Money can’t buy you love, but it CAN buy you a legislator

In the last presidential race, a handful of billionaires handed over millions to their favored candidate to try and sway the outcome of the race. One such billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, gave $95 million to political committees supporting Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates.

Imagine how many lives could have been improved, even saved with a $95 million contribution to charities in need.

I don’t think any of us are delusional enough to believe that a donation of that scope and size isn’t given without an expectation of something in return. Money buys power, and in politics, power means influence and influence means votes. Wealthy donors on both sides of the aisle are buying votes. It’s that simple.

In Arizona, our legislators are looking to lap up some of that money. With guidance from Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and the Goldwater Institute, Republican J.D. Mesnard sponsored a bill to increase individual contributions to legislators more than ten-fold. That’s TEN times the previous donation limit.

HB2593, signed into law by the Governor last week, does several things to ensure wealthy constituents and powerful PACs (Political Action Committees) have the power to buy legislators.

The revised law allows individuals to give $2500 to candidates for a primary election and another $2500 for the general election. The prior limit was $488 total. There was no distinction between primary and general.

Put another way, if it takes $50,000 to run a successful state legislative race, candidates need only appeal to 10 individual donors. In reality, that number could be even less because the bill also changes the limits on PAC money.

Before, PACs had a $2,000 limit. It was raised to $5,000.

But what’s even more insidious is that PACs no longer have a limit on the total number of dollars they can give in an election year. In other words, instead of being able to influence a handful of races, powerful PACs can now influence as many races as they want.

Limits on the total amounts given by individuals have also been eliminated, meaning an individual can give $5,000 to as many candidates he/she wants as well as many thousands of dollars to PACs, political parties and independent expenditures.

The Republicans who support this legislation say it’s a way to combat “dark money.” Please. Do they really think voters are gullible enough to believe that? This bill does nothing to shed light on the donors behind “dark money,” nothing to end the money laundering that occurred in the last election.

What the bill does is thwart the will of Arizonans who voted to make it more difficult for a handful of wealthy individuals to buy elections. Arizonans approved Clean Elections to try and remove money as the deciding factor in a race. Regardless of whether or not the bill is deemed constitutional, it is clearly NOT written in the interest of furthering the will of a voter-approved initiative.

This bill isn’t about the will of the voters. It’s about making life easier for legislators. They don’t need to appeal to a wide majority of citizens, just a small minority of wealthy donors with an agenda.

It’s a win-win for legislators and special interest groups and a lose-lose for representative democracy.


  1. Anthony Wesley

    Thank you for showing how Sickening this legislation is. I am horrified at how these legislators and the governor get away with this obvious self serving way to thwart the voting publics interests. In this state it is too easy for them.

  2. Mike Slater

    We have a Republic form of government not a direct democracy. We elected people to represent us. The legislature has a Republican majority because that’s what the majority of voters want.

    1. Post
      Julie Erfle

      We also have a strong tradition of citizen initiatives, and the citizens of Arizona have said they wish to remove the influences of money over politics when they approved Clean Elections. Money plays a significant role in politics, especially in the primary races, where most of our lawmakers are elected. We have very few competitive districts, and primary voting among the general population is low (in part because of low turnout by Independents). This often leads to highly partisan legislators who do not represent the majorities of their districts.

  3. Mike Slater

    Julie, I think most Independents consider themselves moderates and they feel the two parties don’t share their views. I’m an Independent and have been for about 12 years. Before that I was a Republican but left the party because I didn’t think it was conservative enough.

    I’ve voted in every election from President to school bond elections since 1972. I feel it’s my duty as an American to vote.

    Some people are just low information voters that are easily swayed by TV ads and ads in the mail.

    I prefer to do research before I vote and am not swayed by TV ads.

    1. Eric Morgan

      Mike hits on a great point. If people really wanted money’s influence out of the political process, then they’d take the time to research the candidates and the issues. In a well informed society, money’s influence is greatly reduced. Your assumption that since Clean Elections passed that people want money out of politics is not necessarily true.

      In reality, a vast majority don’t care at all. They are happy to lap up what the news, commercials or their one or two favorite blogs tells them as long as it doesn’t take too much effort. And when the news tells them money is bad, that’s what they go with, just like when the news tells them to vote for a candidate. This is exactly where the left wants them. You see, the laws used to be stacked so that left organizations like unions could play in the political arena and the right organizations, like corporations, could not.

      It’s interesting, Julie, that the billions of dollars that the Democrats spend doing exactly the same thing doesn’t bother you. It’s only when Republicans start doing it that you feel moved to write about it.

      Besides, money in the process isn’t an all bad thing. Money buys signs, flyers, and literature, rents venues for town halls, and pays support staff to make all this happen. Without this, the candidates would not be available to people and the people’s ability to interact and collect information directly from the candidate would be reduced. But again, is it coincidental that your preferred state is that of a less informed citizen?

      I too would like to money’s influence reduced in politics but I would much rather it happen due to an ever increasingly informed constituency, rather than attempting to silence one side of the debate.

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