GOP leaders will ask Supreme Court to reinstate new contribution limits

Jeremy Duda//October 29, 2013

GOP leaders will ask Supreme Court to reinstate new contribution limits

Jeremy Duda//October 29, 2013

Andy Biggs, Andy Tobin

Senate President Andy Biggs and House Speaker Andy Tobin will ask the Arizona Supreme Court to allow the state’s higher new campaign contribution limits to go into effect, saving a lower court argument that the old limits are unconstitutional for another day.

Attorney Mike Liburdi, who represents Biggs and Tobin in their defense of the law, said he will petition the Supreme Court on Wednesday or Thursday. They are hoping to reverse an injunction against HB2593 by the Arizona Court of Appeals ruling, which said they violated the 1998 Voter Protection Act.

While the Court of Appeals sided with the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and others who argued that the contribution limits are voter-protected, appellate Judge Patricia Norris said the trial court judge should hear arguments on whether the pre-HB2593 limits are unconstitutionally low.

Liburdi, however, said the best course of action is to appeal the injunction to the Supreme Court before going back to the lower court to argue the constitutionality issue.

“There’s this issue that needs to be resolved by the Supreme Court. And if we were to go back to the trial court at this point and then … the Supreme Court disagrees with the Court of Appeals on the main narrative issue, then we’ve just wasted a year. It just seems like this is the most efficient thing to do,” said Liburdi, of the law firm Snell and Wilmer.

It is unknown whether the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, the original defendant in the case, will join the appeal. Secretary of State Ken Bennett’s office defended the law in court, but did not join Biggs and Tobin in a request for the Court of Appeals to stay its injunction against HB2593.

Attorney Joe Kanefield, who represents the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, said he is confident that the Arizona Supreme Court will uphold the Court of Appeals’ decision.

“We think that the Court of Appeals opinion was rock-solid. We will, of course, urge the Arizona Supreme Court to decline review,” said Kanefield, of the law firm Ballard Spahr.

The commission and other plaintiffs in the case argue that the Clean Elections Act, which was also passed in 1998, regulates Arizona’s campaign contribution limits, which would make the limits subject to the Voter Protection Act. The act bars the Legislature from amending voter-approved laws, except for changes that further the intent of the voters and are approved with a three-fourths vote.

The constitutionality of Arizona’s old contribution limits might end up before a trial court judge without Biggs and Tobin arguing the case. Kathleen Winn, who is accused by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk of illegally coordinating activities between her independent expenditure committee and Attorney General Tom Horne’s 2010 campaign, is challenging the constitutionality of the limits as well.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sally Duncan dismissed Winn’s case on Oct. 10, partly on the grounds that Polk had not yet decided whether to pursue campaign finance charges against her and Horne. Now that Polk has formally accused Horne and Winn of campaign finance violations, Winn is asking Duncan to reconsider her decision to dismiss the case.

Under Arizona’s current campaign contribution limits, individuals can contribute up to $440 to legislative candidates and $912 to statewide candidates. HB2593 would have raised the limit to $4,000 for all races, as well as raised contribution limits for political action committees and eliminated aggregate limits on contributions.