PHOENIX - Saying the proposal is legally flawed, supporters of public financing of elections filed suit Friday to block a public vote to kill the state's Clean Elections funding system.
The proposed constitutional amendment is billed as barring the government from providing public subsidies to candidates for public office, attorney Paul Eckstein said in the suit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court. But he said the language lawmakers last month approved for the 2012 ballot would bar government agencies from collecting or spending public funds for "campaign support," a phrase that is not defined.
The problem with that, Eckstein said, is it could be interpreted as barring not only direct contributions to a candidate's race but also other functions of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, including its sponsorship of debates and voter education. And that, he said, means the proposal would do two things, violating a requirement that constitutional amendments address only a single subject.
If the courts don't buy that argument, Eckstein has a backup.
The ballot proposal would affect not only the state's public-financing system, approved by voters in 1998, but also would kill an even older program in the city of Tucson by which candidates who agree to limit what they collect from private donors can get matching public dollars.
Eckstein pointed out the measure would "sweep" any leftover funds set aside for candidate financing into the state treasury. That would cover not only cash in the state Clean Elections fund but also city tax dollars.
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