Madonna, et al. v. State of Arizona ("Strict Compliance" for Initiatives)


Summary: One of the biggest battles of the 2017 legislative session revolved around attacks on citizen initiatives. Of all of them, perhaps the most dangerous is imposing a "strict compliance" standard to initiatives. Simply put, "strict compliance" means tossing out qualified initiatives based on minor technicalities.  

Imposing a new legal standard is also unconstitutional. The Arizona Supreme Court has been asked time and again to apply "strict compliance" to initiatives, but has declined to do so based on its reading of the initiative power in the Arizona Constitution. In enacting HB 2244, the legislature and Governor attempted to overrule the Court's longstanding interpretation of the Arizona Constitution. 

"The history of [Arizona's] constitution and its adoption . . . shows beyond the possibility of contradiction that the people themselves . . . meant to exercise their supreme sovereign power directly to a far greater extent than had been done in the past, and that the legislative authority, acting in a representative capacity only, was in all respects intended to be subordinate to direct action by the people." Whitman v. Moore, 59 Ariz. 211, 220 (1942). 

We're proud to stand alongside our fellow plaintiffs: Matthew Madonna, Sandy Bahr, Animal Defense League of Arizona, Friends of ASBA, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona in this suit to preserve Arizonans' constitutional right to direct democracy and our constitutional system of separation of powers. 

Status: This case is now over. After a two-day hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court, Judge Sherry Stephens dismissed the complaint as not yet ripe for judicial review. The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed that decision and the Arizona Supreme Court declined to review the case. 

Superior Court Documents:


Court of Appeals Documents:


Supreme Court Documents:


 Arizona Advocacy Network, et al. v. State of Arizona, et al. (Clean Elections and "Dark Money")


Summary: When Arizona's voters created Clean Elections back in 1998, we changed our state's politics for the better, empowering ordinary Arizonans to run for office and promoting transparency and confidence in our elections. The Clean Elections Act created a bipartisan Commission empowered to enforce the law, so that powerful corporate interests would have to adhere to the same rules of the road as everyone else. 

Last year, the Legislature passed a new law that opened the door to virtually unlimited secret corporate political spending, and that attempted to handcuff the Clean Elections Commission from enforcing the Clean Elections Act.

Because Clean Elections is voter-protected, any amendments to the CEA require a three-fourths supermajority in both the House or Senate, which S.B. 1516 failed to obtain. Instead, the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 18-10, and the House by a bare majority of 31-27. It also fails to further Clean Elections’ purpose, an additional requirement for amendments to any voter-protected law.

In addition to the VPA, S.B. 1516 violates Equal Protection by singling out some tax-exempt groups for different levels of regulation based solely on whether or not they are registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission (“ACC”), a body that has no role in campaign finance enforcement. Advocacy groups, chambers of commerce, and other nonprofits other can now spend unlimited amounts on elections without reporting their spending or even registering as a political committee, while other groups - such as labor unions - cannot.

Finally, by allowing funds to flow to and from political parties and independent groups in secret, S.B 1516 violates the built-in disclosure requirement of the Arizona Constitution. Arizona’s founders were greatly concerned with the potential for corporations and the wealthy to corrupt Arizona’s politics, and so they wrote into the state constitution a command to the legislature to require disclosure. By passing S.B. 1516, the Legislature abandoned its constitutional duty. 

“The legislature . . . shall enact a law providing for a general publicity, before and after election, of all campaign contributions to, and expenditures of campaign committees and candidates for public office.” Arizona Constitution, Art. 7, Sec. 16.

Status: On December 5, 2018, the Maricopa County Superior Court issued an order striking down some of the most offensive provisions of the law, which it said amounted to an unconstitutional attempt by the Legislature to "in essence eradicate the very core of the [CleanElections] Act."  

Trial Court Documents:

Media Coverage: Click here to hear Joel Edman's Nov. 16, 2017 interview about the case on KJZZ's "The Show."


Hoffman, et al. v. Reagan, et al. (Anti-Clean Elections Ballot Measure)


Summary: As its very last act of the 2018 legislative session, the House of Representatives gave final approval to a ballot referral (Prop. 306) that attacks Clean Elections. The measure attempts to undermine the Clean Elections Commission's independent authority to enforce campaign finance law by subjecting Clean Elections rules to review by a Governor-appointed body of political insiders and corporate elites. It also adds further restrictions on to Clean candidates, but not non-participating candidates. 

The Arizona Constitution requires that "[e]very act shall embrace but one subject and matters properly connected therewith." Art. 4, Pt. 2, Sec. 13. After the legislature passed Prop. 306, the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest filed a lawsuit on behalf of one current and one former Clean Elections Commissioner, arguing Prop. 306 violates the Arizona Constitution by combining two issues that are not related. 

Along with the League of Women Voters of Arizona, we filed an amicus brief in support of the suit. 

Status: A hearing will be held in Superior Court before Judge Teresa Sanders on July 12th. 

Trial Court Documents: