This article originally provided by
February 24, 2006
Discussion but no action on campaign financing
CHARLESTON — Out in Goldwater Country, citizens took the lead in forcing
public financing of political campaigns, and one Arizona official Thursday
described the results as successful.
That, despite a state known for its deep conservative roots, in contrast to West
Virginia, viewed as labor-oriented, where such bills never get past first base.
“I thought it was very odd that the state of Arizona would handle this thing and
get to the point where they are, and it’s obviously working,” Senate Finance
Chairman Walt Helmick reflected afterward.
Todd Lang, executive director of the Arizona Clean Elections Commission, said
the citizens there compelled public financing by referendum after a series of
scandals rocked the statehouse.
“Folks in Arizona are very conservative,” Lang said of his home state, the
launching pad of the modern conservative movement via the late Sen. Barry
“They’re anti-tax. They’re anti-government.”
Under the plan, a candidate must fetch 210 donations of $5 apiece to get on the
The public fund stood at $8 million at last count, fed by a 10 percent surcharge
on all court penalties — criminal and civil. Additionally, Arizonians may
voluntarily check off $5 donations on their income tax returns.
Helmick was adamant that time simply doesn’t remain in this session to take up
“It’s too much, too soon, too late,” Helmick, D-Pocahontas, said.
Gary Zuckett, a spokesman for West Virginia-Citizen Action Group, said Lang’s
testimony affirmed what his organization has been pushing fully a decade — that
public financing can help clean up the political landscape.
Zuckett pointed out a similar approach to financing campaigns is being tested in
“Those two states are laboratory states for this type of election reform,” he
“You find a majority of incumbents using the system, which I think speaks for
Helmick wondered if the same concept would work in West Virginia, however,
telling reporters later in the day, “We’re a little different from time to
“We need additional time,” he said.
“We don’t want to pass something that we can’t live with. We don’t want to pass
something and go back and be embarrassed with.”
At least for now, he said, the Senate finance panel put the bill out for
discussion and the issue remains before the Legislature.
“I think we’ll see that again, at the beginning of the next session, and it will
be a real issue,” he added.
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