PHOENIX - A judge has ruled that Arizona campaign finance laws requiring political committees to register and report their spending and fundraising are unconstitutional.
The Oct. 10 ruling won't affect campaigns this election cycle, but it could upend the state's campaign finance system for future elections, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.
Assistant Secretary of State Jim Drake said his office will appeal the ruling by Judge Crane McClennen of Maricopa County Superior Court.
"That was a very expansive decision, given the fact that it was just reviewing an administrative decision," Drake said.
McClennen overturned a county prosecutor's administrative enforcement order against a Democrat-backed group. The group aired an ad criticizing Republican Tom Horne during the 2010 general election campaign for state attorney general.
McClennen ruled that the state's requirements are unconstitutional because the ads were issue-oriented speech that didn't expressly advocate for or against a candidate.
The ad urged voters to call Horne's office at the Arizona Department of Education and instructed them to "tell Tom Horne to protect children."
"This ruling is a First Amendment victory. It's not necessary to register unless you use one of those `magic words"' advocating for or against a candidate, said Tom Irvine, a lawyer representing the committee.
Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne said the ruling could have serious repercussions if appellate courts uphold it.
"It got my heart started," she said. "Everything we have, everything we do is based on those (laws that were ruled unconstitutional)."
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