While the state legislature continues go in the wrong direction, gutting common-sense rules designed to curtail in the influence of big money on our elections, cities are leading the way on reform:
Tempe Contribution Limits
In recent years, the state legislature has dramatically increased campaign contributions limits - not only for state elections, but local races too. For example, the individual limit for a candidate running for Mayor or City Council in Tempe jumped from $430 to $6,250.
In response, the Tempe City Council decided unanimously to ask Tempe voters to place a new set of limits into the city charter. The voters agreed, with the new limits receiving 88% of the vote in the March 2016 election. It was a resounding victory for reform, and a reminder that voters do not want moneyed interests to dominate elections.
That should've been the end of the story. Instead, Governor Ducey was able to hold up the new limits thanks to a little-known provision in the state constitution requiring gubernatorial approval of new city charters or charter amendments. The Governor's decision is not discretionary - under the terms of the constitutional provision, he "shall approve [the charter amendment] if it shall not be in conflict with this Constitution or with the laws of the state."
In passing lower limits than those set out in state law, Tempe voters exercised their constitutional right as residents of a charter city to make their own rules for their own elections. That's a right of charter cities the Arizona courts have recognized repeatedly over the years.
Yet, 14 months after the voters passed the new limits, Governor Ducey still had not given them his official approval. With the 2018 election cycle well underway and other reform efforts stalled by the prospect of running into the same hurdle, it became crucial that Tempe voters get an answer from Governor Ducey.
On April 10, 2017, the Tempe City Council sent a letter to Governor Ducey requesting he act within 30 days. We leapt into action, launching a petition drive and canvassing effort to bring attention to the situation. Thankfully, the Governor signed off on the new limits.
This victory means that not only will the new limits go into effect for Tempe's 2018 elections, it vindicates all charter cities' ability to reform their own elections. We continue to work with leaders in Tempe to drive forward an election reform agenda, building upon this important victory.
Phoenix Lobbying Rules
Following up on his reporting about some suspicious campaign contributions in Phoenix city elections, city officials discovered that Phoenix's lobbyist registration rules have no enforcement mechanism. We publicly joined a chorus of calls to fix that gaping whole in the city's transparency rules. That was in January 2017.
Yet, the problem still has not been fixed. When the Arizona Republic revisited the issue, we again called for speedy action. We will continue to be a voice for clear rules and strong enforcement, to protect the voters from having their democracy thwarted by the influence of unaccountable money.