Amy Silverman and Patti Epler deserve praise for a well-laid out argument ("The Law of the Land," January 7), though the motivations behind the activities of lobbyists are sadly unreported. It is far too easy to stereotype your enemy, thus leaving you with an ill-defined foe.
The whole issue of our Legislature's current residency in the pockets of lobbyists is reminiscent of the big budget deficit and debt battles of the past two decades. The final responsibility should not be laid on the Legislature, the lobbyists or even the system. The finger of blame must be turned on us, the citizens. With a paltry voter turnout and even less civic activism, we continually cede control of our state and our lives to minority extremists and powerful lobbyists.
After two years working in Sarajevo, Bosnia, two things have become frighteningly clear to me. First, civil society cannot be maintained when the average citizens do not take responsibility for their own government. Second, successful lawmaking requires finding common ground between different points on the political spectrum, not political gamesmanship. We grow closer to a corrupt society daily. Health, water quality and urban sprawl can be addressed only by citizens representing many interests, not a lobbitocracy representing only a few.
Since we have been studying and publicizing the Arizona legislature's awful addiction to lobbyist money for the last three years, Arizona Citizen Action would like to congratulate your reporters Amy Silverman and Patti Epler for the January 7 special report "The Law of the Land." It is simply the single best piece ever published demonstrating how corporate money completely dominates the legislative process in Arizona. As a retired research professor from MIT myself, I would like to give special praise to ASU professor Steven Doig who did some of the data analysis.
One minor correction: The supporters of Proposition 200, the Citizens Clean Elections Initiative approved by the voters in November, do not expect a court challenge to stop Proposition 200 "in its tracks." We did design Proposition 200 to cut the connection between lobbyists and state government by allowing serious candidates to qualify for public funding for their campaigns. Therefore, we certainly do expect those corporate lobbyists who now run the show to fund a legal challenge in an attempt to protect their sweet deal. After all, according to reports filed with the secretary of state, it was the usual suspects, the polluters, alcohol and racing interests and former governor Symington, who led the opposition to Proposition 200. However, we carefully crafted the law with the advice of the best constitutional experts in the nation and we will insure that it is defended vigorously. We fully expect citizen funding of elections to become the norm in Arizona.
Professional lobbyists who rely on their ability to educate lawmakers will welcome the change. The lobbyists who depend on raising money to buy their influence will have to find a new trade. Maybe they could join Symington in his French cooking class; otherwise they may join him in jail.
Jim Driscoll, Ph.D.
executive director, Arizona Citizen Action
Your special report "The Law of the Land" was quite informative regarding the power of lobbyists over the state Legislature. However, two comments you made about Proposition 200, the Clean Elections Initiative, were off mark.
Although we expect a court challenge by the opposition, we disagree with your statement that Clean Elections "supporters expect that a court challenge will soon stop it in its tracks." Even if one element of the initiative is successfully attacked--which we don't expect--the remainder of the law will remain intact.
Also, you suggested that lobbyists "will be able to use a loophole in the Proposition 200 law to continue to run independent expenditure campaigns on behalf of their favorite candidates and/or issues." As much as you may want to outlaw such independent expenditures, the Supreme Court has ruled that those expenditures are protected by the First Amendment. Even so, the initiative instituted a procedure whereby those candidates who participate in the Clean Elections system will be protected against such expenditures. Those candidates will receive matching funds equal to the amount spent against them by independent expenditures. In that way, they will be able to fight the big-money lobbyists on equal ground.
The Clean Elections System was passed by vote of the public in order to rein in the unbridled power wielded by the Super Lobbyists and their special interest backers. The public will now have candidates who will serve the common good--instead of serving narrow and powerful interests. Please keep up your in-depth reporting on the real powers behind our state government. We need such information in order to assure continued support for the Clean Elections system, and to build public efforts for other needed reforms.