Group petitions Arizona Supreme Court to overturn HB2593
Legislature acted unconstitutionally on behalf of big donors
Oct. 17- On Wednesday, Arizona Advocacy Network, the Citizens’ Clean Elections Commission, Rep. Victoria Steele and Louis Hoffman, filed a petition with the Arizona Supreme Court seeking to rule HB2593 unconstitutional. “Lawmakers supported by big money violated the contribution limits set by voters in the 1998 Citizens’ Clean Elections Act. They knew their actions were unconstitutional but couldn’t resist giving millionaires and billionaires more influence at the expense of working Arizona voters,” said Sam Wercinski, Executive Director of Arizona Advocacy Network. “The Court should take this case because voters, donors and candidates need to know if these huge dollar donations authorized by the legislature in HB2593 are legal or illegal.”
HB2593 increases the amount of money a privately funded candidate can accept from individuals, PACs and Super PACs sweeping aside the limits set by voters in the 1998 Citizens’ Clean Elections Act. HB2593 would increase the amounts from approximately $500 to $5000 and up to $10,000 for super PACs. It also will remove additional limits voters created for PACs to reduce their influence in elections and over elected officials. Voters understand that wealthy individuals and special interest groups want these limits removed so they can give more money in exchange for more influence at the state Capitol.
The Arizona Supreme Court rarely accepts a case under original jurisdiction but these plaintiffs have a compelling argument that should persuade the Court to hear their petition. They clearly show that if this matter is not resolved quickly, privately funded candidates will begin taking contributions from $5,000 to $10,000 from wealthy individuals, PACs and Super PACs that may later be ruled illegal and unconstitutional. The turmoil from this will harm candidate campaigns and confuse voters who are extremely concerned about the large sums of money influencing elections and elected officials.
Representative Victoria Steele (LD9 – Tucson) believes the Court should take this case immediately because of the uncertainty it creates for candidates and donors in addition to the fact that it violates the contribution limits Arizona voters established in 1998. She wants to run as a Clean Elections candidate and focus her time on district voters; however she has concerns about being significantly outspent by opponents if HB2593 were to go into effect. As a Clean Elections candidate, she would agree to spending caps in the primary and general elections and could only accept $3813 in private, contributions of $160 or less. “Big money opponents have tried to undermine the Clean Elections Act since it was passed by voters because it reduces special interests’ influence over policymaking. I’m taking this action with co-plaintiffs to defend the will of Arizona voters and support the goals of the Clean Elections Act.”
Tim Hogan from the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest is counsel for Arizona Advocacy Network and Representative Steele. He has had a number of successful cases targeting unconstitutional acts by lawmakers. Mr. Hogan added, “The legislature has a history of usurping the will of Arizona voters. HB2593 is another example of an unconstitutional act. ACLPI is pleased to represent AZAN and Representative Steele in our effort to defend the will of Arizona voters.”
Should the Arizona Supreme Court accept this case, a decision would be expected in two to three months. If the Court denies the petition, plaintiffs could file a motion in superior court and ultimately land before the Arizona Supreme Court for a final decision. This route would likely take several more months with a decision in early 2014. That would be well into the election cycle, creating uncertainty for candidates, donors and voters.