After one unsuccessful engagement with the Supreme Court, the State of Arizona continues to work through the implementation of its public financing laws. The issue remains, as before, how it can structure the law to draw candidates into the systems. One strategy it devised did not suit the Court: the state discovered that it could not provide offsetting public funding to participating candidates who faced well-heeled opponents and free-spending independent expenditure groups. Now Arizona is fighting over another mechanism for encouraging participation, or discouraging nonparticipation, in the public funding system. This one involves reducing the contribution limits to make them less appealing to candidates who are considering electing private support through contributions rather than public financing. In 1998, voters approved Proposition 200, known as the Clean Elections Act, which established a public financing system and reduced the contributions limits then specified by law for candidates who did not participate in the public financing system. It imposed for these nonparticipating candidates a 20% reduction in then-existing limits and established aggregate limits on contributions by candidates and political committees. In 2013, the legislature increased the contribution limits available to nonparticipating candidates and eliminated the aggregate limits.
The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission filed suit, but the question assumed a very technical form. Because Arizona voters had also acted by proposition to condition the legislature’s authority to modify or amend a proposition, the Commission contended that the legislature’s action in increasing contribution limits was an amendment of a Proposition and that the legislature had failed to satisfy the requirements for doing so.
The Arizona Court of Appeals enjoined the contribution limit increase and remanded the case to the lower court for findings of fact and law. Ariz. Clean Elections Comm’n v. Brain, 1 CA-SA 13-0239 (Oct. 24, 2013). It specifically directed the court below to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law on the legislature’s claim that, even if the new, reduced limits were upheld, they were so low that they violated the First Amendment.
Full Article: Arizona and Its Conflicts Over Public Financing –.