Clean Elections Look To Stop Candidates’ Alleged Money Laundering Practices

In June, the Clean Elections Commission will consider putting an end to the practice of funneling money to political parties by Clean Elections candidates. Earlier this year, the Arizona Legislature failed to pass HB2403, a bill designed to stop the practice of turning Clean Elections money into dark money.

Clean Elections Commission – Thursday , June 22 9:30 a.m., Clean Elections Commission meeting is scheduled at the CCRC Meeting Room, 1616 W Adams, Phoenix AZ 85007 (602) 364-3477.

HB2403 failed in the Arizona House of Representatives on a party line vote. As the ADI reported in February, “while a majority of House members supported HB2403, it failed to achieve support from three-fourths of the body, which is required to amend statutes created through the initiative process.”

The need for a bill like HB2403, or some other reform of the current Clean Elections rules became evident during the 2016 election cycle during which millions of taxpayer dollars were donated to the Democratic Party by Clean Elections candidates. The Democratic Party winners of those 2016 races were unwilling to plug the pipeline in their role as lawmakers.

Democratic Primary, 2016 CandidatesVote %Votes
Isela Blanc29.80%4,648
Athena Salman32.10%5,007
Celeste Plumlee Incumbent21.00%3,276
Michael Martinez17.09%2,666
Total Votes15,597
General Election, 2016 Candidates|PartyVote %Votes
Athena Salman D33.21%28,038
Isela Blanc D31.96%26,981
Steven Adkins R23.06%19,469
Cara Trujillo G11.77%9,941
Total Votes84,429

One such winner, Rep. Athena Salman, spoke in opposition to the rule change before Clean Elections Commission during its May 18 meeting. Salman claimed that during the 2016 General Election, the “only vendor we had that we trusted was the Party.”

Salman, and her running-mate, Isela Blanc, funneled nearly $11,000 to the Democratic Party during the 2016 cycle.

During her testimony before the Commission Salman claimed, “Cutting me off from the Party services hinders me from being a competitive candidate,” referring to the proposed rule change. Yet, after defeating incumbent former Rep. Celeste Plumlee in the Primary Election, Salman and Blanc faced no real competition in the General Election for their seats in the Democratic Party stronghold of District 26.

As a result, the Clean Elections money could be sent to the Party to promote ballot measures favored by Salman and Blanc such as the minimum wage hike and marijuana initiatives as well as candidates in more competitive districts. That was not what the voters intended when they passed the Citizens Clean Elections Act, in 1998.

According to the Commission, “The Act established a system for voter education, clean funding for candidate campaigns and campaign finance enforcement. The purpose of the Act is to restore citizen participation and confidence in our political system, improve the integrity of Arizona State government and promote freedom of speech under the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions.”

Abuse of the system through the practice of funneling money to parties has eroded confidence in our political system, specifically Clean Elections argued Republican lawmakers this year.