Arizona Supreme Court Will Consider Petition Challenging Clean Elections Act

John Kramer
John Kramer · January 15, 2002

Washington, D.C.—The Arizona Supreme Court yesterday ordered briefing in a challenge to the Clean Elections Act and announced that it would consider the petition on March 19.

The petition for special action was filed last Thursday by the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter. It challenges the principal funding source of the Clean Elections Act, a 10 percent surcharge on civil and criminal fines, including parking tickets, as impermissible “compelled speech” under the First Amendment. The surcharge accounts for more than 69 percent of the Clean Elections Fund.

“Most Arizonans don’t realize that every time they get a parking ticket, they’re also making an involuntary campaign contribution to a candidate not of their choosing,” declared Clint Bolick, lead attorney in the case.

“The State cannot single out a group of individuals and force them to subsidize the campaigns of politicians,” declared Bolick. “In a free society, the decision of whether to make political contributions must be a voluntary one.”

The Court ordered briefing of the issues and said it would consider the case without oral argument.

Last month, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Colleen McNally upheld the surcharge, but struck down a fee on lobbyists that was earmarked for the campaign subsidy fund. The Clean Elections Commission has decided not to appeal that ruling.

The Clean Elections Fund also receives revenue from voluntary income tax check-offs, but to date few Arizonans have designated a portion of their taxes for campaign subsidies.

The Institute represents Rep. Steve May, who refuses to accept involuntary campaign funds under the Clean Elections Act. But the proceeds from a surcharge imposed on a parking ticket he incurred would be used to fund other politicians, including his own opponent.

The Institute has already filed its opening brief. The State’s brief is due January 28.

“We’re grateful that the Arizona Supreme Court is considering this important issue,” added Bolick. “The issues we’re debating in Arizona could set the ground rules for campaign finance reform throughout the country.”