Saturday, November 5, 2016

SCOTUS stays injunction


DNC Responds to AZ/GOP Stay Application on Ballot Collection

Here is the Democratic National Committee and others Response to Arizona & the GOP 's joint Emergency Motion to Stay.  The Ninth Circuit yesterday put on hold a new Arizona law that sought to limit collection of early ballots to certain select people such as family members.  The State and GOP are seeking Supreme Court's intercession to block ballot collection except under these limited circumstances.  The new law also made violation a Class 6 Felony.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

Judge Rayes' 9-23-16 Order in Feldman v. SOS & Ninth Circuit Opinion in Arizona Green Party v. Reagan

Judge Rayes' September 23d Order in Feldman v. Arizona Secretary of State's Office. 

And the Ninth Circuit's Opinion in Arizona Green Party v. Reagan.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Justice Ginsburg, Voters, the Arizona Constitution (and Clean Elections)

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision, holding that Arizona voters could, in fact, set up an independent redistricting commission to draw congressional maps. 

The case revolved around whether the U.S. Constitution by delegating to the "legislature" authority over federal elections limited that authority to only legislative bodies such as the state house or senate.  Justice Ginsburg, writing for the majority, said it did not.

Justice Ginsburg recognized that the Arizona Constitution gives the voters the power to make laws just as the legislature can.  Indeed, the legislature and the voters "share lawmaking power under Arizona's system of government." Thus, in Arizona "the people reserve the power to propose laws and amendments to the constitution and to enact or reject such laws and amendments at the polls, independently of the legislature; and they also reserve, for use at their own option, the power to approve or reject at the polls any act, or item, section, or part of any act, of the legislature." 

Voters enshrined the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission in the Arizona Constitution.  It is just one feature of the Arizona Constitution that elevates voters' interests over elected politicians.  Another is the Voter Protection Act, passed in 1998, that secures the Clean Elections Act and other voter-approved mandates from tampering.  Indeed, the Arizona Constitution demonstrates a commitment by voters to themselves including the initiative, referendum, and recall provisions, a ban on corporate campaign contributions, a mandate to the very first legislature to (wait for it) pass disclosure laws, and direct primary elections

In Arizona, elections should be pure and free.

In addition to being protected from legislative tampering by the Voter Protection Act, Clean Elections shares a lot with Arizona's Constitution and therefore the history (and future) of our state. 

Arizona voters set up Clean Elections with themselves in mind: Through voter-driven financing, Clean Elections seeks to bring voters into the system and push corruption out by breaking the link between dollars and political favors that can lead to corruption.  Clean Elections provides for timely, electronic reporting of campaign finances (and did so long-before this was a popular notion).  Clean Elections provides tools to bring voters information like the candidate statement pamphlet and debates.  And Clean Elections ensures that the Act is independently enforced and administrated by a non-partisan commission that is not beholden to the legislature for funding.

Arizona voters are at the center of Arizona's foundational document.  And Arizona voters put in place a Clean Elections System to "improve the integrity of Arizona state government by diminishing the influence of special-interest money,  . . . encourage citizen participation in the political process, and . . . promote freedom of speech under the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions."

Clean Elections carries out voter-mandated duties

Recently, The Arizona Republic published a response to its June 14th editorial broadside against the Citizens Clean Elections Commission by former chair and author of the Clean Elections Act Louis Hoffman

Commissioner Hoffman is right. Indeed, Doug MacEachern's editorial for the paper was unfortunate.  Unfortunate because it didn’t fairly address the Commission’s duties to enforce and administrate the Clean Elections Act as passed by the voters.

Voters understand that we need more information in our elections and more transparency.  That’s why they passed the Clean Elections Act and empowered the Commission and only the Commission to enforce it on an independent, non-partisan basis.  Given our state’s struggle with corruption and transparency in elections, the purpose of the Clean Elections Act is to promote participation and restore integrity to state government. 

