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Arizona Public Election Funding Ban Amendment (2012)

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The Arizona Election Funding Measure, also known as the Stop Public Money for Political Candidates' Campaigns Act, was scheduled appear on the November 6, 2012 ballot in the state of Arizona as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, but was taken off the ballot due to a lawsuit filed against the measure in May 2011.

According to reports, the measure's supporters planned to pursue the measure again during 2012 state legislative session. A 2012 version of the measure was introduced by State Sen. John McComish, who filed the bill as SCR 1021. However, after winning concessions from public funding defenders, supporters agreed to let the revised bill die. Under the concessions, the Citizens Clean Elections Commission would have limited ability to promote its activities and the "dollar-for-dollar" tax credit for contributions to the public fund will be eliminated.[1]

2011 attempt

The measure would have disallowed the use of public money to fund political campaigns. Former Arizona Senator Jonathon Paton authored the original proposal, which, at the time, would have revised the Clean Elections Act that was approved by voters in 1998. The formal title of the 2012 ballot measure was Senate Concurrent Resolution 1025. SCR 1025 would have completely halted the Clean Elections Act, according to the text.

A Supreme Court ruling on June 27, 2011 struck down the Act's matching funds provision, which funds participating candidates dollar for dollar against non-participants, up to a limit of $2 million. It is unclear how the ruling will affect the Legislature's initiative measure.

2010 attempt

The measure had been previously proposed for the November 2, 2010 general election ballot in Arizona, but fell short in legislative session. The current measure for the 2012 ballot was authored by State Senator Steve Pierce, and was approved by the state legislature during 2011 state legislative session.[2][3]

The text of the 2010 proposal did not include the phrase "Citizens Clean Election Act," which was purposely done, in order to not completely kill the law. The measure was approved by the Arizona State Senate with a vote of 16-12, and was then passed to the Arizona House of Representatives for their own vote, where it fell short in 2010.[4]

Senator Ken Cheuvront stated that the text should have included the Clean Elections Act because voters should have been able to decide outright whether to keep or discontinue the program.[5]

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.[6]

Text of measure


The summary of the measure, in 2012 state legislative session, reads as follows:[7]

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Arizona; amending article VII, Constitution of Arizona, by adding section 19; relating to public funds for political candidates.



Supporters of the amendment are as follows:[8]


The following are arguments that have been given in favor of the amendment:[8][9]

  • Public financing has not worked due to the inequality of campaign spending
  • Tax dollars should not be used for candidates' campaigns.
  • Former state senator Tom Patterson had this to say about the Clean Elections Act: "...even if Clean Elections did all it claimed to do and was constitutional, it should still go because it's wrong. It's wrong to compel a person to support candidates with whom they disagree. It's wrong to protect incumbents by limiting the amount of political speech that popular opponents can generate."[10]
  • According to The Arizona Republic columnist E. J. Montini, when writing about the Clean Elections Act: "Unfortunately, what sounds good in theory doesn't always work in the real world. We don't need lawyers, think-tank experts or politicians to convince us. And we don't need the Fiesta Bowl scandal to prove it. All we have to do is look at the Legislature and what it has done. I have no problem with wealthy kooks and zealots financing political kooks and zealots. But should the rest of us have to?"[11]



The opponents of the amendment include:[8]

Media endorsements

See also: Endorsements of Arizona ballot measures, 2012


  • The Arizona Daily Star had this to say about the measure: "Arizona voters will see - and should reject - a ballot measure in 2012 that would constitutionally ban public funding of any kind in future elections...Public financing of campaigns has an important role to play in Arizona, and it should continue."[13]


See also: Polls, 2012 ballot measures
  • On April 18, 2011, a poll was released showing that 77% of those surveyed supported the Clean Elections law, therefore opposed the measure that is being placed before voters in 2012. The poll surveyed 500 likely 2012 voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. The 77% support resulted from the pollster giving a brief description of the Clean Elections Law. A previous question in the survey asked if the voter was for or against the Clean Elections law, without a brief description. Those results showed 52% in favor, with 42% being undecided.[14][15]

     Position is ahead and at or over 50%     Position is ahead or tied, but under 50%

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
April 13-17, 2011 Lake Research Partners 77% 14% 9% 500


See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012

Arizona Advocacy Network v. Bennett

2012 measure lawsuits
By state
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By lawsuit type
Ballot text
Campaign contributions
Motivation of sponsors
Petitioner residency
Post-certification removal
Single-subject rule
Signature challenges
Initiative process

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 measure from being placed on the ballot. 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.[16]

This argument was the primary one that the attorney put forth. Eckstein contended that if the measure is approved by voters, it would repeal a separate program in Tucson where political candidates can ultimately obtain public money. Eckstein stated, "This question presents a subject that should be decided by voters separately."

Jonathan Paton, who was 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."


On October 17, 2011, the measure was heard in Maricopa County Superior Court, where arguments were given regarding the measure. According to Sam Wercinski of the Arizona Advocacy Network Foundation, who was against the repeal of the Clean Elections law: “This is really about big money in Arizona trying to repeal an anti-corruption law because they want to control through campaign contributions who gets to run, who gets elected and how tax cuts are given."

Jonathan Payton, who wanted the measure to stay on the ballot, argued: “It’s wrong to give money to people to buy junk mail and yard signs."

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Dean Fink stated: "This is local taxpayer funds designated for one purpose becoming part of the state’s general fund. But I’m concerned about the city’s money potentially being taken away.”[17]


Judge Fink ruled on October 26, 2011 that the proposed partial repeal of the "Clean Elections Act" be taken off the ballot, stating that it violates the state's single subject rule. An appeal did not occur.[18][19]

The court's ruling can be found here.

