“Secretary Reagan is troubled by what appears to be the Commission’s latest attempt to usurp the authority of the Chief Election Officer in Arizona. With the new regulatory authority the Commission seeks to bestow upon itself, the Commission appears also determined to seize the role of the Legislature and create its own law.
In adopting the Citizens Clean Elections Act, the people of Arizona sought to expand and promote freedom of speech and citizen participation in the political process. Secretary Reagan believes the Commission’s mission creep is extremely dangerous and unfortunately demonstrates that this un-elected and unaccountable body seeks to declare itself as Arizona’s Free Speech policeman.
The Commission’s actions are disturbing in two respects. First, the Commission has no statutory authority to regulate outside groups who exercise their First Amendment rights. While courts have significantly limited the breadth of the Clean Elections Act, the Commission should not have the ability to enact a new mission for itself. Second, the Legislature this session expressly rejected the type of regulation the Commission seeks to impose as an end-run. The Legislature set a high bar for triggering political committee status in HB2649, flatly rejecting the Commission’s arguments to the contrary at various legislative committee hearings. Having suffered this defeat, the Commission now seeks to gain through regulation what it could not achieve through legislation. Free speech advocates should be deeply troubled by this brazen power grab.
The right to engage in robust First Amendment speech is too important for the Secretary of State to stand on the sidelines on this issue. In the Free Enterprise Club case and in the Gallassini case, among others, courts have repeatedly ruled that government’s regulatory burden on free speech should be as light as possible. The Secretary of State hopes that the Clean Elections Commission will refocus on the mission given to it by the voters and withdraw this dangerous and ill-conceived proposal.”
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