End Of Election Fund Goal Of Insight Chief

By Chip Scutari

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 advertising.

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 Clean Elections."

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

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

   Become a Clean Money Member