Arizona campaign law found to be unconstitutional

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX (AP) -- A federal judge has ruled that an Arizona law defining a political committee is unconstitutionally vague, but stopped short of barring authorities from enforcing it.

The ruling Friday grew out of a 2011 protest organized by Fountain Hills resident Dina Galassini over a local bond proposal that was rejected by voters. Town officials told Galassini that a political committee must file a statement of organization before the protest could take place. They urged her to stop her protest until the law's requirements were met.

Galassini ultimately was allowed to hold the protest with about a dozen other people, and she went to court to try to prevent authorities from enforcing the law. Galassini claimed the law violated her First Amendment rights, while the state argued voters have a right to know who is trying to influencing their elections.

U.S. District Judge James Teilborg entered a judgment Friday in favor of Galassini declaring the definition to be unconstitutional, but didn't grant Galassini's request for an order preventing authorities from enforcing it.

Teilborg ruled Galassini failed to show she is entitled to such an order because she hasn't shown a likelihood of suffering irreparable harm. The judge said Galassini hasn't identified any future political activities in which the state has threatened to enforce the law and chill her First Amendment rights.

"No injunction yet, but there would be one if the state threatens to enforce the laws against her," said attorney Paul Avelar, who represented Galassini on behalf of the nonprofit law firm Institute for Justice.

Kim Crawford, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, said the state will ask the courts to put the ruling on hold. If that fails, Crawford said the state will likely file an appeal.

Crawford said Arizonans could potentially lose a view into who is influencing their elections if the ruling is allowed to stand.