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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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