Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law Thursday a Republican-backed measure that wildly increases campaign finance limits and undermines the state’s public campaign funding program enacted by voters to limit money in politics.
The law is one of several efforts to allow more money into state elections being pushed by Republicans nationwide amid a skyrocketing influence of outside political dollars in elections made possible by a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that erased years of campaign finance law.
Brewer signed into law House Bill 2593 only two days after the Arizona Senate voted 17-13 to send it to her, a quick turnaround that suggests Brewer’s unchecked support for the measure. A spokesman did not respond to a request for comment, and Brewer did not release a statement about the measure.
State, legislative and other candidates now can raise thousands of dollars more each election. For example, the measure increased the limit for legislative candidates from $488 through the primary and general elections to nearly $2,500 from individual donors and $5,000 from some political committees. The law allows candidates to collect the maximum contribution twice — during the primary and the general election.
The law advanced in the Republican-led Legislature with GOP support. Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate criticized the measure because it will likely make it difficult for any candidate to successfully run with public campaign funding.
Republicans said the change was necessary to address unconstitutionally low campaign limits and fight back against political groups increasingly using independent funds to influence elections. The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case in 2010 lifted many restrictions on corporate spending in political elections and paved the way for a flood of campaign cash from corporations, unions and wealthy interests.
“It would put the candidates themselves in charge,” Sen. John McComish, a Phoenix Republican, said while on the Senate floor Tuesday.
The law did not increase funding for candidates running under the state’s public campaign financing option.
“The only thing we are doing is adding more money by special interests to influence our elections,” Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said.
The House approved the legislation in a 32-23 vote in February.
Voters created Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission in 1998. It uses surcharges on criminal fines and civil penalties to fund candidates for state office. Participants qualify for public funding by gathering $5 contributions from eligible voters and agreeing to comply with spending and contribution limits.
“Working Arizona voters can’t compete with the influence and representation that big money special interests and individuals buy using current political cash amounts,” Sam Wercinski, executive director of Arizona Advocacy Network, a civic group fighting the measure, said in a statement. “How are working Arizonans to be heard or represented now?”