That’s why, in 1998, Arizona’s voters themselves created the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, tasking the CCEC with three equally paramount mandates – voter-driven financing of campaigns for qualified candidates; voter education programs and debates among candidates; and the enforcement of Arizona’s election laws regarding issues like campaign contribution limits and the filing of appropriate campaign finance reports by candidates and independent spenders.

It’s this last voter-authorized duty which continues to draw objections from Arizona’s politicians and from the June 14th editorial. These complaints come despite multiple court rulings outlining the Commission’s enforcement role, including exceedingly clear language reaffirming this authority by the Arizona Supreme Court..

As Justice Ruth McGregor put it, “the Commission enforces the provisions of (Arizona election laws) dealing with administration and enforcement.” She added that the Commission’s roles and authorities “do not relate to the public financing of political campaigns.”  Enforcing these laws is a paramount duty, Justice McGregor wrote in Clean Elections Institute v. Brewer.

The Commission’s authority to enforce election laws is clear. So is the Commission’s track record of enforcement in a non-partisan, objective manner.  

While the June 14th editorial characterized Clean Elections’ enforcement role as submitting candidates to the potential for “double jeopardy” should the CCEC and Secretary of State disagree, I would submit that’s not the case. (Notably, the out-of-state spender the Commission find is seeking a second opinion from a different Superior Court judge after its appeal was bounced. So much for consistency.).  

The only jeopardy faced by most Arizona political candidates and operatives who flout election laws is being held accountable by the Commission – a five-member body consisting of two Republicans, two Democrats and one Independent appointed to enforce the will of the people as transcribed in law.

Arizona voters are smart.  Presented with an elections system full of gaping loopholes and flush with special interest cash, they created a Clean Elections system to push corruption out by bringing voters in with information and opportunities to participate.  And, instead of the so-called “foxes guarding the hen house,” voters instilled in the Clean Elections Commission the authority to create exactly that – clean elections, or, at the very least, cleaner elections.

What voters want is clear.  They want resources they can rely upon and they want to cast their ballots with the confidence that the rules will apply fairly to all.  That’s what the Clean Elections Act says and it’s what the Commission does. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Where's the controversy? We have a consensus

Couple weeks back, the New York Times ran a story on a poll showing widespread support for better campaign finance laws. Chris Cillizza followed up with a column arguing most voters don't think it's a priority issue compared to other issues. 

On its face, that makes some intuitive sense. I'm more worried about jobs and the economy than campaign finance and I work in campaign finance.  

The real questions are what do you do with the information about voter sentiment and how does it arise for voters in context? For example, if you put the issue directly in front of them, what result? Or does it mean you can or should let these laws fall into desuetude (as some suggest) because you've concluded voters don't care, as Cillizza suggests, or don't understand. 

More broadly, the support for these reforms seems to suggest voters do understand the importance of campaign finance. They should. After all, the folks heavily involved in financing campaigns care a lot. If businesses, unions and others are voting with their pocket books, literally, it's because they're interested in policy outcomes. 

And voters, who care about jobs and the economy and other issues, do too. But if you don't know where the cash is coming from you don't have a complete picture of why the policies are what they are or whether politicians are acting in the public's interest. So campaign finance really encompasses all issues. Not just one. That's why it matters. And it matters to voters. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

What's in it for me?

One of the things that gets lost in the media coverage of campaign and election issues is the voter. That's because political narratives are often insider-driven. Trying to give readers a sense of what's happening on the inside, however, leaves you looking at the world like a political consultant. No one should have to do that.

Coverage of Clean Elections is often no different. It's covered in terms of candidate tactics and ideological gamesmenship. The focus should be on voters. Because that is the core of Clean Elections' purpose.

Clean Elections was passed by and for the people of Arizona in 1998. It says we'll drive corruption out of the system by bringing voters in with information, voter-driven financing and fair, non-political enforcement.

When it comes to these voter-approved election laws, non-partisan enforcement matters because leaving it up to elected officials to police themselves and the special interest folks means you're never sure if the voters' interest is going to come first.

It's why we don't have drug dealers enforce the drug laws.