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the Arizona Constitution

A majority vote was required in the Arizona State Legislature to refer a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment measure to the ballot. Arizona is one of ten states that allows a referred amendment to go on the ballot after a majority vote in one session of the state's legislature.

On April 8, 2010, the House Judiciary Committee killed the bill due to the wording of the proposed ballot measure. The measure was effectively dead, but supporters were still trying to find ways to place the bill on the November ballot for voter decisions. The bill was then passed by the House Judiciary Committee with a vote of 5-3. Since a similar version of the bill was previously passed by the Arizona State Senate, the only obstacle left to place the measure on the ballot was for the Arizona House of Representatives to approve the measure with a vote of its own. However, the measure was not sent to the ballot. Lawmakers then focused on placing the measure on the 2012 ballot.[20][8][21]

The Arizona State Senate was scheduled to vote on the measure on February 28, 2011 in order to send it to the Arizona House of Representatives. The vote took place that day, where the Senate voted in favor of approving the measure, with a final tally of 20-9. The measure was then sent to the State House, where it was approved with a vote of 43-13 on April 14, 2011.[22][23][24]

Supreme Court case

The U.S. Supreme Court heard a challenge on March 28, 2011 to Arizona's system of public campaign financing, 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.[25]

According to the law, 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.

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 Supreme Court ruled on June 27, 2011 that the Clean Elections Act violated the First Amendment rights of candidates who raise private money for their campaigns. The law was struck down by the court, in a 5 to 4 decision, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. writing for the majority: "Laws like Arizona’s matching funds provision that inhibit robust and wide-open political debate without sufficient justification cannot stand."[26]

It is unclear as to what is to happen with the measure that is scheduled for public vote in the 2012 fall general election.

Read the official Supreme Court ruling here.

2012 version

On February 28, 2012, the 2012 version of the measure passed the Arizona State Senate, sending it to the Arizona House of Representatives for a similar vote.[27]

However, the proposed ballot measure could end up not making the ballot after another proposal was given preliminary legislative approval during April 2012 that would satisfy both supporters and opponents of the ballot measure. According to reports, the compromise bill would eliminate one of the election funding system's funding sources and would disallow spending to promote it

As a result the measure would not be placed on the ballot.[28]



The following is a timeline of events surrounding the measure:

Event Date Developments
Rejection Apr. 8, 2010 House Judiciary Committee killed measure because of wording.
Approval Feb. 28, 2011 Arizona State Senate voted in favor of approving the measure, with a final tally of 20-9.
Hearing Mar. 28, 2011 U.S. Supreme Court heard a challenge to Arizona's Clean Elections Act, McComish v. Bennett.
Approval Apr. 14, 2011 State House approved measure with a vote of 43-13.

See also

Suggest a link


External links

Additional reading


  1. Verde Independent, "Clean Elections vote off the ballot," April 5, 2012
  2. Verde Independent, "Court ruling paves way for Arizona business interests to influence elections," July 27, 2010
  3. East Valley Tribune, "Lawmaker wants referendum on future of public financing for campaigns," February 24, 2011
  4. Arizona Capital Times, "Legislature sends nine referrals to ballot – initiative still coming," May 3, 2010
  5. Arizona Daily Star, "Ballot may include election funding," March 2, 2010
  6. Arizona Legislature, "SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION 1025," accessed April 15, 2011
  7. Arizona Legislature, "SCR 1021," accessed February 8, 2012
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Yuma Sun, "Clean elections may go to ballot," April 21, 2010
  9., "Repeal of Ariz. campaign funding system advances," April 21, 2010
  10. East Valley Tribune, "Time to clean out Clean Elections," May 3, 2011
  11. Arizona Republic, "The dirty little secret of Arizona's Clean Elections," May 13, 2011
  12. Arizona Daily Sun, "Ariz. Senate votes to send Clean Elections to voters," April 19, 2011
  13. Arizona Daily Star, "Supreme Court wrong in gutting Clean Elections," June 30, 2011
  14. Arizona Republic, "Poll finds support for Arizona's Clean Elections law," April 18, 2011
  15. Public Campaign, "Clean Elections Polling," accessed April 19, 2011
  16. East Valley Tribune, "Clean Elections supporters sue to block ballot measure," May 6, 2011
  17. Tucson Citizen, "Clean Elections measure returns to court," October 18, 2011
  18. Ballot Access, "Arizona State Court Removes Ballot Measure that would Eliminate Funding for Public Funding," October 26, 2011
  19. Tucson Weekly, "AZ Clean Elections Wins a Round in Court," October 26, 2011
  20. Arizona Capitol Times, "Clean Elections survives elimination measure again, could still head for ballot," April 8, 2010
  21. Arizona Capital Times, "Legislature sends nine referrals to ballot – initiative still coming," May 3, 2010
  22., "Arizona Senate to vote on public campaign funding," February 28, 2011
  23. Arizona Daily Sun, "Clean Elections repeal advances," March 1, 2011
  24. Greenfield Reporter, "Arizona House approves having 2012 ballot measure on dumping public funding for candidates," April 14, 2011
  25. The Hill, "High court to hear challenge against public financing of campaigns," March 28, 2011
  26. The New York Times, "Justices Strike Down Arizona Campaign Finance Law," June 27, 2011
  27. Tucson Citizen, "Arizona Clean Elections bill advances," February 28, 2012
  28. Post Crescent, "Compromise would scrap AZ vote on campaign funding," April 2, 2012