As an actual citizen of the United States and a resident of the state of Arizona (which incidentally, is still in U.S. territory), I learned a very valuable lesson recently. If you write something about Arizona politics, especially during an election year, you will get noticed.
I received an e-mail the other day from the Citizens Clean Election Commission (CCEC) related to my StopJanet.org website. There’s something very interesting about Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission. At first glance it sounds like something any American would get behind and support. After all, shouldn’t every citizen who wishes to contribute to the great experiment have the opportunity to compete effectively with those who are either well connected, well funded, or are already holding political office?
As a private citizen of Arizona, I created StopJanet.org as a repository for information that reveals Janet Napolitano’s record as Arizona governor. To be fair in substantiating my view, I chose to populate the site with factual links, a few pictures, and some search tools. I deliberately refrained from including conjecture, speculation, baseless accusations, or hostile rants to strengthen my position. The entire purpose of the website is simply to present the facts of Napolitano’s term in office and to allow informed Arizona voters to decide is her political fate in the upcoming election.
The e-mail from a CCEC representative demanded that I, a private citizen, provide them with a cost estimate for the construction, hosting, and any other costs incurred when for developing StopJanet.org. Apparently the Citizens Clean Elections Commission is responsible for providing matching funds whenever an independent expenditure is done for or against a participating candidate. The funds the CCEC distributes originate from surcharges on civil and criminal fines, voluntary contributions from taxpayers, contributions from candidates, and civil penalties on violations of the Citizens Clean Elections Act.
The goal of creating and publishing StopJanet.org online was never to promote any candidate that better aligns himself/herself with my political ideologies. StopJanet.org is not attempting to raise funds (or launder money as the Arizona Republic intimated) for any candidate or organization. The sole and only reason for StopJanet.org is to be a warehouse for information related to the governor and her actions/inactions that go against the will of people of Arizona. My hope is that an informed populace would put this governor out of office in 2006. I am not alone in this perspective.
In politics—and much of life—money is a physical form of expression. A person earns a limited amount of money and uses that money to eat, live, and provide for his family. It is in this limited availability that the giving of money derives it value. This resource freely given (contributed or donated) to a cause (political or otherwise) is an expression of agreement, support, or benevolence which is solely a private matter to the benefactor. What a person does with his/her money is generally where his/her passions lie and where his/her energies are spent.
The Framers understood this truism and constructed American government around it in order to keep politicians answerable to the people (and groups) who placed them in power. In 1788 the Federalist Papers recognized the unavoidable conundrum presented by individuals banding together into factions (aka special interest groups) in a free society. Federalist Paper Number 10 examines this problem, rationalizes its solutions, and explains why an over abundance of factions are critical to the American Experiment. The resolution: more factions, more voices, more opinions, and more desires expressed.
Special interest groups, or factions, are nothing more than an expression of a group of individuals with similar goals, values, and/or ideas. These groups of citizens focus their collective energies toward the manifestation of their goals, ideological views, or personal desires. The Federalist Papers say nothing about the government participating in electoral politics based on what individuals or groups in society are supporting, promoting, or condemning. Nor do the Federalist Papers condone the restriction of groups when it comes to participating in the shape and structure of their government.
The CCEC’s request to determine the costs of my political expression in order to contribute to those I politically oppose is a violation of 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The CCEC, as a faction or special interest group, has every right to distribute its money how it sees fit. But to base its fund distribution against my political views is in effect a sanctioned attempt to influence my desire to speak out in the political process of Arizona. If the expression of my views results in those people or ideas contrary to my beliefs benefiting, why should I, as an American citizen, want to make my views known? If I am hesitant to make my views known (in speech, writing, or on the web) how does that benefit a free society?
Despite the noble intention of the Arizona populace in 1989 to prevent private funds from “buying” Arizona elections, the Arizona Clean Elections Act is bad law. Any law which violates the U.S. Constitution or infringes on an Americans inalienable rights is legislation which erodes the core of what has made America great. The desire to prevent private individuals from buying elections is a legitimate concern in democratic government, but to limit free expression in politics is merely one more shackle on the road to socialism.
The answer to this naturally occurring consequence of free society is something our forefathers well understood and apparently many of us today either can’t conceive or were never taught to understand. A capitalistic democracy requires a people who possess both ethics and values. America needs people whose regulation of self prevents the deliberate exploitation of others. These personal traits are something that no amount of well-intentioned legislation can provide. They are something cute catch phrase legislation like “Citizens Clean Elections Act” will never be able to deliver.