Candidates: Turn back those dollars
Now that a court has slapped a preliminary injuction on higher campaign contribution limits, an advocacy group is urging candidates to refun anything they collected in excess of the previous limits. “We intend to educate voters about donor contributions that violated the Clean Elections Act and encourage all candidates to return amounts in excess of the voter approved limits,” the network’s executive director, Sam Wercinski, said in a statement.
That would mean sticking to the $440 limit for legislative candidates and $912 for statewide candidates, such as those running for governor, treasurer and Corporation Commission.
House Bill 2593, which was blocked by Tuesday’s preliminary injunction from the state Court of Appeals, raised that limit to $2,500 for both legislative and statewide offices as of Sept. 13. Because the bill also defined the primary and general elections as separate cycles, the actual limit is $5,000 for the two combined.
Whether candidates will follow the advocacy network’s appeal to refund excess contributions is uncertain. The Arizona Secretary of State’s office, which oversees elections, posted a copy of the court’s order on its website and told media outlets that candidates “couldn’t go wrong” if they stuck to the lower amounts. But it said it would not issue further direction until the court followed up with its written opinion, something that typically trails an injunction order by days, weeks or even months.
Tom Collins, executive director of the Clean Elections Commission, which brought the lawsuit challenging the new limits as a violation of the Voter Protection Act, said there’s only one set of funding limits in place, and that would be the limits that have been in law prior to HB2593′s brief life.
“If you’re having a fundraiser today or tomorrow or until that (court) order changes, the right thing would be for candidates to not accept contributions greater than $440,” he said.