by Jim Keyworth
roundup staff reporter
The next general election isn't until 2002, but candidates for statewide office who agree to participate in the clean elections program can now come to your door seeking financial support.
They're asking registered voters for $5 contributions that will qualify them for matching public funds, and preclude them from accepting special interest donations.
"If you're publicly funded, you can't accept special interest money at all no political action money, no corporate money," said Jill Collins, public relations and education manager for the Citizens Clean Election Commission.
With candidates eligible to begin knocking on doors Wednesday, Collins has embarked on a statewide tour of cities and towns around the state to let voters know what's going on.
Arizona was one of the first states to enact campaign finance reform when voters approved the Clean Elections Act in 1998. The act created a new system for public funding of elections and created the commission to oversee the program.
Last year, the first in which candidates could receive funding under the act, 14 legislative and two corporation commission candidates who participated in the program were elected. But a lawsuit kept participation minimal last year, so Collins expects a huge increase in the number of candidates who take advantage of the program in the 2002 election.
The lawsuit, filed by a political action committee of the state chamber of commerce, sought to have the Clean Elections program declared unconstitutional. It was dismissed in June.
To qualify for funding, participating candidates must adhere to strict spending and contribution limits and demonstrate local support by collecting a minimum number of $5 contributions from eligible voters. That minimum varies by office, ranging from 200 for legislature candidates to 4,000 for governor candidates.
The program is funded by state tax credit donations, a 10-percent surcharge on all civil and criminal fines, and a $110 annual fee for lobbyists representing commercial or for-profit activities. Nonparticipating candidates are required to submit detailed reports of all campaign contributions.
For more information, visit the Citizens Clean Elections Commission Web site at www.azcleanelections.com.