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High Court: Candidates Can Accept More Money for Campaigns


The state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that political candidates can accept much larger sums of money from donors. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer reports.

A 1998 voter-approved initiative allows candidates for statewide and legislative office to get public funds if they agree not to take private dollars. The same law also said that the donation limits in place at the time for privately financed candidates would be reduced by 20 percent. That resulted in the current limits of $440 for legislative contenders and $912 for those seeking state office. Earlier this year the Legislature boosted the limit for both to $4,000. The Clean Elections Commission sued, saying that overturned what voters wanted. But, the high court said nothing in the initiative bars lawmakers from setting contribution limits where they want, subject only to that 20 percent reduction. Commission chairman Louis Hoffman said he does not know whether the ruling will result in fewer candidates opting to take public dollars.

“Certainly some candidates, with the higher limits, will find it easy to run for office by merely getting together a bunch of wealthy donors in a single living room and financing a campaign,” Hoffman said.

But, Hoffman said public funding still remains a viable option for those who otherwise would not have the financial wherewithal. Proponents of the higher limits said the move was necessary after the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door to outside groups spending unlimited dollars to influence elections. They said the old limits resulted in candidates having little influence in their own campaigns.

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