Arizona Campaign Funding Law Is Illegal, Group Says

     PHOENIX (CN) – The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission sued the secretary of state, fighting a law that repeals some limits on state campaign contributions and drastically increases others.
     The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission is “an independent government commission created by the voter-enacted Citizens Clean Elections Act of 1998,” the group says in its lawsuit in Maricopa County Court.
     The citizens commission claims Arizona House Bill 2593 violates the state constitution and its Voter Protection Act.
     The citizens commission claims that the Legislature passed HB 2593, which amended the Citizens Clean Elections Act, without a three-fourths majority in both houses.
     The bill “eliminates the aggregate caps that limit how much a candidate may receive from political committees each election cycle and how much individuals could give on an annual basis to candidates and political committees that give to candidates. The shift – from robust aggregate caps put in place initially by the voters to no caps at all – repeals a voter initiative,” the lawsuit states.
     The bill also amends “campaign contribution limits put in place by the voters. The increase in the contribution limits applicable to statewide and legislative candidates provided for in HB 2593 is an amendment to the Citizens Clean Elections Act because it takes away from the Citizens Clean Elections Act. Specifically, it weakens the limits placed on contributions to candidates by voters through the Citizens Clean Elections Act,” according to the complaint.
     The commission claims that under HB 2593, “the individual contribution limit per election for legislative office jumps from $440 to $4,000.”
     The bill, signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer on April 11, “passed both houses of the Arizona Legislature by a simple majority (32-23 in the House and 17-13 in the Senate) and … made no pretense of furthering the purposes of the Citizens Clean Elections Act,” the complaint states.
     The Citizens Clean Elections Act “set campaign contribution limits at 80 percent of their then-current values,” the complaint states, and is buttressed by the Voter Protection Act.
     The Voter Protection Act “prohibits repeals by the Legislature of citizen initiatives approved by the voters on or after 1998, and it prohibits amendments to such citizen initiatives unless the amendment receives a three-fourths vote in both houses of the Legislature and furthers the purpose of the initiative,” according to the complaint.
     The citizens commission claims HB 2593 “did not comply with the requirements in the VPA, including that any amendment must receive a three-fourths vote in both houses of the Legislature.”
     The bill is scheduled to take effect on Sept. 13. It was sponsored by J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler.
     The commission wants the bill declared unconstitutional and enjoined.
     It is represented by Joseph Kanefield with Ballard Spahr.

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