AUGUST 13, 2014

Tremendous victory for campaign finance transparency

Group found to have expressly advocated in election without organizing or reporting in 2010 AG race
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PHOENIX – The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office has consistently maintained that the essence of campaign finance laws require: Disclosure, disclosure, disclosure. For big money spending groups, there is no constitutional right to anonymous speech. Today, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Secretary of State in Committee for Justice & Fairness (CJF) v. Arizona.

“The people of the state of Arizona have a right to know who is funding advertisements attempting to influence elections,” said Secretary of State Ken Bennett. “I am pleased the Court sided with voters in this matter.”

Just days before the 2010 General Election, CJF spent approximately $1.5 million running an attack advertisement against then Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne as he ran for the state attorney general.

CJF argued that because the attack ad on Horne was limited to his record in the state legislature and superintendent and made no mention of the attorney general race or his opponent, the ads were issue-oriented speech and not express advocacy.

However, the court ruled that while Horne was not identified as a candidate by the ad, nor did the ad state “do not elect Tom Horne;” the timing and tone of the ad occurred at a time when people were well aware of Horne’s candidacy in the attorney general race. Therefore, according to the Court, the ad could have no other reasonable interpretation and was found to be express advocacy.

Additionally, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and found that the bedrock of Arizona’s campaign finance reporting system is constitutional. The Court, in keeping with longstanding Supreme Court jurisprudence, found that disclosure does not have a chilling effect on speech.

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