Fenger Pointing

Becky Fenger | July 30, 2008 Becky Fenger

Ideas that make sense

The New York Times took a break from stroking their love child Barack Obama long enough to report on a legal policy that many think needs changing. “The United States is the only country in the world to take the position that some police misconduct must automatically result in the suppression of physical evidence,” the Times reports.

The “exclusionary rule” that automatically tosses evidence against a suspect is applied whether the misconduct is very minor or far more serious, notwithstanding the gravity of the crime or the totality of the evidence. Everywhere else in the world, it is left to the discretion of the trial judge to decide whether the police were derelict enough to warrant jettisoning their collected evidence. Why should criminals go free if an officer has botched it, some are asking.

The idea of transparency in government is a stellar one. This is the practice of letting ordinary citizens in on the inner workings of government by publicizing in a timely fashion where the money goes. Anyone with Internet access should be able to immediately see how and where government agencies are doling out tax money.

That’s why kudos go to CD 5 candidate David Schweikert for printing where property taxes went right on homeowners’ property bills when he was Maricopa County Treasurer. It irritated the hell out of school districts, who are always complaining of getting short shrift, but Schweikert’s graphics that broke out the spending showed otherwise. Of course school officials didn’t like the idea of showing what a budget override actually cost property owners. Some districts even have three bonds going on at once!

Spending too much money by politicians, unfortunately, is not in and of itself a deal-breaker for voters. With transparency, however, every single check the government writes is turned into a potential earmark and voters can decide accordingly. At a candidate’s forum sponsored by the Sunnyslope Alliance, Marilyn Fox (running for Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in District 3) touted her support of transparency. She wants the minutes of their meetings immediately posted on the Web. Plus, she has signed the Goldwater Institute’s “Open Government Pledge.” (Check it out at www.goldwaterinstitute.org.)

Transparency is non-partisan. It will bring more candidates to the political arena than Clean Elections ever will. Transparency will expose waste and corruption. The press loves transparency. Maybe that is why twelve states in the last fifteen months have been able to pass some sort or transparency legislation. Transparency is good.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court just struck down the “Millionaire’s Amendment” in Davis vs. FEC as a violation of free speech rights, it’s time to drive a stake through the heart of Arizona’s misnamed “Clean” Elections law. Taylor Earl, a law clerk at the Arizona Chapter of the Institute for Justice, writes in a Capitol Times piece that Clean Elections “does indirectly what the court says it cannot do directly: It coerces non-government-funded candidates into limiting their spending by punishing them when they do not.” The Court ruled that limits on campaign spending violate free speech.

What a gift the Justices bequeathed us with their parting shot before adjourning for the session. There is no way that Arizona’s “Clean” Elections law can stand after what the Supremes ruled. An added bonus is that we no longer have to listen to that insipid radio ad that claims everybody wins with “Clean” Elections. No, good candidates lose, because any time they spend too much money, the taxpayers’ wallets are tapped to hand equal money to their opponents. Well, it’s worse than that. Since it cost money for a non-government-funded candidate to pay for food and other services at a fundraiser, the “Clean” candidate actually comes out ahead, since he didn’t have any expenses but reaped the loot. We had to endure “Clean” Elections for ten years simply because it wasn’t properly titled, “Taxpayer Funding of Politicians.”