Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce's Sham Candidate Olivia Cortes' Clean Elections Mailers

Notwithstanding the delusional devotion of my lefty friends for Arizona's Clean Elections system, I will be happy when the final nail is driven into its coin-filled coffin.

Why? Constantin Querard, for starters. Far right political hacks such as Querard have cleverly gamed Clean Elections for the advancement of newbie wingnut politicos, at whom substantial contributors normally look askance. 

Ironically, these same far-right loons are stridently anti-government, but they pocket the cash all the same in a bid to become or remain part of what they supposedly despise.

"This is a pretty lousy system," Querard once told a group of fellow GOPers, "and it works really well for us."

As a result, we have an extremist Legislature consisting of members who owe their political careers to CE, which persists despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the matching funds portion of the scheme

Arguably, our redder-than-thou state might still be the color of a Commie flag without CE, but at least these moonhowlers wouldn't be getting free money, money that comes from a  voluntary $5 check-off box on your state tax forms, a surcharge on criminal and civil penalties and fines, and the $5 donations each CE candidate must gather.

Currently, there's a court challenge to a repeal measure that's supposed to be on the 2012 ballot. I hope that fails so I can cast my vote to end this travesty.

Here's another reason to hate CE: The above mailer, sent out to the household of every registered voter in Legislative District 18. 

See that part in red, the "Voluntarily Withdrawn from Election" beside sham candidate Olivia Cortes' name? That wording was not on the mailers sent to LD 18 voters.

That's because, according to CE's executive director Todd Lang, the mailers went out on October 3, three days before Cortes officially withdrew from the race.

"I wish she'd withdrawn a couple of days before," Lang told me, sheepishly. 

According to state statute, CE has to post these do-dads before any early ballots are mailed. Early voting begins tomorrow, you see.

Such mailers are meant to inform the voters, though these are doing exactly the opposite.

Sadly, Cortes' name remains on the ballot, and though there will be signs in the polling places advising that Cortes is out, there is nothing advising early voters of same. Save for the press.

So if you don't follow politics -- and you'd be amazed at the number of people who do not -- you might think Cortes is a legit candidate. Particularly if you buy what's printed on Clean Elections literature.

Cortes signed up to run clean, but she did not submit her required $5 contributions. Neither Pearce nor Lewis is running clean, though Pearce has taken CE money in past election cycles.

All the same, the law instructs CE to send out these mailers, regardless of whether or not there are CE candidates in a race.

I don't fault Lang or CE for doing what they're supposed to do. I fault the law that mandates such stupidity. 

Well-intentioned the inception of CE may have been, but our path to a right-wing supermajority was paved with CE dollars. To borrow a phrase from our marble-mouthed state Senate president, enough is enough.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons