Nightmare scenario: no campaign finance limits

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Craig McDermott posted about the Court of Appeals ruling in Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission, et al. v. The Honorable Mark H. Brain, and real parties in interest (.pdf) earlier in State appeals court blocks higher campaign contribution limits.

Howard Fischer from Capitol Media Services has a report in the Arizona Daily Star this morning (the online link is not working) captioned "Appellate court orders new review for campaign-finance limits," which lays out a nightmare scenario for anyone concerned about the corrupting influence of unlimited money in political campaigns:

Screenshot from 2013-10-25 06:22:06In a formal opinion, the judges reaffirmed their earlier order keeping the current limits in place, saying there is evidence legislation pushed through by Republican lawmakers earlier this year increasing campaign donation limits violates a constituional provision.

But the court also sent the case back to the trial judge, directing Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain to consider claims by lawyers for Republican legislative leaders that the old limits — the ones the appellate court just restored — are so low as to violate the First Amendment rights of candidates annd donors. [A favorite argument of the Goldwater Institute.]

That raises the possibility the old limits could be declared unconstitutional. And if the new limits were improperly enacted, there might be absolutely no cap on how much individuals and political action committees could give, or how much candidates could accept.

And at that point it would be up to the Legislature to find a constitutional way of setting legally acceptable limits, assuming lawmakers were interested in doing that.

That isn't legally necessary: Arizona had no limits before voters put some in place in 1986. And a court could not order the Legislature to impose new limits. [Separation of powers doctrine, and political question doctrine.]

For the moment though, the old limits are in effect for the 2014 campaign. And Mike Liburdi, the attorney for the GOP leaders, still hopes to get the Arizona Supreme Court to overrule the appeallte judges and allow candidates to start taking more dollars in time to get eelcted next year.

The posture of this case means that whatever Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain eventually rules on the merits of the case will be appealed to the Court of Appeals again, and eventually the Arizona Supreme Court. The separate appeal on the issue of the preliminary injunction issued by the Court of Appeals to the Arizona Supreme Court will only address the appropriateness of that preliminary injunction. The litigation of this case is going to drag on well into next year and the election.

We need a campaign next year by politicans who want to reform the political corruption in Arizona that has been allowed to flourish unchecked.

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