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Clean Elections Commission taps taxpayer dollars to save itself

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Guest opinion

Clean Elections Commission taps taxpayer dollars to save itself

Arizona's Citizens Clean Elections Commission is dirtying up politics. Afraid of a proposal on next year's ballot that would end the commission's funding, the commission is using taxpayer money to run ads against the ballot measure.

This ad campaign means that taxpayers who actually support ending funding for the commission could end up paying for the "no" ads – not exactly clean or fair politics.

But there's more. The commission's ads mislead by claiming the program uses no taxpayer money. Clean Elections receives revenue from a $5 voluntary check-off box on Arizona tax returns. But the check-off is not a typical tax credit that designates a portion of your taxes for the fund. Neither is it a donation. Instead, checking the box just reduces state revenues by increasing your refund or decreasing your tax liability by $5. It also triggers a $5 appropriation from the state's general fund to the commission. The total cost to the state is $10 for every taxpayer who checks the box, and last year, the commission reaped $8 million in funding from check-offs.

Talk about muddying the waters. The Citizens Clean Elections Commission should live up to its name and stop using public money to sway elections.

Carrie Ann Sitren is an attorney with the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

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