."
Arizona House Minority Leader David Lujan, another member of the Arizona Legislative Latino Caucus, used Clean Elections for his races and is also a champion of the system.
Finally, Arizona isn't alone in hard-line conservative thinking among Republican lawmakers. As Ezra Klein of the Washington Post wrote today in response to Marcus' column, "If you look at House or Senate Republicans, you're seeing primary challenges mounted in the absence of Arizona's law that are nevertheless proving extremely effective at turning sensible conservatives into people who'll do whatever the base demands." It's not an Arizona issue. It's a Republican Party issue.
In the Arizona legislative session that ended just days ago, Republican leadership-backed by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry-pushed hard to repeal the state's Clean Elections law. It's this same leadership that used its caucus to pass the controversial immigration bill.
Clean Elections isn't the cause of the controversial immigration law, but those who want to go back to the old ways of pay-to-play politics want you to think it is.