Clean Elections was designed with this in mind. Independent administration and enforcement means the law the voters approved comes first when it comes to politicians and the spenders who back them.

Political consultants see the world in terms of who has money and who can get it. That's their job. It's how they're going to get paid. But common sense tells you when you're depending on someone for cash, whether you are a politician or not, you might end up beholden. That matters when it comes to the public's interest.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Worth reading Robb

Give Bob Robb credit for muscling through the issues involved in the Clean Elections Commission's enforcement action against the Legacy Foundation Action Fund (LFAF). 
Bob's column does as much as he can within his existing convictions to acknowledge the policies behind the voter-approved Clean Elections Act. 

A few points that challenge the narrative (and because even Bob can't capture everything in 700 words). 

First, Bob asserts that the commission was granted authority over privately-financed candidates and independent expenditures "[t]o implement the matching funds provisions" of the Act. The specific kind of matching approach the Act used was struck down in 2011, Bob notes. But the authority of the commission in this case is  not related to public, voter financing at all. That's what the Act says. And, of special importance, it's what the Arizona Supreme Court said when it looked at the question back in 2004.  The court explained that the commission "would retain full enforcement authority and responsibility as to the... provisions" that apply to independent spenders like LFAF "even if the voters abolished public financing of political campaigns." The obligation to enforce these laws was deemed "paramount."

Other similar challenges to the commission's authority have been dismissed as well. 

So the Commission's actions are firmly grounded in law and precedent. 

Next, Bob makes a lot of the potential for contradictory findings by the commission vs. the secretary. Here he acknowledges, but underplays, the amount of conflict potential in the system the secretary advocates itself.   

But to unpack that you have to understand a central fact of campaign finance law in Arizona that Bob elides-- the Secretary of State doesn't truly enforce anything. Rather she can do one and only one thing-- refer matters to the attorney general for actual enforcement.  (The SOS, example, has no power to subpoena documents or testimony, but the commission does).

If the attorney general decides to issue an enforcement order, the case can be appealed to an administrative law judge who refers the case back to the AG. Appeals to superior court and the court of appeals may follow and, in extraordinary cases, the state supreme court may grant a petition for review. That's an awful lot of folks who have to agree. A mere disagreement between the SOS and Clean Elections is just a tail on that dog.  

Not that I agree or concede this point in any way. It simply illustrates that, under Bob's thesis, Clean Elections is not the issue. 

(One irony is that all of this due process is to protect independent spenders' rights. Arguing that the very protections they are afforded is burdening speech is kind of a tough argument to wrap your head around. And even Citizens United rejects that proposition that campaign spending is a law-free zone. But SOS's attorney the Goldwater Institute certainly doesn't ).  

Further, as Bob hints at, the SOS/AG process is rife with politics. Oh, and conflicts and potential conflicts galore.  So, whatever the SOS's point in inveighing against the Commission, it goes double for whomever carries that title or the mantle of the AG. 

(Yet another irony is that Secretary Reagan was prime sponsor of legislation to transfer all campaign finance authority to the commission back in 2013). 

Evidence of these kind of situations where the commission goes one way and another body goes another is scant. For instance, in 2014 the commission and the AG's office did a joint conciliation with a different out-of-state dark money group over allegations that implicated the Clean Elections Act and other campaign finance laws. During the same cycle, the SOS and the commission agreed there was reason to believe a violation may have occurred in the Horne-Beattie matter. 

Finally, who enforces the Clean Elections Act if not the commission? Arizona revised statute section 16-941, which the commission is enforcing in LFAF, is in Article 2, of Chapter 6, of Title 16.  That's where the Clean Elections Act lives, if you will. Section  16-924 specifically excludes the SOS from addressing those provisions. So this purported conflict dissolves as a matter of law. 

So where does that leave things? For me the question still remains why is this Secretary Reagan's fight? She's not the enforcer, contradictory decisions are equally if not more possible in the system she purports to defend, and the politics of that system are obvious. Plus the courts have already ruled on this. You have to scratch your head.