Arizona Advocacy Network

Government of, by and for the People

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A judge has tossed the latest challenge to the state's public-campaign-finance law, rebuffing attempts to stifle the education efforts of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

The judge noted the lawsuit took the unusual position of seeking to block the commission, a part of state government, from talking with citizens.

"The Court is unaware of any other situation in which a person or entity has sought to preclude a government commission from communicating with the citizenry -- that's not how government works," Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain wrote.

Usually, he said, people complain government is not responsive to them.

The suit argued the commission was wrongly using public money to advocate for publicly-financed candidate campaigns.

The Goldwater Institute and former state senator and current congressional candidate Jonathan Paton, acting as No Taxpayer Money for Politicians, went to court last fall, saying the commission was inappropriately doing a range of outreach programs, from surveying voters about public campaign financing to providing money to special-interest groups.

It also sought an injunction to block commission officials from saying the commission does not get any money from the state general fund.

But Brain said the commission is correct to state that, noting the Arizona Supreme Court already has found the statement to be true.

Brain rejected all the arguments and dismissed the case.

However, the plaintiffs said they will fight on.

"That's what appeals are for," said Paton, who has pushed for the repeal of Clean Elections since his days at the Capitol. He is currently a candidate for the GOP nomination in the new Congressional District 1. Federal races are not affected by Clean Elections.

The case was significant as the Clean Elections Commission is girding for a fight for its life at the ballot this fall.

The Legislature is working on a ballot referral, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1021, that would prohibit any level of government from using public dollars to fund campaigns.

The bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the House.