Effects Of The New Campaign Contribution Limits Passed This Week

December 20, 2013

The Arizona Supreme Court this week upheld new campaign contribution limits passed by the legislature that let candidates take in as much as 10 times more money. Calling the issue convoluted puts it mildly, and the oral arguments reflected that.

Legislative candidates will be able to take $4,000 from an individual donor, up from $440. Will that lead to the funding floodgates breaking open, upending a more level playing field? Does it signal the imminent end of the state’s Clean Elections system? Consultant Constantin Querard is president of Grassroots Partners. His efforts have led to a number of legislative victories for conservative Republicans.

When voters passed the Clean Elections Act in 1998, its intent was to reduce the influence of money in politics. The act lowered contribution limits, but the drafters did not write in specific monetary amounts. Instead, they made the limits a function of amounts listed in another statute.

Arguing on behalf of the Clean Elections Commission, attorney Joseph Kanefield said that does not mean voters can be overridden, but Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch did not find that argument especially persuasive.

A former chair of the Arizona Democratic Party and candidate for U.S. Senate said this week’s ruling brings the state’s campaign contribution limits in line with those for federal offices. Jim Pederson believes there will be more money in state elections next year but does not think the ruling will help Democrats running for statewide office. Pederson, though, is not concerned about the new limits.