Judge’s ruling in Horne case opens door to hidden smear campaigns

By Howard Fischer

Capitol Media Services/East Valley Tribune

The ruling of a judge in a case involving Tom Horne’s 2010 campaign could open the door for smear campaigns against candidates by groups that don’t have to disclose who is funding them.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Crane McClennen ruled that it was wrong of prosecutors to charge that the Committee for Justice and Fairness had violated state campaign finance laws. More to the point, the judge said laws requiring listing of contributors in cases like this are unconstitutional.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett said he believes McClennen got it wrong and vowed to appeal.

“I think people in Arizona expect that if someone is trying to influence an election they should report those contributions and expenditures like everyone else who’s trying to influence an election,” he said.

And Bennett said if the laws need to be tweaked a bit to make them constitutional, he will push for the changes.

But attorney Tom Irvine who represents the committee said no amount of alterations can make the requirement legal. He said as long as those running commercials do not specifically ask people to vote for or against a candidate, they can be run by groups funded by anonymous donors.

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