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Fri, Aug. 23

New House bill may strengthen state's campaign disclosure laws
Bill requires organizations to register as political committees

The Arizona Attorney General, Secretary of State and a legislator are pushing back against the "Citizens United" ruling handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010.

Attorney General Tom Horne, Secretary of State Ken Bennett and Arizona Rep. Eddie Farnsworth introduced House Bill 2385 Wednesday, which will reinforce the state's campaign disclosure laws.

The Citizens United ruling said corporate funding of political broadcasts during an election couldn't be limited. It upheld a requirement that sponsors of such broadcasts must be disclosed and that unions and corporations cannot donate directly to candidates.

Currently, a corporation, limited liability company, or labor organization that makes expenditures to influence the outcome of an election of more than $5,000 statewide, or $2,500 legislative, or $1,000 local, "shall" register with and notify the Secretary of State's Office one day after making the expenditure.

The problem is that the current law does not mandate these types of organizations to report the contributions they receive from people.

HB 2385, if approved, would not only require organizations to report their contributions but also require them to register with the Secretary of State's Office as political committees, if their primary purpose is to influence an election.

According to the bill, an organization whose primary purpose is influencing elections is defined by the amount of money it receives or spends on activities, the amount of time spent on activities, the manner in which the activities are conducted, the purpose that is supported by the activities and if the organization is formed within 180 days of an election and it spends money to influence the election.

The bill also allows any qualified elector to file an action alleging a violation of the proposed law with the Arizona Attorney General, their county attorney's office or their city attorney's office. The superior court must then hear and decide on the case within 10 days of the filing. Any appeals must be filed within five days of the decision.

"In the wake of the 'Citizens United' ruling by the Supreme Court, numerous corporations were seemingly formed for no other purpose than to influence our electoral process," Bennett said. "Our legislation seeks to ensure that a corporation, limited liability company or labor organization disclose their contributions and expenditures when exercising their 1st amendment rights to free speech."

However, the bill would probably not effect this year's election. According to both Rep. Nancy McLain and Sen. Ron Gould, the bill, if passed, would not go into effect until 90 days after the Legislature closes its session.

Gould said an emergency provision could be tacked onto the bill on the floor of either house. An emergency provision would allow the bill to go into law immediately after the governor signs it, but it would require a two-thirds vote of both houses to pass it.

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