Can we fix the California Crackup using "clean money"?
That's one of the questions Joe Mathews and I have been asked most frequently as we've talked around the state in the last year. Our answer, based on anecdotal evidence from Arizona, has been "no." We tell them that Arizona's so-called Clean Money system, which provides public funding to candidates who can round up a threshold number of small donors, seems to have promoted the election of more ideologically extreme legislators.
Now there's evidence to back up our impressions. At his blog Enik Rising, political scientist Seth Masket reports on and links to a study he and Michael Miller have conducted to measure the effect of the Clean Money systems in Maine and Arizona, the two states to adopt the campaign finance scheme favored by many reformers.
Their findings? Clean Money systems result in the election of more extreme candidates leading to increased polarization in state legislatures, an effect that decreases as those candidates get socialized/disciplined by party leaders.
Once again, a "reform" touted as a solution to our problems turns out to make them worse. Surprise, surprise.