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Updated Oct 7, 2013 - 4:07 pm

Campaign finance changes may boost business clout

PHOENIX — New Arizona campaign finance laws that increase contribution
limits may boost the influence of business interests.

Those interests were once viewed as political powerhouses, but their clout
diminished with the advent of public funding for state election candidates in
Arizona.

That’s because public financing made it easier for candidates to get elected
without support of business interests.

The new laws increase limits on contributions by individuals and political
action committees, which could make private financing more attractive to
candidates.

But candidates in both parties’ primaries will need a “broader level of
appeal,” said Chris Herstam, a Republican lobbyist and former legislator.

“The ideologues will be fewer in number and have far less impact on public
policymaking in Arizona,” Herstam told the Arizona Capitol Times.

Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry,
said it probably will be harder to get elected without support from the business
community.

“It should increase the ability of the job creators to participate in our
election system,” Hamer said.

The potential increase in business interests’ clout is viewed as undesirable by
some.

Public campaign financing was intended to allow people to run for office
without getting a “stamp of approval” from powerbrokers, said Louis Hoffman,
chairman of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and a drafter of the 1998
voter-approved law that created the financing system.

The commission is challenging the higher campaign contribution limits in court.

“I think that, assuming this stuff stands up on appeal, the business community
has a lot better chance at effectively picking the candidates who are going to
be successful. And it leaves it less up to the average voters,” Hoffman said.

Kevin DeMenna, a lobbyist for businesses and other clients at the Legislature,
said the biggest beneficiaries in the business community will be the chambers of
commerce and major trade organizations and corporations with powerful PACs that
participate heavily in the election scene, he said.

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