Washington, D.C.—In a two-sentence decision issued today, the Arizona Supreme Court declined to hear arguments in a challenge to the Clean Elections Act brought by the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter, which asked the Court to rule the compulsory funding of the Act unconstitutional.
The Phoenix-based Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter filed a petition for special action with the state’s High Court in January, seeking a direct appeal of the trial court decision by Maricopa Superior Court Judge Colleen McNally. That decision upheld a 10 percent surcharge on civil and criminal fines to fund the campaign subsidy scheme and struck down a $100 annual fee on lobbyists for for-profit causes. Direct appeal was sought because of the impending start of the 2002 election cycle. The IJ Arizona Chapter will now appeal the trial court decision to the state Court of Appeals.
“We will act swiftly to have this issue resolved in the Court of Appeals so that Arizona citizens do not have to continue funding politicians against their will,” declared Clint Bolick, lead attorney in the case.
The Institute argues that the surcharges amount to unconstitutional “compelled speech” in violation of the First Amendment and the Arizona Constitution. 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,” said Bolick.
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.
Meanwhile, the Citizens’ Clean Elections Commission voted not to appeal the trial court decision that struck down a fee on lobbyists that was earmarked for the campaign subsidy fund. A refund of the fees is expected shortly.
The Institute represents state 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.