Phoenix--Today a diverse group of candidates filed a lawsuit challenging the matching funds provisions of Arizona's Clean Elections Act. The suit contends the matching funds provisions violate the free speech and equal protection rights of candidates who do not participate in the taxpayer-subsidized campaign finance system. The candidates are seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent matching funds from being distributed before the September primary.
"The matching funds provisions create an uneven playing field for candidates who don't use public funds," said Nick Dranias, the Goldwater Institute's director of constitutional policy studies.
The candidates joining the lawsuit are Arizona State House Majority Whip John McComish, State Representative Nancy McLain, and legislative candidates Frank Antenori, Tony Bouie, Kevin Gibbons, and Doug Sposito. The Goldwater Institute filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court and anticipates adding additional plaintiffs, including Senate Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor.
"Representative John McComish's situation perfectly illustrates the system's injustice," said Dranias. Mr. McComish is in a primary contest against three subsidized candidates and contends the matching funds provisions provide vastly disproportionate support for his opponents. For every dollar that McComish spends promoting his campaign, one dollar goes to each of his opponents, allowing three dollars to be spent opposing McComish for every one dollar spent supporting him.
The suit aims to enforce the recent decision by the United States Supreme Court in Davis v. F.E.C. In June, the Supreme Court held that the goal of "leveling" electoral opportunities does not justify a campaign finance system in which "the vigorous exercise of the right to use personal funds to finance campaign speech produces fundraising advantages for opponents in the competitive context of electoral politics."
The Clean Elections Act cannot stand under the Davis ruling because it "equalizes" contributions raised by privately-funded candidates by giving matching amounts of taxpayer money to candidates participating in the Clean Elections system. Davis ruled that such schemes restrict the freedom of speech of privately-funded candidates and their contributors.
To learn more about this lawsuit, or any other Goldwater Institute lawsuit to protect individual rights and keep government within its constitutional limits, please visit http://goldwaterinstitute.org/litigation. The Goldwater Institute is a research and litigation organization whose work is made possible by the generosity of its supporters.