Court: Candidates must use lower contribution limits
Candidates for city, school board and other local offices can continue collecting campaign donations capped at $5,000 per donor.But for now, candidates running in statewide and legislative elections must abide by donation limits that have been in place since earlier this year. Any attempts to collect higher contributions allowed by a new state law that is on hold could result in campaign violations and fines.
The advice comes as the state Court of Appeals on Thursday expanded on the reasoning it used in imposing a preliminary injunction on the higher limits for statewide candidates, such as governor and attorney general, as well as legislative candidates. It did not address local races.
The appeals court on Oct. 15 found that House Bill 2593, which became law on Sept. 13, circumvented the controls imposed on these campaign donations by the voter-approved Clean Elections Act.
An attorney for Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, and House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, said lawmakers are still mulling a likely appeal to the state Supreme Court.
The leaders disagree with the appeals-court finding and also believe existing contribution limits are unconstitutionally low.
However, all sides in the dispute agree the current fundraising limit is $912 per donor for statewide candidates and $440 per donor for legislative offices. Congressional races are governed by a separate set of federal rules.
Any money raised during the one-month window between when the new law took effect and the court issued its preliminary injunction should be set aside and not spent until the case has finished its journey through the courts. That’s the advice of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, which sued over the higher limits, as well as Mike Liburdi, an attorney for the lawmakers.
Liburdi said the issue is made more pressing by the fact that the dispute comes as candidates are hosting numerous fundraisers.
“This is prime fundraising season,” he said. Lawmakers cannot raise money from lobbyists once the legislative session starts in mid-January.
Louis Hoffman, chairman of the Clean Elections Commission, said candidates should proceed “cautiously,” meaning they should stick to the $912 and $440 limits.