Arizona Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Higher Campaign-Contribution Limits

New campaign-contribution limits set this year by lawmakers will go into effect.

Despite Arizona voters choosing to limit campaign contributions in 1998 by approving the Clean Elections Act, Republican lawmakers passed a bill raising the limits. That drew a lawsuit from the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission and others, who argued that the legislators had amended the voter-approved initiative, without a three-fourths majority vote, as outlined in the Arizona Constitution.

The Arizona Supreme Court hasn't issued its opinion on the matter, but it has ordered to let the law go into effect, lifting an injunction put in place by an appeals court.

The problem for the Clean Elections side was that the voters didn't set specific campaign-contribution limits. According to a summary prepared by the Supreme Court, the Clean Elections Act, in Arizona Revised Statutes § 16-941(B), set non-publicly-funded candidates' contribution limits at 80 percent of the specific limits set in another law, A.R.S. § 16-905.

The argument from lawmakers was that they amended 16-905, with the passage of House Bill 2593, which didn't require a three-fourths majority to amend.

Those who brought the lawsuit didn't think voters intended to set campaign-contribution limits at 80 percent of whatever legislators decided to change the limits to.

However, under the new law, the individual campaign-contribution caps are raised at least $1,000, depending on which office a candidate's running for.

Again, the opinion hasn't been released, but you can click here to watch the arguments before the Supreme Court yesterday, and click here to see the appellate court's ruling.

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley