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High court won’t weigh in on new campaign limits

The Arizona Supreme Court declined to accept a case challenging the state’s new campaign contribution limits.

In a Tuesday afternoon order, Justice Robert Brutinel wrote that the court would not accept a petition for special action filed by opponents of HB2593, who hoped to bypass the lower courts and go straight to the Supreme Court. Brutinel did not elaborate on the high court’s reason for declining jurisdiction in the case.

However, the case was rejected without prejudice, meaning the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, Arizona Advocacy Network and others who oppose the new contribution limits can re-file the case in Superior Court.

Attorney Joe Kanefield, who is representing the CCEC, said the commission will discuss its next step at its Thursday meeting.

“We’re disappointed that the Supreme Court didn’t take special action jurisdiction. But we also recognize that the court rarely grants original jurisdiction in these kinds of cases,” Kanefield said.

CCEC Chairman Louis Hoffman, who is suing as an individual, said he will now bring the case to Superior Court.

“In my role as a plaintiff, I intend to sue,” Hoffman said. “And I will urge the commission to do likewise.”

Tim Hogan, an attorney representing the Arizona Advocacy Network and Rep. Victoria Steele, said he hadn’t spoken with his clients and was unsure what course of action they would take.

HB2593 goes into effect on Sept. 13, so time is limited for the courts to weigh in before candidates start accepting contributions under the new limits. But Arizona Supreme Court spokeswoman Jennifer Liewer said there is enough time for the court to act before the law goes onto the books.

“A lot of election cases start at Superior Court and they move really fast,” Liewer said.

HB2593 effectively raises the campaign contribution limit for legislative and statewide races to $4,000 per election cycle, up from $424 in legislative races and $872 for statewide races. It also increased the amounts that political action committees can give to campaigns and eliminated the aggregate caps that governed how much total money an individual or committee can give to campaigns in each election cycle.

The Arizona Advocacy Network, CCEC, Hoffman and Steele argue that the new limits violate the Clean Elections Act and the Voter Protection Act, both of which were approved by voters in 1998. The Clean Elections Act automatically reduces the state’s contribution limits by 20 percent – HB2593 actually raises them to $5,000 – which opponents of the new limits say makes the bill subject to the Voter Protection Act.

Under the act, the Legislature can only amend a voter-approved law with a three-fourths vote, and then only in a way that furthers the intent of the voters.

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