Campaign Contribution Limits Ruling

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The Arizona Supreme Court lifted a preliminary injunction against significantly higher campaign contribution limits that can be given to political candidates. Jeremy Duda, a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, will talk about the ruling.

Ted Simons: The Arizona Supreme Court lifted a preliminary injunction against significantly higher political campaign donations for political candidates. Jeremy Duda joins us now.

Jeremy Duda: The Supreme Court allowed a bill the legislature passed to go into effect. This dramatically raises up the contribution limits. Arizona up until yesterday had some of the lower limits in the country for state level races. This raises them up, previously they were $440 for legislative races, $912 for statewide races. Now it's $4,000 for the primary and $2,000 for the general.

Ted Simons: This is interesting. Previous decision said no, then the Court of Appeals said yes. The Supreme Court says no. This is going back and forth.

Jeremy Duda: It's gone back and forth like a Ping-Pong ball. The trial court upheld the law, let it go into effect in about a month, a strange ruling has raised eyebrows. Then an injunction threw things into chaos. They were starting to change some of the rules for finance disclosure and that kind of thing. It goes to the Supreme Court, they hear the argument, they vacated the corals decision and that looks like the law of the land for 2014.

Ted Simons: They heard it yesterday and before you could get a cup of coffee they made a decision. Was it a surprise they came back that quickly?

Jeremy Duda: Not too much of a surprise. The Court of Appeals ruled I think they think they ruled in about two hours after hearing the argument. I thought it might be a day or two. They got it done quickly.

Ted Simons: Pacs can donate up to $10,000. It was $2,000?

Jeremy Duda: Something like that. They can donate a lot more and also this eliminates the aggregate limits. Under the previous law, a candidate could only take so much money from pacs. You could get what they referred to pac'd out. You have a pac that wants to give you a check, you can say I've taken too much already. Also, there was an aggregate limit on the amount individuals can contribute over all to races in general. That's gone now too.

Ted Simons: Talk about the arguments for and against here, the idea this was a free speech issue on one side, on the other that voters did not want these kinds of money being spend and thus they passed a referendum and initiative way back in the day. That didn't seem to hold water.

Ted Simons: Not really. That was the main argument the Supreme Court was there to hear. There are free speech First Amendment issues but they didn't really deal with that yesterday. The main argument was whether or not voters in 1998, when they passed the clean elections act intended to set hard and fast contribution limits. We had limits since 1986 when they were passed originally. Then the legislature raised them during the 90's. The clean elections act decreased the limits automatically by 20%. You had statute A, and statute B that reduced it by %20. The question before the Supreme Court was did voters firmly establish limits or just create a formula for reducing whatever limits they are in the future.

Ted Simons: With the idea it was a formula opposed to a hard, fast figure.

Jeremy Duda: The big debate, attorney for the clean elections commission house bill said this is what they meant to do. That's perfectly okay. It can withstand legal scrutiny. On the other side the argument was if they really wanted to do this they could have done it in such easier ways, just set limits. New limits are X, Y, Z, and that's it. The clean elections commission attorney said there's ways they could have done this. They chose this one. Chief justice had the line of the day, you said there are ways and seems like would have been clearer than this.

Ted Simons: I think that was probably clear from her statement which way the court would go. This was unanimous?

Jeremy Duda: We don't know yet. It will take a few months for their full opinion. This is the immediate order. Once they issue the full opinion it will tell us what the vote was, whether it was unanimous or some dissent.

Ted Simons: Impact on next year's elections?

Jeremy Duda: Harder to say. There's a school of thought out there that a lot of these candidates can't really raise that much money to begin with. If you look at campaign finance reports, most of the contributions that people get aren't maxed under the old limits. Under the new ones they are much, much higher. They are getting some candidates who are really going to take advantage of this. People with a lot of connections, access to money. Doug Ducey, for example, one of the Republicans running for governor viewed as a guy who can take advantage of the limits. Possibly Christine Jones, Fred Duval. Maybe a few others. It will remain to be seen who is able to take full advantage.

Ted Simons: The idea again is they need that kind of money because right now you have these outside groups, independent expenditure committees, running around, no one knows who they are and they are on the attack. The argument is we need more money to fight back.

Jeremy Duda: Part of the arguments are candidates have lost control of their message is part of the argument. Debates are defined by outside groups, sometimes we don't even know who is spending the money. Of course if you can raise $2000, $4000, from a few more people and get some money, but they are still going to drop $500,000, $1 million, $2 million into a race. Other states have no contribution limits like in the Virginia governor's race. Couple -- a month or so ago. There was still plenty of i.e's in that race.

Ted Simons: Any recourse for clean elections?

Jeremy Duda: I don't see what it would be. The commission has a meeting tomorrow. They are going to talk with their lawyers, but the Supreme Court -- that's it. There's nowhere to go unless it's an issue in the U.S. constitution you can go to the U.S. Supreme Court. This is strictly the Arizona constitution.

Ted Simons: Let the spending begin? If I'm a candidate whatever I have raised up to now, the Supreme Court said go ahead?

Jeremy Duda: Sure. I've already seen some candidates sending out fund-raising emails today.

Ted Simons: Good stuff. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Jeremy Duda:Reporter, Arizona Capitol Times;

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