When voters passed the Citizens Clean Elections Act with  50.1 percent support  in 1998, the razor thin margin for passage showed that Arizonans were never that supportive of setting up a bureaucratic system to funnel taxpayer money to politicians to run for office.

Since that time public support for the program has plummeted as the flaws and abuse of the system have been exposed.  It is bad enough their money is being used to buy junk mail and political signs rather than education.  But these tax dollars used to fund political campaigns have been repeatedly misused and misappropriated.

Green, Libertarian, Republican and Democrat candidates have blown public funds on outlandish purchases such as lavish dinners, personal gadgetry, and yes, even a margarita machine. One candidate used roughly half his money with a marketing firm he owned. 

Eventually candidates and political operatives learned a new trick to manipulate the system.  In 2016 they started using their allotment of Clean Election funds to launder money through the Democrat party to be used in swing legislative races.  In response, voters overwhelming approved Proposition 306 which banned taxpayer money from Clean Elections going to political parties.

Not surprisingly, some candidates are upset that they can no longer take advantage of these taxpayer funded loopholes and are considering legal action.  In a recent article in the Capitol Times, Democrats are claiming that their Constitutional right to assembly is being violated because the money they are legally obligated to spend running for office cannot be funneled into other races.

Their claim that a prohibition Clean Election funds going to the Democrat party violates their right to assemble with the Democratic Party is absurd. By that legal reasoning Clean Elections should continue to allow candidates to throw expensive dinners at the Sanctuary for all their friends lest they violate their right to associate or assemble with those friends. 

This reasoning is also hypocritical.  Many of the same politicians claiming that taxpayer money to political parties is a form of association protected by the 1st amendment have also railed against the right to anonymously give and assemble for causes or issues that they support. Apparently, when it comes to using your own money you have limited rights but using taxpayers money to fund causes they support should come without guardrails.

But perhaps the most ironic criticism is the public admission by one lawmaker that they can no longer use public funds to throw parties at Democrat party headquarters. In the same article, Senator Andrea Dalessandro decried the passage of Prop 306 as prohibiting her from “giving any extra money left over at the end of her campaign to the county party for its election night gathering.” So it appears we have now went from candidates manipulating the system to buy margarita machines to now funneling the money to the Democrat party so that they can buy the margarita machines.

Thank goodness voters passed Proposition 306.  Given the disrespect some politicians have with their money, perhaps next go round they will vote to eliminate Clean Elections altogether.