The Arizona Supreme Court today REVERSED a $95,000 fine against a pop-up organization for the ad campaign they ran supporting Doug Ducey’s first run for Governor in 2014.

The opinion continuing the “ping ponging” legal battle sending it back to Maricopa County Superior Court to determine whether the Clean Elections Commission had subject matter jurisdiction was unanimous, and written by Vice Chief Justice Ann Timmer.

Timmer was placed on the Supreme Court by Gov. Jan Brewer. Two of the five justices appointed by Gov. Ducey recused themselves from the current proceeding.

The mysterious Legacy Foundation Action Fund from Iowa surprised Arizona political observers in 2014 by launching ads attacking then-Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. Smith and then-Treasurer Doug Ducey were the front-runners for the Republican nomination to replace Governor Jan Brewer.

Arizona’s Politics helped uncover the data points leading back to Ducey political confidant Sean Noble. We later discovered confirmation that Noble’s organization had given Legacy more than $900,000

Smith filed a complaint with the Clean Elections Commission, alleging that Legacy did not file the required reports and that it had illegally coordinated with Ducey. The Commission fined Legacy.

The following years of litigation have largely dealt with whether the Commission had the authority (jurisdiction) to decide the case, whether the agency is a “neutral decisionmaker”, and the roles and interplay between the Commission and the courts. 

Today, the Supreme Court reiterated that it does not see the agency as a “neutral decisionmaker” and that therefore, the Superior Court can make the determination whether the independent expenditure ads gave the Clean Elections Commission jurisdiction to levy the fine. (Legacy claims that the ads were not “express advocacy” even though it had no other reason to attack Smith for serving as then-President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors – “Obama’s Favorite Mayor”.)

“AZ Law” includes articles, commentaries and updates about opinions from the Arizona Supreme Court, U.S. Supreme Court, as well as trial and appellate courts, etc. AZ Law is founded by Phoenix attorney Paul Weich, and joins Arizona’s Politics on the internet. 

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