President Matt Rupert introduced our guest speaker: our own Sharon Stinard, candidate for the Arizona House in Legislative District 16. Sharon spoke about the Clean Elections Commission.


Voters established the Clean Elections Act in 1998 to promote democracy and fight corruption in politics. The Clean Elections Commission is a non-partisan group of five members, tasked with administering the Clean Elections Act and making sure the candidates and voting matters are handled correctly. Violators can be brought up on charges. Currently, the commission consists of two republicans, two democrats, and one independent.


All candidates who run for office using the Clean Elections Fund are required to go through a training class to be sure they are familiar with the rules and regulations governing their use of funds. The Clean Elections candidates are also required to participate in forums hosted by the Clean Elections Commission. Candidates who conduct campaigns using private funding are not required to participate, but may if they so desire.


The Clean Elections Commission also produces non-partisan, neutral informational booklets that are sent to every registered voter, introducing the candidates. The commission’s motto is, “The only side we take is yours.”


Most first time candidates use the Clean Elections Fund to conduct their campaign, “because most first time candidates don’t yet have friends with deep pockets.” However, because politicians may choose to run their campaign using only private donations, the discerning voter must consider who is funding that candidate’s campaign and to whom he or she may be beholden.


All candidates running using the Clean Elections Fund must collect 300 $5.00 contributions from the district in which they are running. “All I have to do is go door-to-door every Saturday and get $5 contributions from people I don’t know… and this also ensures that there is citizen participation. I think I can be a good candidate, but do other people? Even though we may not align on all the ideological issues, is there a common core that we share? If enough people believe that and support you, then that says something about your candidacy as well.”


The Clean Elections Fund is supplemented by the 300 $5 contributions that the candidates must collect. The rest of the money comes from fines and fees. There are NO taxpayer dollars that go into the fund.


Candidates are allowed to collect seed money up to a total of $4,011 from anyone – even out-of-state or non-registered voters – but they cannot go over that amount. “My heart’s been hurt, because people are giving me checks for $25 or $50, and I have to say, ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t accept that. I’m already at $4,011 dollars!’”


“Also, I, as a candidate, can only contribute $720 to my own campaign. That also includes my husband, my three sisters, my nieces, all their husbands, and if my parents or grandparents were alive, they would be included, too. All of us together could only provide $720 total to the campaign. So it really keeps you down to earth, meeting and greeting as you go.”


“I’m probably 2/3 of the way to collecting the 300 $5 contributions, so I have been doing house parties and going door-to-door. I’ve come to enjoy both. Besides…it’s pretty good exercise. And it is really interesting when people start declaring their politics. I call it candidate education.”