Lawsuit Challenges Arizona Clean Election Ballot Measure

By Claire Caulfield
Published: Friday, July 13, 2018 - 10:52am
Updated: Friday, July 13, 2018 - 11:13am
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A judge will decide whether lawmakers can ask voters to approve two changes in a law in a single act.

Thursday’s hearing considered a challenge to a ballot proposal that asks voters to amend the Citizens Clean Elections Act in two ways.

The first would keep publicly financed candidates from using any of their funds to buy services from political parties and political consultants.

The second would give the Governor's Regulatory Review Council, a panel of political appointees, oversight over the Citizen’s Clean Election Commission, a nonpartisan group.

That covers everything from their power to force public disclosure of campaign spending to mandates for publicly funded candidates to submit to at least one debate.

Danny Adelman, attorney for the commission, told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanders that joining the two issues was not just happenstance. He said it was a ploy by lawmakers "in the hope that voters are forced to take this all-or-nothing position that it will somehow pass.''

He said the Arizona Constitution requires that acts of the Legislature "shall embrace but one subject and matters properly connected therewith.”

And Adelman warned the judge that if lawmakers are able to link these two issues it would open the door for other legislative involvement in future ballot referrals.

"They could pass something that joins together highway funding with a ban on abortion, or with something completely different like abolition of the death penalty,'' Adelman said.

But Assistant Attorney General Rusty Crandell told Sanders that constitutional provision applies only to "acts of the Legislature.'' He said the vote by lawmakers to send the issue to voters does not fit that definition.

Anyway, Crandell argued, if there is a violation of constitutional single-subject provisions, that can be litigated only after the measure becomes law — assuming it remains on the ballot and assuming voters approve.

Mike Liburdi, a private attorney hired by Republican legislative leaders, went a step farther. He said there is no violation, saying there need be only a "natural connection'' among various ballot provisions.

Liburdi also pointed out that the entire Clean Elections Act was approved in a single ballot measure in 1998.

But the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that measures crafted by voters themselves are not subject to the single-subject rule. Judge Sanders is being asked to decide whether it applies to statutory changes that lawmakers are asking voters to approve.

Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this report.