Saying a quick answer is needed, the Citizens Clean Election Commission asked the Court of Appeals on Wednesday to overturn a trial judge’s decision allowing candidates to take a lot more money from political supporters. Tom Collins, the commission’s executive director, said his board believes the judge erred in concluding that lawmakers are free to reset the donation limits to whatever they want. The commission believes those limits are linked to the parallel public funding system, which, by virtue of being enacted by voters, is protected from legislative tinkering. Potentially more significant, Collins said last week’s ruling by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain allowed candidates for legislative office to immediately start accepting up to $4,000 from individual donors and political action committees. The old limits — the one Collins is trying to have restored — cap that at $440.
The new law also allows legislative candidates to take unlimited dollars from all political action committees, superseding a $14,688 limit. And it eliminates the $6,390 lid on the amount any one individual or PAC can give to all candidates in any given year.
Collins said the longer the appellate court takes to resolve the issue — he hopes in favor of the commission — the more time candidates will believe they can take and spend these bigger donations.
“(We want to) make sure that folks who are giving money, folks who are taking money and folks who enforce the law … and any voter has some certainty about what the rules of the road are,’ he said.
In the interim, those larger donations are legal.