I've argued for years that the Clean Elections public funding scheme is the main reason that conservatives have been so successful in Arizona Elections. When I was in the Legislature, the Republican caucus had 33 Republicans and 17 self identified as "Conservative" and 16 self identified as "Moderate." That's much different than the current make up of our legislature. The reason that Clean Elections helps conservatives is that the need to raise money used to serve as a vetting process. When Clean Elections equalized the financial playing field, the candidates who had the largest grassroots network of motivated supporters suddenly had an advantage. Those candidates also tend to be more extreme.
The Republic's Doug MacEachern recently made a similar argument here. His column is well written and logical. Here's a sample.
Arizona not only is emphatically not more moderate and measured in its politics than when the Citizens Clean Elections law was passed, by a scant majority, 16 years ago.
It is overflowing with political hard cases. And the Clean Elections system has contributed to its extremism.
Here's the response from the "Democratic Deva."
That right there is pure Chamber of Commerce catnip. It’s bullshit, and it should be said that MacEachern regularly spouts right wing rhetoric that would make him fit right in with the wingnuttiest members of the legislature, so his sudden concern about “extremism” seems specious.
Wow, is that really what passes for debate? Unfortunately on the left side of the commentariate, that type of shrill denunciation followed by a personal attack actually is what passes for debate.
If you are looking for a little independent confirmation of our theory about Clean Elections, you might enjoy this article from the Economist.
Those seeking an example of the usefulness of private money in politics might start in Arizona, where for years a “clean-election” law ensured that fringe candidates received handsome state funding. A Supreme Court ruling put a stop to that in 2011, but its effects live on in the state legislature, which is several notches to the right of the voters.