PHOENIX — The state's limits on how much candidates can collect from donors will remain in place, at least for the time being.
In a brief order, the Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a bid by top Republican lawmakers to allow donors to give more while the justices review the legality of the increase. The justices, in refusing to dissolve an injunction issued by the state Court of Appeals, gave no reason for their ruling.
But they also agreed to give the GOP interests a chance to convince them the Court of Appeals erred in ruling last month that the Legislature acted unconstitutionally earlier this year in approving the sharp increase. A hearing is set for Dec. 17.
“Obviously, from our point of view, we're very encouraged by the court's decision to take the case,” said attorney Mike Liburdi, who represents the Republican lawmakers. “We look forward to the opportunity to go to court and explain why the Court of Appeals decision is so wrong.”
Tom Collins, director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission which challenged the legislation, said he is not worried that the high court may overrule the appellate judges.
“We continue to be optimistic,” he said.
What the Supreme Court ultimately decides will govern not only how much candidates can accept but also how much special interests will be able to give directly to those who they want to put in office.
The law until this point has limited legislative candidates to taking no more than $440 from any individual or political action committee. The cap for candidates for statewide office is $912.
On a largely party-line vote, the Republican-controlled Legislature boosted both figures to $4,000.
The measure also scrapped the old $14,688 limit on how much candidates can take from all PACs for any election as well as the $6,390 lid on the amount any one individual or PAC can give to all candidates in any given year.
In last month's ruling, the Court of Appeals ruled these limits are linked to the 1998 voter-approved Clean Elections Act which sets up an optional system of public financing for candidates. And, having been adopted at the ballot, the judges said that precludes lawmakers from unilaterally altering the caps for privately financed contenders.
In Tuesday's order, the justices agreed to Liburdi's request that they review that conclusion, but Collins pointed out that the high court does not appear interested in hearing a separate argument by Liburdi that the old limits are unconstitutionally too low.