Hed Lines: Candidate for governor seeks financial support from unlikely source - reporter

Some politicians are better than others in cultivating the press.

For instance, Secretary of State Betsey Bayless sends me a Christmas card with a color photo of herself every year.

She is running as a Republican candidate for governor in a crowded field.

The Bayless for Governor campaign sent an unusual request to me at my work address in a "Dear Ken" letter dated Feb.

13.

"I will be running under the Clean Elections Law, which is a new method of financing campaigns approved by Arizona voters in 1998," the letter stated.

"A Clean Elections candidate must meet certain requirements and must not accept contributions from special interest groups.

"To qualify, I must collect a $5 contribution from over 4,000 registered voters," the letter continued.

"I also must collect petitions with the signatures of about 10,000 registered Republican voters."

Here's the kicker: "I hope you will help me establish my candidacy by signing and dating the bottom of this letter and returning it with your $5 contribution.

The contribution may be in cash or a check payable to Bayless for Governor.

Any voter registered in Arizona may contribute."

Unfortunately, the Bayless campaign sent the solicitation to somebody who can't do her any good: a member of the press.

Most savvy politicians know this.

By choosing journalism as a career, I have given up some rights of citizenship.

I do not sign or circulate petitions.

I do not give money to candidates or causes or endorse them.

My rule applies regardless of my own personal beliefs.

I limit my political activity to voting.

The rule applies, regardless of whether it comes to making a $5 contribution to a Clean Elections candidate or contributing as much as $700 (the maximum allowed) to a candidate for statewide office who is seeking traditional means of financing.

I sought an opinion on the subject matter from Le Templar, president of the Valley of the Sun chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the Phoenix area.

I belong to SPJ.

Templar, a reporter at the East Valley Tribune, buttressed my position in an e-mail response.

"A working journalist never should contribute money, time or even a name to any political candidate or election cause," he wrote.

"Such a step compromises the independence of the journalist and her employer.

Viewers and readers will assume journalists will take enough time to think about what they are doing, and therefore any action represents active support of the candidate or cause.

Active support makes it impossible for a journalist/employer to be fair and unbiased in news coverage, at least in the public's eyes."

I'll rest my case.

I placed two phone calls and sent an e-mail to the Bayless campaign and called her office.

Unfortunately, I did not receive any response as deadline neared on Tuesday morning.

I can safely assume that the campaign sent the letter to me by mistake.

I have no idea of knowing whether any other reporters in the state received the Clean Elections solicitation from the campaign.

Bayless and other candidates for state offices who go the Clean Elections route should be commended for forsaking big campaign contributions.

As of Monday, eight candidates for governor were going to Clean Elections route, according to Paula Ortiz, executive assistant with the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

Matt Salmon, a former member of the U.S.

House of Representatives who is running as a Republican, apparently is the sole candidate to buck the Clean Elections tide.

I told Deputy Director Matthew Shaffer about the solicitation from the Batyless campaign.

"We just storehouse the forms," he said.

"How candidates go about their contributions is totally up to them.

It is a huge process to get those $5 contributions.

… A lot of candidates for governor say it is more difficult to get 4,000 $5 contributions from citizens in Arizona than it is to get 600 $700 contributions."

Readers can find out more about Clean Elections by calling the office at (602) 200-0013 or, toll-free, at (877) 631-8891, or visiting its Web site at www.azcleanelections.com.