Pair of court decisions to cause confusion in campaign finances

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

It has been an interesting week in the courts for campaign finance, and the picture is clear as mud.

GavelThe Arizona Court of Appeals this week overturned the new campaign spending limits in a bill sponsored by Rep. Justin Pierce, who announced this week that he is running for Secretary of State. An ignomious beginning to his campaign, dontcha think? His bill is unconstitutional, but that is not unusual for our lawless legislature.

The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reported Court of Appeals blocks new contribution limits:

The Arizona Court of Appeals blocked
Arizona’s new campaign contribution limits, reversing a trial judge’s
ruling and putting a halt to a month of fundraising under the higher
limits.

The court issued a preliminary injunction against HB2593
on Tuesday
, about two hours after a three-judge panel finished hearing
an appeal of a Maricopa County Superior Court ruling that allowed the
new limits to take effect. The court did not explain its reasoning,
saying only that Secretary of State Ken Bennett is barred from enforcing
the new limits pending further order from the court.

Attorney Joe Kanefield, who represents the Citizens Clean Elections Commission in its challenge to the law, said he was thrilled with the decision.

“We have always believed that this law was unconstitutional. We’ve
said that from day one. We said the while it was being debated in
legislative proceedings,” said Kanefield, of the firm Ballard Spahr.

He argued in court that the Legislature violated the Voter Protection Act when it approved the new limits. Opponents have long claimed that because the Citizens Clean Elections Act,
which has always been considered a voter-protected law, reduces the
state’s contribution limits by 20 percent, the limits are subject to the
Voter Protection Act.     It only allows the Legislature to amend
voter-protected statutes with a three-fourths vote, and then only in a
way that furthers the intent of the voters.

* * *

[T]he appellate judges appear to have sided
with Kanefield, who said voters intended to regulate the limits as they
existed in 1998, when the Clean Elections Act was passed.

"While both sides wait for a full opinion from the Court of Appeals, candidates are in fundraising limbo."

In a follow-up report today (subscription required) Confusion reigns as Court of Appeals blocks campaign finance law:

“Within minutes of the Court of Appeals
ruling, chaos has erupted among every candidate for public office, from
the city of Phoenix to the governor’s race. People are looking for
answers,” said Mike Liburdi, an attorney with the law firm Snell and
Wilmer who defended HB2593 in court.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office and Secretary of State’s Office
have no answers for candidates yet. Both are waiting for a full opinion
from the Court of Appeals, which issued only a brief order enjoining
HB2593, and a spokeswoman for Attorney General Tom Horne said the office
likely won’t issue any guidance until after the Arizona Supreme Court
weighs in on the injunction.

It is unknown exactly when a full opinion will come down. Election
attorneys say it could be anywhere from a few days to a few months.

In the meantime, there are a lot of unanswered questions. Candidates
are wondering whether they have to give back contributions that exceed
the old limits. No one is sure whether they have to continue using
separate committees for the 2014 primary and general elections, as the
Attorney General’s Office and Secretary of State’s Office said is
required under HB2593.

Wow. This sounds way too much like this classic scene from Ghostbusters:

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.

Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?

Dr. Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.

Dr. Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!

Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…

Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!

Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

The second court case which will cause confusion comes from U.S. District Court Judge James Teilborg. This one is potentially more serious. The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reported
Judge’s ruling could create PAC ‘free-for-all’:

Every law regulating ballot measure
campaigns, political action committees and possibly even candidates’
campaign committees in Arizona may soon be wiped from the books, at
least until the Legislature can write new ones.

U.S. District Court Judge James Teilborg ruled on Sept. 30 that
Arizona Revised Statutes’ definition of “political committee” is
unconstitutionally vague and said he is prepared to issue an injunction
barring the enforcement of all election statutes that use the
definition.
The 183-word definition is so complicated, the judge wrote,
that ordinary people and election attorneys might reach completely
different conclusions as to what it requires.

Teilborg hasn’t issued his final injunction, and is awaiting a
briefing from the state, which plans to appeal the ruling. But depending
on how broad the injunction is, Teilborg’s ruling could blow a massive
hole in Arizona’s campaign finance scheme.

At the very least, PACs and ballot measure
committees could be freed from financial disclosure requirements.
Teilborg’s ruling could leave a gap of at least several months where
committees wouldn’t be required to disclose who they raise money from
and where they spend it, leaving voters in the dark about who is funding
campaigns.

* * *

Elections attorney Kory Langhofer said he
doesn’t expect Teilborg to enjoin the laws that govern candidate
campaign committees. But the judge’s intentions were clear regarding
other political committees.

“You wouldn’t have to register your PAC. You wouldn’t have to file
your campaign finance reports. Some of the contribution limits would
probably be affected,” said Langhofer, of the firm Brownstein Hyatt
Farber Schreck. “There would be a period of time when there’s a
free-for-all on PAC activity.”

* * *


If Teilborg invalidates all of the laws
that govern political committees, the biggest impact will be in the
realm of disclosure, Miller said. PACs must disclose their contributors
and their expenditures. If Teilborg deems those requirements
unconstitutional, the committees won’t even have to register with the
state, let alone file campaign finance reports.

“The public loses the ability to understand what are the sources of all these checks,” Miller said.

Well now I am suspicious that our lawless legislature effed up this statute on purpose so that there will be no registration and financial disclosures by PACs. This is exactly what the "Kochtopus" organizations like ALEC and the Goldwater Institute are working on. Sneaky bastards!

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