Friday, October 20, 2006

PBS Now Tonight

PBS Now:

The run-up to this year's midterm election smells of scandal and corruption, which raises the question: Can anyone stop the influence of big money and big influence on political campaigns?

Before, you say "of course not," check out our special hour-long investigation into the fight to keep American elections free and fair across the country. Airing less than three weeks before Americans go to the polls, "Votes for Sale?" will spotlight the so-called clean elections movement, a radical public-funding experiment adopted in Maine and Arizona to revolutionize how campaigns are conducted. It works like this: candidates for public office receive a flat sum of money from the government to finance their campaign. In return, the candidates agree to use almost no private funds to run their elections.

Pushing special interest money out of the election process may do more than clean things up. It could also open the door for a variety of people who care about democracy to run for office with realistic hopes of winning. Case in point: Arizona State Representative Doug Quelland, a conservative Republican who supports clean elections by his own example. With a background in public school teaching and running a handful of neighborhood businesses, including a lawnmower repair shop, Quelland captured voter interest door-to-door armed only with his passion and point of view. He's now running for his third term in the state legislature and still sports his trademark handlebar moustache. "I don't want to owe anybody anything. I don't want to have to have the special interests. I just want to do it and not beholden to anybody," Rep. Quelland told NOW.

Quelland's state of Arizona is one of the biggest clean election battlegrounds, where the nation's only "clean-elected" governor, Janet Napolitano, sits in the statehouse. Governor Napolitano talks to NOW's David Brancaccio about her strong convictions regarding clean elections. "I think what Clean Elections allows you to do is be a better candidate and a better office holder, because you're not all the time having to raise money," Napolitano said.

In California, a very contentious debate is underway over Proposition 89, a clean election initiative about which voters will have the final say on November 7.

The trailer is one Youtube.

The show airs tonight.