Campaign finance ‘reforms’ (sic) approved in Arizona Lege

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Going in exactly the opposite direction that the public demands in polling, campaign finance "reforms"' (sic) were approved in the Arizona Legislature on Thursday. Arizona bills deal with campaign reform:

Senators gave preliminary approval to two bills prompted by a recall election in Fountain Hills, as well as the 2011 recall campaign that ousted then-Senate President Russell Pearce.

SB 1262 defines the date someone begins circulating recall petitions as the start of the recall election. Lack of clarity on the start of a recall campaign led to confusion on when campaign-contribution limits would kick in. It also imposes the same contribution limits for recall elections as for regular candidate elections.

SB 1263 tightens controls on paid petition-circulators. It requires companies that circulate petitions for candidates and campaigns to register with the secretary of state and run background checks on its employees. It also requires the paid circulators be trained in the laws and rules that govern petition circulation.

The Senate also approved, on a voice vote, SB 1454, which expands the definition of “in-kind” contributions. Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, tried to tack on an amendment that would require any candidate or campaign that accepts money from another campaign to disclose the original donor.

It was an attempt to cut through the layers of independent-expenditure committees that pass contributions from one group to another before sending it to a campaign. That happened last fall when the campaigns opposing an education sales-tax measure, as well as one that would have created a single “open” primary, received thousands of dollars from an independent-expenditure committee to defeat the two ballot measures. [The same independent expenditure committee was involved in campaign finance litigation in California.]

[What the Arizona Republic conveniently leaves out of its report: Calif. official accuses Arizona group of 'campaign money laundering' – East Valley Tribune.  Phoenix-based Americans for Responsive Leadership, whose president is former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams, was the independent expenditure committee involved. The money laundered came exclusively from the Center to Protect Patient Rights, a Phoenix-based group headed by Republican political consultant Sean Noble. Noble, in his own disclosure letter turned over to California campaign officials, reported the $11 million was an "intermediary contribution.'' He said the cash actually came from Virginia-based Americans for Job Security. That organization lists itself as composed as "businesses, business leaders and entrepreneurs from around the country.'' ("Kochtopus" tentacles)]

Farley’s amendment would have put the burden on the recipient to disclose where the money came from. Republicans, who hold the Senate majority, voted to kill the amendment. [Geez, I can't imagine why, given whom they are trying to protect from prosecution for money laundering in California. Talk about political corruption.]

All three of the Senate bills await a final, formal vote, most likely next week.

But wait, it gets worse….

In the House, members gave final approval to a measure that would increase tenfold the maximum amount of money candidates and political-action committees could raise in their campaigns.

House Bill 2593 sets a $2,500 maximum for primary elections, and repeats it for the general election. That amounts to $5,000 per donor for a campaign cycle. The current limit is $488. The bill passed on party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.

The sponsor, Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said the higher limits are needed to give candidates more control of their campaign message. That message can be drowned out by unlimited spending the Citizens United ruling allows independent-expenditure committees.

The bill moves to the Senate for consideration.

What the Arizona Republic leaves out is that the House is Ignoring a likely lawsuit over the constitutionality of this bill which conflicts with provisions of Citizens Clean Elections. The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) fills in the oddly missing details. House passes campaign contribution limit increases, Dems call it unconstitutional:

Democrats stood united in opposition to HB 2306 when it came to a full floor vote on Tuesday. Rep. Chad Campbell of Phoenix, House Minority Leader, said his fellow Democrats probably would have voted for the bill if it had also increased the amount that publicly funded Clean Elections candidates received.

“If you’re increasing it across the board, I would be OK with that,” Campbell said.

The bill would keep the same contribution limits from political committees, not including political parties, but declare the primary and general election as separate elections, allowing candidates to raise the limit on contributions in each timeframe.

Campbell said that he believes that if the bill becomes law, it will end up in court. The Clean Elections Act of 1998 altered the contribution limits to non-participating candidates. Because the act was approved by the voters, Campbell argued that any changes to campaign finance limits must be approved by a three-fourths vote of the Legislature, as required by Proposition 105.

“This is not going to pass the Prop 105 test, I’m absolutely confident of that,” Campbell said.

The Clean Elections Act added statutes saying that no traditionally funded candidate can accept a contribution that is greater than 80 percent of the amount listed in those statutes. The Legislature has previously acknowledged that changes in campaign contribution limits require a three-fourths vote because voters curtailed the limits in the Clean Elections Act.

This unequal treatment, giving traditionally funded candidates an unfair advantage and unlevel playing field against Clean Election candidates without a three-fourths vote, is a constitutionally fatal flaw.

This is yet another Tea-Publican effort to destroy Citizens Clean Elections enacted by voter initiative.

Per Jim Nintzel of the Tucson Weekly: "The state's Clean Elections program has suffered a number of blows in recent years. The worst came when the federal courts declared the matching-funds provision, which helped participating candidates keep pace with well-funded opponents, was unconstitutional. Now Rep. Paul Boyer, a Republican from Phoenix, has sponsored HCR 2026, which would ask voters to simply move all the funding from Clean Elections over to the schools. HRC 2026 passed the House Judiciary Committee on a 5-3 vote last week and awaits a vote from the full House."

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