Last Monday, State Senator John McComish (R-AZ) was at the Supreme Court to hear arguments in McComish v. Bennett -- a challenge he brought to Arizona's Clean Elections Act, which provides public financing for candidates accepting limits on campaign fundraising activities. On Thursday, McComish had to admit that he is himself enmeshed in a still-unfolding campaign finance scandal involving officials from the Fiesta Bowl. McComish's week tells you all you need to know what is wrong with both the campaign finance system in this country and the rulings of the Supreme Court in cases such as Citizens United v. FEC.
As shown in a 276-page report conducted by an outside firm, as well as in news reports, the scandal involves Fiesta Bowl officials allegedly providing freebie trips and gifts to Arizona state legislators, and more than $46,000 in campaign contributions to 23 candidates funneled through Fiesta Bowl employees. Last Thursday, Sen. McComish was forced to file an amended financial disclosure report, acknowledging that he had accepted from Fiesta Bowl officials a gift of more than $500 in value involving a trip to the Big 12 Championship in Dallas in 2009, and had not disclosed this fact as required by Arizona law.
The recipients of the campaign donations from the Fiesta Bowl's employees are not public at this point, so currently it is impossible to know whether Sen. McComish's campaign received donations funneled from any Fiesta Bowl employees. What we do know already is that the lead plaintiff in McComish v. Bennett is himself involved in a scandal that illustrates precisely why the public financing law he is challenging is necessary to avoid the corrupting influence of special interest money in politics.
The saddest part of the story is that it appeared on Monday, the the same day a five-Justice majority on the Supreme Court was prepared to strike down Arizona's thoughtfully-constructed public financing program. Maybe these Justices will hear of the real life shenanigans of "McComish" in the case of McComish v. Bennett and reconsider. McComish is becoming Exhibit A in why the Supreme Court should reject his claim.