Spender Bender

Campaign contributions buy the strangest things

I don't see any quick solutions out there. Jessica Funkhouser, director of election services for the Secretary of State, says there's no official monitoring of spending and no teeth in the current law to do so.

In 1998, gubernatorial candidate Tom Rawles, a Libertarian, made headlines when he decided to pay himself a salary to run for office. The same year, the ultimately successful incumbent, GOP Governor Jane Dee Hull, had the chutzpah to hire her son, Mike -- a complete political neophyte, and that's putting it nicely -- to run her campaign. This prompted the introduction of legislation that would have limited such practices -- mainly regarding the hiring of household members as campaign staff -- but it failed. (Big surprise.)

Curbing expenditures for items like clothing and haircuts is even more difficult. What candidate can afford to go around with bad bangs or ratty clothes?

Last year, state Representative Richard Kyle, a Phoenix Republican, became the poster boy for questionable expenditures when folks learned he'd used campaign cash to pay for out-of-state trips, baby sitters, an AAA membership and an $11 haircut from Supercuts. The state Attorney General's office declined to prosecute Kyle, noting that it's hard to pinpoint an illegal campaign expenditure. What doesn't a politician do, in the name of politics? Legalities aside, an illegitimate campaign expense is like a bad haircut: hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

If the Arizona Supreme Court ever gets off its collective duff and rules on the Clean Elections law, there may be some limitations in place; if nothing else, participating candidates would have less money to spend. But the longer the Supremes wait, the less likely it is there will be more than a handful of Clean Elections candidates come November.

As of this writing, 2000 candidates are free to spend at will. I could use some new clothes, and my car's filthy. I'm considering declaring my candidacy.

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