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Opponents of 2012 Arizona public funding ban measure fight back with lawsuit (Updated)

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May 9, 2011


MARICOPA COUNTY, Arizona: On May 6, 2011, elected officials and future potential candidates in the state filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court attempting to block the public funding ban measure from being placed on the ballot, according to reports. The measure, scheduled to appear in the 2012 general election, would disallow the use of public money to fund political campaigns. Former Arizona Senator Jonathon Paton authored the original proposal, which would revise the Clean Elections Act that was approved by voters in 1998. The formal title of the 2012 ballot measure is Senate Concurrent Resolution 1025

According to the current Clean Elections Act, public funds are provided to Candidate A if his or her opponent, Candidate B, is running on private funds and outspends them. If Candidate B spends more money than the public funds given to Candidate A, that would trigger additional public funding to Candidate A.[1]

Attorney for the plaintiffs, Paul Eckstein, stated that the language of the measure constitutionally bars government agencies from spending public funds for "campaign support." This is a term that is ambiguously referred to, according to Eckstein. He argued that this could lead to that phrase being interpreted as disallowing direct contributions to political races, and also banning daily operations of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. Eckstein pointed out that this could mean that the measure violates the state's single-subject rule.[2]

Jonathan Paton, who is a proponent of the measure, claimed about the lawsuit, "It sounds pretty obvious they don't want to face us in November on the ballot because they know they're going to lose."

The U.S. Supreme Court could have an impact on the issue, in a separate lawsuit, as the high court, on March 28, 2011, heard a challenge to the Clean Elections Act. The case is officially called McComish v. Bennett, referring to State Senator John McComish, who stated that the clean elections law has had a "chilling" effect on races.[3]

Opponents of the law also argue that the additional funding yields a restriction on the free speech of candidates who are running privately funded races, which could be deemed unconstitutional.

According to Campaign Legal Center's Gerry Hebert and Tara Malloy in a written statement, "The [ U.S. Supreme Court ] case could have a broad impact on federal and state efforts to create alternative methods for funding election campaigns. Depending on its scope, an adverse ruling from the high court could undermine public financing systems across the country and increase still further the grossly disproportionate voice given to corporations and unions in our elections."


The Arizona Advocacy Network Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes "social, economic, racial, and environmental justice by connecting and building power among activists," is the group who filed the lawsuit.[4]

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