The New Times article also details how the matching funds provision can be manipulated by allies running in multicandidate races. When a privately funded candidate outspends a publicly funded candidate, the publicly funded candidate is guaranteed enough money to keep pace. In 2008, in a race for a multi-seat state commission board, a Democrat spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of his money, knowing that a fellow Democrat would benefit by receiving matching funds.
The matching funds provision in the clean elections law has been successfully challenged in court. The provision has been knocked out of the Connecticut law, and is also under attack in Arizona. The U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on matching funds this fall.
Lang of Arizona's Clean Elections Commission cautions that clean elections reforms are "not a panacea."
According to Lang, the real benefit of clean elections reforms is the access they offer to a broader range of candidates. "We have folks running without relying on those special interests," said Lang, "and I think it makes a difference to the average voter."
"They get to decide on your ideas, not your pocketbook."
This is the final story in a week-long series of the Ross Investigative Unit's 2010 Carnegie Fellows, five student journalists who reported on the state of state legislatures for broadcast and web publication. This summer, the five reporters attended the annual convention of the National Conference of State Legislatures, which draws thousands of legislators, staffers and lobbyists.
On this week's episode of "Brian Ross Investigates," a weekly 30-minute news magazine, watch extended interviews and never-before-seen footage of the convention in Louisville, Kentucky. Click here to watch party footage from the convention. and here for a report on a partying lawmaker groping and kissing a student reoprter. Frank Anechiarico, professor of government and law at Hamilton College, tells Brian Ross, "It's really just the tip of the iceberg for the way that 50 legislatures work around the country."
Also this week on Brian Ross Investigates, watch a report on talks with the Taliban. "Brian Ross Investigates" airs every Friday on Hulu.com and ABC News Now, the network's 24-hour news channel available throughout the U.S. and Europe, at 1:36pm. Each show is also available on mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad.