IJ Preserves Free Speech, Forces State To Refund Fees

August 2002

IJ Preserves Free Speech, Forces State To Refund Fees

There are many words that come to mind when trying to describe lobbyists. ‘Hero’ is typically not one of those words. However, Rick Lavis is not your typical lobbyist.

Mr. Lavis joined with the Institute for Justice to challenge a coercive funding source hidden within Arizona’s so-called “Clean” Elections Act, namely, a $100 fee imposed upon lobbyists who represent for-profit or commercial interests. In other words, the drafters of the Act exempted groups such as unions and the Sierra Club from paying the lobbyist fee, while forcing groups such as the Arizona Cotton Growers Association, for which Rick works, to pay the fee.

Not surprisingly, the Maricopa County Superior Court struck down the lobbyist fee as an unconstitutional restraint on the exercise of free speech under the First Amendment. The Clean Elections Commission wisely chose not to appeal and stipulated to a court-ordered refund of all illegally collected fees, constituting approximately $400,000.

As a thank you to the Institute for Justice, Rick Lavis wrote a letter to every lobbyist receiving a refund and asked them to make a one-time gift to IJ. In his letter Rick said, “It was [IJ’s] persistence in pursuing this issue that made the ruling against the fee possible.”

The support from the lobbyist community has been very gratifying, and IJ is greatly appreciative of both Rick Lavis and all those who have kindly donated their refunds (so far totaling $16,700) so that we may continue litigating to promote the causes of freedom.

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