Jan 31, 2024 - News

Clean Elections commissioners to be replaced after years in limbo

Side by side photos of different women at microphones.

Gov. Katie Hobbs, left, and Treasurer Kimberly Yee are preparing to make appointments to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. Photos: Jeremy Duda/Axios; David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

After years of inaction, the Citizens Clean Elections Commission is on the verge of a complete overhaul.

State of play: Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, and state Treasurer Kimberly Yee, a Republican, will make appointments to the five-person body, which hasn't had a new member in seven years.

Context: All five commissioners are serving past the expiration of their five-year terms because former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey appointed only one commissioner during his two terms and declined to make any picks for nearly seven years.

Details: Commissioners are appointed alternately by the governor and the highest-ranking statewide elected official of the opposite party.

  • The last appointment was made in 2017 by Hobbs, who at the time served as Senate minority leader.

Driving the news: Hobbs and Yee recently asked Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, to weigh on who would make the next appointment. Mayes said the decision belongs to Hobbs.

  • Some previous governors focused on the alternation between political party rather than the office, meaning successive picks were made by the governor after the office changed hands between Democrats and Republicans.

What's next: The attorney general's opinion stated that Hobbs has the authority to make an appointment as Thursday, and the governor's spokesperson, Christian Slater, said she'll make her first appointment sometime after then.

  • Hobbs told reporters Monday she expects all five commissioners to be replaced. If that happens, she'll make three appointments.
  • "I'm looking for folks who support the mission of the Clean Elections Commission and will work to uphold that," Hobbs said.
  • Yee can't appoint anyone until after Hobbs.

Of note: No more than two commissioners can be of the same political party or from the same county.

Why it matters: Clean Elections laws, approved by voters in 1998, task the commission with administering Arizona's system of public funding for political campaigns.

  • The commission also has duties involving voter education, enforcement of campaign finance laws and hosting candidate debates.
  • It has enforcement authority over non-Clean Elections campaign finance laws as well.
  • The commission is also responsible under a voter-approved measure from 2022 for enforcing laws requiring the disclosure of anonymous campaign spending known as dark money, which is being challenged in court.

Zoom in: Commissioner Amy Chan, a Republican appointed by Hobbs in 2017, said she doesn't expect any significant changes in how the commission works, though she acknowledged commissioners could have different interpretations of the laws based on their political views.

What we're watching: We won't know until after the new commissioners are chosen whether there will be changes in how Clean Elections conducts its duties, she said.

  • Chan said the framers of the law intended for the commission to retain institutional knowledge it'll lose, but she noted that long-serving staff will be a resource for new commissioners.

Former Attorney General Terry Goddard, who spearheaded the campaign for the anti-dark money Proposition 211 in 2022, said he's unconcerned with how the new commissioners enforce the law because voters can go to court if Clean Elections declines to take action on complaints.

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