PHOENIX — Supporters of public financing asked a judge late Tuesday to block new higher campaign contribution limits from taking effect as scheduled while their legality is litigated.
Attorneys for the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and their allies contend the larger allowable donations were enacted illegally earlier this year. They contend lawmakers cannot let privately funded candidates take a lot more money without getting a three-fourths vote for the measure, which it did not get.
That is based on their argument that the limits are linked to the voter-approved program which allows candidates to get public financing if they do not take private dollars. And the Arizona Constitution says voter-approved laws can be amended only with a three-fourths vote, and only if the change furthers the purpose of the act.
Challengers had previously asked the state Supreme Court to intercede for a quick ruling, pointing out the higher limits take effect Sept. 13 for the 2014 election.
But the justices declined, saying the case should start in trial court. That, however, means there is no way to get a final ruling ahead of that Sept. 13 deadline.
Attorney Louis Hoffman, who also is a member of the commission, said the issue should not be left hanging while the case makes its way through the legal system.
“Candidates are looking to decide whether to run as Clean Elections candidates or whether to run at all,” he said. Hoffman said their decision could be influenced on what is the law on donations, whether for themselves or foes.
Under current law, legislative candidates can get only $440 from any one donor; the figure is $912 for candidates for statewide office. The new law will boost that to $4,000.
The law also totally scraps the current $14,688 cap on how much legislative candidates can take from all political action committees.
Supporters of the law say they did not need a three-fourths vote because this does not amend the public financing law.