Arizona Supreme Court Reinstates Increased Campaign Contribution Limits

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Arizona issued an order in Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission v. Superior Court, No.CV-13-0341-PR (December 17, 2013), vacating the opinion of the Court of Appeals and lifting that court’s previous injunction. The injunction prevented candidates for statewide and legislative offices from collecting campaign contributions at the higher limits established by the Arizona Legislature in House Bill 2593. 

Prior to House Bill 2593, a candidate running for a statewide office could accept a contribution from an individual up to $912 per election cycle, legislative candidates could accept individual contributions up to $440 and local candidates could accept up to $450 from an individual. The limits were the same for political committees. A so-called “Super PAC” could give $4,560 to statewide candidates, $1,816 to legislative candidates and $2,270 to local candidates per election cycle. In addition to limits on the amounts that individuals could give candidates, individuals were subject to an “aggregate cap” that limited individuals from giving more than $6,390 to all candidates and committees in a calendar year. 

HB 2593 allows individuals to give contributions to candidates for either a primary or a general election. Candidates running for statewide or legislative offices can now accept contributions up to $2,000 from individuals and political committees for both the primary and general elections; local candidates can now accept $2,500. A Super-PAC may still give the same $4,560 to statewide candidates but now may give $4,000 to legislative candidate and $5,000 to local candidates.  Like individuals and political committees, however, a Super PAC may give this amount in both the primary and general elections. The bill eliminated the “aggregate cap” altogether.

After the bill became effective on September 13, 2013, the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission and others brought a lawsuit in the Maricopa County Superior Court requesting, among other things, an injunction to prevent the higher limits from taking effect. Represented by outside counsel Michael T. Liburdi, Kelly A. Kszywienski and Mark Molique of Snell & Wilmer, Andy Biggs, the President of the Arizona Senate, and Andrew M. Tobin, the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, intervened in the action to defend the bill. After the superior court denied the requested injunction, the Commission appealed the decision by special action to the Arizona Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel held that the superior court erred and issued the requested injunction. President Biggs and Speaker Tobin filed a petition for review with the Arizona Supreme Court, which heard the matter on an expedited schedule. After hearing oral argument on the case on the morning of Tuesday, December 17, 2013, the court issued its order the same day, vacating the Court of Appeals decision and lifting the injunction, thus reinstating the higher contribution limits set by HB 2593. The Court will issue an opinion explaining its reasoning in due course.