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One counter to the claim that Clean Elections has meant more extreme viewpoints is that the GOP nationally has largely become much more conservative. Some of this is through increasing power of organizations who aid GOP candidates who attack GOP incumbents from the right.

I was tempted to write "You had me until you said you liked Carl Seel." Then I gave in to that temptation.

Greg, other than that, you are right on.

I don't recall the famous Greek philosopher's exact quote so I'll just make one up and say perhaps in the end in a democracy we have to choose between corruption and ignorance. And I fear ignorance above all else.

Ah, Greg, don't you mean KEITH Bee, not TIM Bee?

Went to school with Keith, who was (and is) a good guy.

He cleaned up DMV (kind of like cleaning the Auguean stables).

Tim, on the other hand, is pathetic.

Great post and an appropriate one right after the Republic ran yet another story reporting on (promoting?) the new reformers' agenda. If you can fluff this post up with a few more words, it could be a doctoral dissertation in political science.

About the only "reform" you did not comment on was independents voting in party primaries. I would be interested in your opinion on that one.

It's Sen. Russell PEArce and Sen. Steve PIErce. By the way, Sen. Steve Pierce was one of those (R) candidates who "attacked" an (R) incumbent from the right. Then Pierce turned out to be a bit more moderate than adveertised.

I like Rep. Carl Seel too.

Spot on anlaysis. The new batch of "reformers" are not non-political. Platform Republicans need not apply for these committees. The Arizona Republic loves these propsed "reforms." It has to be bad.

Close the primaries.

So the Phoenix 40 (now the Phoenix 100) will decide for us, poor-lowly people, what is best for us? No, thanks.

Did the "under 30 caucus" ever have to deal with a $4 billion budget deficit? Could they have? Oh, I supposed they "never would have been there in the first place." hmmmmmmmm....

The core reform argument is a belief that a) we have the worst k-12 schools in the nation and b) that our universities have deteriorated since the early 90's.

The truth is different.

The very best studies rank our k-12 schools slightly above average. For educated consumers, we have the best k-12 school system in the nation. Our number one ranking in school choice enables every parent to find a free school whose performance is among the very best private schools in the nation.

In the early 90's, only 12% of ASU graduates rated the quality of their education excellent. Today, 32% rate it excellent. Satisfaction, a lower level of quality, is stratospherically higher. This improvement in quality is part and parcel of why ASU has exploded in student count.

Another fiction they share is the lack of performance of our economy. In 1993, the average wage level in Arizona ranked 26th in the nation. In 2005, that had slowly risen to 21st. Only one other state in the nation gained more than 5 slots.

They prefer per capita income, believing that an increasing population share of retirees and children is a bad thing.

The cities bear the standard for the reformers. Our Maricopa county cities are among the most obese in the nation. Over the last two decades they have claimed an increasing share of our economy with just an iota improvement in quality.

The last few years, cities went into a feeding frenzy, comparing salaries with each other competing furiously to be the most expensive. Their claims against our retirement funds soared by billions of dollars.

Inadvertently, that is the kind of government the reformers want to see - fat, mediocre and contented.

The reformers are all good people, dealing with reality as a construct of the mind constructed by our mainstream media. The challenge they have is with blogs like this where reality is a construct of reality and people are knowledgeable enough to separate fact from fiction.

Greg, you wrote,

"Well, in 1984 men like Burton Barr controlled the money. Lobbyists gave their contributions to the leadership PACs and the leadership doled it out to individual candidates. That meant that the caucuses worked as a team and fell in line with leadership. If you weren't "statesmen like" you didn't come back--actually, if you weren't hand picked, you never got to the legislature in the first place. It worked like a well oiled machine...true, a political machine, but a well oiled one."

Thanks for admitting that political machines like this are welcomed by you. Richard Daley would be proud of you. You have already written about the fruits of this kind of 'political machine':

"What a stunning rebuke. Maybe Obama can go on Letterman again and talk through it. I don't know if the International Olympic Committee was just trying to poke Obama in the eye...or if it's possible that even an organization as corrupt as the IOC can't tolerate the amount of corruption that would have occurred if the Olympics had been held in Chicago during this administration."

I will put up with populism over political machines any day.

Best Post Ever. PJ O'Rourke's "Parliament of Whores" had it right - we get exactly the government we deserve. And really, it's not THAT bad.
At some point it gets old hearing people describe how awful things are in Arizona. Let's look at it realistically. Great freeway system in Maricopa County, and Pima County is (finally) expanding its freeway. Reasonable energy prices. Excellent water management. Good Universities in Phoenix and Tucson, with lots of private university options. Lots of hospitals and health options. Yes, the government is going to have to cutback - just like every business has done - but is that really a disaster?


