The Serene Clean Elections Machine

For all that's at stake, the state's most influential lobbyists and businesses are strangely silent on Proposition 200, which would remove them as the primary financiers of election campaigns

"We're tinkering around with very fundamental American freedoms and traditions," Heiler warns.

Proposition 200's supporters say their law should withstand constitutional challenges because no candidate could be forced to participate in the Clean Elections program. It's strictly voluntary.

Gary Tredway speaks often of his bane: "Bigmoneyspecialinterests." His discourse is peppered with the term.

Tredway is a big reason Proposition 200 is on Tuesday's ballot. He doesn't boast about it. He'd rather not discuss his role. But if you ask him enough times, he'll tell you out of exasperation.

"I personally developed the major components of the initiative. It took hundreds of hours," he says. "Writing the initiative was hundreds of hours. Louis Hoffman, our attorney, did the actual writing."

Tredway is treasurer of Arizonans for Clean Elections, the group pushing the measure. He has donated more than $12,000 to the cause, circulated petitions at street fairs and outside post offices.

The 50-ish native of Cleveland, Ohio, came to Arizona in 1971. He does not have a college degree. He owns an aging "residence hotel" in southwest Scottsdale. From his cluttered office/residence there, he also runs his natural-foods mail-order business, Pure Planet. He's been a longtime member of Gentle Strength Co-op in Tempe, and currently serves as chairman of its board.

Tredway has been a contributor to The Current, a left-leaning bimonthly newsletter that rails for social justice and against corporate welfare. He's a registered member of the Green Party. He's always been politically active.

"I've worked on a lot of issues over the years, and it seems like even when you have a lot of public support, the bigmoneyspecialinterests can stop, stymie, defeat, a lot of popular programs," he says.

"There's a small minority of our population that controls a large proportion of wealth and power. It seems like our country and government is essentially being bought and paid for by the highest bidder. A lot of us got to the point where we thought we had to restore democracy before it was totally bought away from us."

Tredway recognizes the irony inherent in his high-dollar campaign to take money out of politics. But he says unlike lobbyists who fund candidates, people contributing to Proposition 200 have nothing to gain except good government.

Arizonans for Clean Elections' president is Lila Schwartz, who also serves as president of the Arizona League of Women Voters.

Schwartz lives in Sun City West with her husband, Manny. They met when both worked at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo--she in the State Department's political office--during the early Fifties. When they returned to the States, she got active in the League of Women Voters, and has been involved since.

She taught political science at Detroit University and once ran for county commissioner. She chuckles remembering how her grandchildren passed out her campaign literature within the forbidden zone near a polling place. She lost.

Like Tredway, she's been working on Proposition 200 for two years.
"It really was not a deliberate effort in the beginning," she says. "There were a number of groups that were involved, and we were trying to convince the Legislature to pass a ban on gifts from lobbyists. We failed. Then we began to talk about how we could stop nibbling about the edges and bring about a more holistic approach to the problem."

She spent many hours getting signatures to support Proposition 200 in Sun City.

"We had very, very few people who turned us down for signatures. I could fill six petitions in two hours, no problem," she says. "I don't know that it was a conservative versus a liberal issue out here. I think that conservatives are just as interested as liberals in good government."

While there undoubtedly is impressive grassroots support for Proposition 200--nearly 200,000 signatures attest to that--it is also clear that influences from outside Arizona have played critical roles, both in terms of financing and organization.

Arizona has supplied by far the most donors to the Clean Elections campaign, but far from the most money.

Records filed with the state show that as of October 13, Arizonans had contributed only $110,448 of the $754,059 collected by the campaign, roughly 15 percent. (A subsequent filing put the Clean Elections war chest at $805,924.)

The largest contributor is the Public Campaign Action Fund of Washington, D.C., which has channeled a truly stunning sum--$335,000--to the Arizona campaign.

Public Campaign is a reform group founded last year by Ellen S. Miller, who for 13 years directed the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics. The nonpartisan CRP had reduced the analysis of campaign finance to a science, but Miller says she became convinced that Congress would never act to reform the system.

She stopped being a watchdog and became an attack dog.
"I decided to create Public Campaign as a response to grassroots activists everywhere who had likewise awakened to the problem of money in politics," Miller says.

Armed with $9 million in seed money from foundations and individuals, she began to take her message to the states, including Arizona.

Miller explains, "When people can do more comprehensive reform on the state level, that's the place to move."

Tredway says it was a Miller speech in Arizona that got the ball rolling here. It would have been "very difficult" to get Proposition 200 on the ballot without the help of Miller and Public Campaign, he says. Schwartz concurs.

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