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Nonprofit Challenges Arizona Campaign Law

PHOENIX (CN) - The Arizona Senate is trying, unconstitutionally, to amend the state constitution by defunding the Citizens Clean Election Commission, banning use of public money to "provide campaign support," and transferring all the money in the clean elections fund to the general fund, an advocacy group and candidates claim.

The Arizona Advocacy Network Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes "social, economic, racial, and environmental justice by connecting and building power among activists," challenges Senate Concurrent Resolution 1025 in Maricopa County Court.

The Legislature approved it on April 20 and sent it to the defendant Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

SCR 1025 states that Arizona will not "collect or spend public funds to provide campaign support for candidates for public office" or "provide any tax credit or deduction in connection with providing public funds to candidates for public office."

The resolution defunds the Citizens Clean Election Commission and the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act's system "for participating statewide and legislative candidates and the matching funds campaign finance system for participating City of Tucson mayoral and city council candidates."

Voters approved the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act in 1998. It established a "voluntary system for the delivery of public monies for political campaigns" for candidates for statewide office, including governor and attorney general.

In 1987, Tucson voters approved a campaign finance law to provide matching funds for mayoral and city council candidates.

The plaintiffs include a mayor, a state representative, voters, statewide candidates and a member of the state Corporation Commission. They say the resolution impermissibly seeks to "incorporate in one ballot measure at least two separate constitutional amendments that do not form a consistent and workable whole and are so different and independent from each other that a vote may reasonably support one without supporting the other."

They seek declaratory judgment that the resolution's terms "campaign," "campaigns," and "provide campaign support for candidates" be construed to include only the expenditure of public funds "for purposes that are susceptible of not reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate for public office, and does not include any of the CCEC's administration and voter education functions."

The plaintiffs are represented by Paul Eckstein and James Ahlers with Perkins Coie.

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