End Of Election Fund Goal Of Insight Chief
Eric Crown, who turned a $2,000 advance on his credit card
into a billion-dollar computer company, is now leading the
voter initiative to end Arizona's popular yet controversial
system of publicly funding politicians' campaigns.
Crown, who started Insight Enterprises of Tempe with his
brother, said the state's Clean Elections is using millions
of taxpayer dollars for politicians that should be spent on
things education or Child Protective Services.
Last September the his group, "No Taxpayer Money for
Politicians," filed an initiative for the Nov. 2 ballot
that would amend the state Constitution and ban the use of
Clean Elections money for political races.
Crown's official title will be chairman. In reality, Crown,
42, will be the group's Swiss Army knife: part fund-raiser,
part cheerleader and part strategist.
"With our huge state deficit, why are we earmarking $20
million for politicians?" asked Crown, who has contributed
$30,000 to the campaign. "There are a bunch of other good
causes: children, teachers, etc. If this takes 16-hour
days, I'll do whatever it takes."
Crown said the group plans to raise about $500,000 to cover
the cost of gathering 184,000 signatures by July. So far,
they have raised $150,000. After getting on the ballot, the
group will raise money to do television spots and other
Surcharges on civil and criminal fines account for 65
percent of the Clean Elections fund. The rest comes from a
$5 state income-tax checkoff and a dollar-for-dollar
income-tax credit for up to $500.
Barb Lubin, executive director of the Clean Elections
Institute, an advocacy group, said the law has let more
people participate in politics.
She called Clean Elections a "cash cow for the state." The
system has generated $5.5 million for the state budget over
the past year because it collected more than it needed.
"These surcharges never existed before Clean Elections,"
Lubin said. "This is brand new money intended to pay for
Supporters of Clean Elections have created their own
campaign committee called "Keep It Clean."
Arizona is now one of only three states with a Clean
Elections law. In 2002, clean elections became a lightning
rod in state politics. Many candidates took advantage of
the law, including 30 of 39 statewide candidates and 110 of
221 legislative candidates.
The system has distributed nearly $15 million to hundreds
of candidates. It's estimated an additional $5 million will
go to candidates this year. Voters narrowly approved the
law in 1998.
See the article on Arizona Republic website