What started as a Fountain Hills woman’s attempt to protest a local bond issue could lead to the demise of Arizona’s oversight of campaign finances. A federal judge has tossed out the key component of the state’s campaign-finance law, opening the prospect of future elections in which there is no disclosure of who is raising and spending money to influence voters. The state Attorney General’s Office said Monday that it plans to seek a stay of U.S. District Judge James Teilborg’s ruling while state officials contemplate an appeal. Teilborg on Friday ruled that Arizona’s definition of a political committee is unconstitutional because it is vague and overly broad. The definition, which runs 183 words, has resulted in conflicting interpretations from various attorneys and election regulators.
The court’s finding leaves no legal requirement to disclose fundraising or expenditures made by political committees, said Paul Avelar, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, which argued the case on behalf of Fountain Hills resident Dina Galassini. The institute, which describes itself as “the national law firm for liberty,” is an advocate of doing away with what it calls campaign-finance red tape.
Christina Estes-Werther, the state’s election director, called the ruling a shock because it calls into question her authority to enforce Arizona’s campaign-finance laws. Officials at the Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections and campaign finance, “have a lot of questions,” Estes-Werther said.
For example, the office is unclear what to do with 20 pending complaints of campaign-finance violations filed during this year’s campaigns. An additional 14 complaints have been referred to the Attorney General’s Office for possible action.
Full Article: Judge tosses key Arizona campaign finance law.