You say: "Thanks for admitting that political machines like this are welcomed by you."

But Greg said in two different places that he prefers the current system.

Para 6: "For the record, let me say that I'm pretty happy with the current system."

The last sentence before the PS: "I happen to like the current system and the current legislature--of course, I also like to shop at Wal Mart."

A well written, thought provoking, and insightful post.

I grit my teeth every time I read one of the Republic's articles about Lattie Coor or Sandra Day O'Connor. I'm sure both of them would make nice neighbors. But the fact is, neither one of them has ever had to meet a business payroll, and frankly, that is the skill set our state needs.

Arizona's main problem right now is that it's broke. None of the so-call reforms being proposed by Coor, O'Connor & company would have helped if they had been in place. Arizona is broke because Janet Napolitano, in conjunction with Democrats and moderate Republicans, dramatically increased state spending beyond inflation and population growth.

Having spend every sent of the tax revenue generated by the real estate and credit bubble, it's no wonder we're ready to bounce checks.

Thank goodness we didn't have more tax-and-spend "moderates" in the legislature -- we' would just be further in the hole.

State government is un-sustainably large at the moment. Downsizing is going to be painful. We don't need Coor or O'Connor right now. We need tough men and women armed with machetes, ready to slash away at spending. Scissors will not cut spending fast enough to save us. Tell the politicians who show up with scissors to go home.

Finally, the term "moderate" should always be put in quotation marks. Typically, the so called "moderate voter" is the one who barely pay attention to politics. How being a "moderate" is a political virtue is beyond me.

Here's an interesting article, consistent with Greg's theme, questioning whether our increasing mania for "transperancy" has actually done anything to improve government:

Bill, you are hilarious.

State government, as a percentage of the state's population is smaller than at any time since the second world war. At 32,000 state employees, you can check it out yourself.

Now, you want cuts- okay we kick prisoners, and we kick students. Nothing else left.

We are now pretty much at federal minimums for welfare and medicaid/medicare. Nothing there to cut.

Oh yeah, stop building roads- cause we stole that money to pay the bills.

We are trying to sell our buildings, which will force a tax increase all on it's own to pay the interest.

So, do you feel stupid now?

Cause you are.

Great post.


I think Greg's tongue was planted deeply in his cheek when he wrote,

" I happen to like the current system and the current legislature--of course, I also like to shop at Wal Mart."

First time I ever heard Jeff Groscost, Rusty Bowers and Lisa Graham called moderates. I suppose Bill English was a moderate too. Rusty couldn't give away the State fast enough to the mining industry. The Arizona Republic's endorsements in those days were not "Moderate" but only went to the rightwing. Maybe you flew in Duke Tully's squadron too. Burton Barr was a pragmatist, but you always had the Mesa extreme right wingers. You miss the real point. What we need are legislators who believe in the State and its people first, and are not looking for the next job up the ladder. What we need are legislators who don't believe that God gave them a personal agenda and that they are God's instrument to tell everyone what to do. The legislatures waste's loads of time on these items. What we don't need is rotating legislators, from one side of the Capitol to the other, then into an agency, and then back to one side of the Capitol or another. Sorry, I actually like the $5 Clean Election system. We do get some wing nuts, but lots are people are able to run who could not otherwise get the money to spend. I greatly resent the idea that spending money IS the First Amendment. But you are probably on the right track talking about the lack of turnout in primaries and I blame that on the Republicans. That is how we got Governor Mecham. By the way, I am a registered Republican. But relatively, Arizona's State Government is not that big, and the population and demands keep growing. And lots of it supported the development industry, including the Land Department. Janet N. tried to bring Arizona into the 20th Century, let alone the 21st, and that was needed. Yes, if I had a real choice I would want Janet N. not Mecham or Fife.

I loved this article. I am the Managing Editor of is a political discussion site. We currently have 184 members. I would love for you to become a member (its free) and post this great article. Just go to

Ric Rubino

Tom in Kingman writes: "I actually like the $5 Clean Election system....I greatly resent the idea that spending money IS the First Amendment."

You can "like" $5 "Clean Election" all day long, but it DOESN'T cost $5 and it's not "clean." It takes my money and gives it to my opponent, it suppresses people's ability to give money to the candidate of their choice and arbitrarily and inconsistently enforces it's vague rules. If this doesn't bother you, you're too ignorant to even be a part of the discussion. Furthmore, if you don't think government telling me who I can and cannot donate money to, isn't a violatoin of the constitution, you're beyond hope.

I thought this was an excellent post. I liked the idea of publicly funded elections and I still do, even though very often I am not impressed by the winning candidates. I am interested too in what(if any) impact the open primaries have had in the process. Seems to me that with such large numbers they would have more of a voice in the process if they actually voted.

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