Attorneys Debate New Campaign Contribution Limits

December 17, 2013

(Screenshot by Julie Levin-KJZZ)
The Arizona Supreme Court justices in December 2013.

The Arizona Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday morning on whether new campaign contribution limits passed this year by the legislature violate voter intent.

The Clean Elections Commission sued to block the law, arguing that the 1998 voter-approved law creating that commission set firm contribution limits, and that the new limits did not pass by a large enough majority to make the change legal.

But attorney Mike Liburdi, representing the leaders of Arizona's House and Senate, said the Clean Elections act was not meant to create firm contribution caps.

"The voters would have said in the statute, 'Here's what we want the limits to be, here are the precise numbers,'" said Liburdi.

Despite the fact that the 1998 law did not lay out specific monetary limits, Clean Elections Commission attorney Joe Kanefield said the intent of the voters is what matters.

"It's clear from not only the text of the Clean Elections Act itself but all the materials that were available to voters that the drafters and the voters who enacted the Clean Elections Act were very concerned with the corrupting influences of large contributions [and] they wished them to be reduced," Kanefield said.

Much of the argument centered on how to determine whether voters in 1998 accepted that the legislature could change limits in the future or whether they wanted to prevent that. Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch noted that much of the evidence cuts both ways. She said the court aims to issue an order in the "fairly near future."

Updated 12/17/13 12:49 p.m.