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Tucson independent appointed to Clean Elections Commission

A Tucson independent has been appointed to the commission that oversees Arizona's public campaign financing. Thomas Koester, a former Morgan Stanley vice president, will sit on the Citizen's Clean Elections Commission through 2016.

"Mr. Koester is a true independent and a great guy," said state Corporation Commissioner Paul Newman in announcing the appointment Monday.

"We have a tremendous responsibility to the citizens of Arizona to continue to enhance the implementation of the Act and the addition of Mr. Koester helps the Commission do just that," said Todd Lang, the CCEC's executive director.

Koester is a 1971 graduate of the University of Arizona with an MBA in finance, Newman said in a press release. The Air Force veteran served as a vice president of Morgan Stanley for 38 years. He and his wife Patricia reside in Tucson. They have three sons. 

CCEC commissioners are appointed by elected officials of both parties. The other current members are Chairman Jeffrey Fairman (D) of Pinal County; Lori Daniels (R) of Maricopa County, Louis Hoffman (D) of Maricopa County and Timothy Reckart (R) of Pima County. 

Citizens Clean Elections Act, which was passed by voters in 1998, created a new campaign financing system that provides full public funding to qualified candidates who agree to abide by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission guidelines. Candidates for statewide and legislative offices are eligible to participate in the public funding program.

To qualify for funding, participating candidates gather $5 qualifying contributions from constituents who are registered voters. Participating candidates also adhere to strict spending and contribution limits and agree to attend required workshops and debates.

Matching funds ruled unconstitutional

A divided U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the matching-funds provision of Arizona's Clean Elections Act in June, saying it violates the free-speech rights of those not participating in the fund.

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Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the five-member majority, said the provision "imposes a substantial burden on the speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups." The state's interest in reducing political corruption was not strong enough to allow that First Amendment infringement, he wrote.

But Justice Elena Kagan, in her dissent, wrote that the Arizona law actually "… furthered First Amendment values" rather than limiting them. The ruling, she wrote, deprives Arizonans of "the chance to reform their electoral system" to combat corrupt politics.

The ruling further clouded the future of public financing of elections in the state, with the legislature this year approving a ballot measure to do away with such funding. That proposed constitutional amendment, the "No Taxpayer Subsidies for Political Campaigns Act," is set to go before voters in November 2012.

The ruling did not invalidate the overall public financing law, and no matching funds have been disbursed in the state since 2008, pending court challenges.

The commission says on its website that the percentage of candidates who agreed to public funding for their campaigns grew from 26 percent in 2000 to 65 percent by 2008. Of those 2008 candidates, most received the base amount and only 15 percent got any kind of matching funds, commissioner Hoffman said in June.

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