PHOENIX--The Goldwater Institute filed an emergency request today with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy to enact the permanent injunction striking down the campaign matching funds provisions of Arizona's Citizens Clean Elections Act. The permanent injunction was issued by a federal district court two weeks ago, but has been suspended while defenders of matching funds pursue an appeal.
The Goldwater Institute's emergency filing says the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals "has defied" the principles enforced in Citizens United v. F.E.C. by keeping alive the threat of matching funds being handed out to state-funded candidates during Arizona's 2010 election cycle. Justice Kennedy is the author of the majority opinion in Citizens United, which struck down laws that had prohibited groups of individuals--whether corporations, unions or informal associations--from freely spending their money to express their support or opposition for political candidates.
On February 1, 2010, two judges of a three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit court blocked the decision striking down matching funds until further notice. The Ninth Circuit ruling was given without any accompanying explanation and over the impassioned dissent of Circuit Judge Carlos Bea.
"Yes, enforcement of the . . . injunction would have a substantial effect on the Arizona 2010 election," Judge Bea wrote in his five-page dissent. "However, change is always uncomfortable for the vested interests . . . But where First Amendment free speech interests are involved, the comfort level of those causing the 'chilling effect' on speech is irrelevant."
"The First Amendment requires matching funds to be struck down today, not next year," said Nick Dranias, the Goldwater Institute's director of constitutional studies. "By keeping the threat of matching funds alive, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has not only disregarded binding Supreme Court precedent, it has enabled the State of Arizona to violate the First Amendment. As a result, people who want to speak freely about politics are now being punished."
The Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation filed McComish v. Bennett in 2008, to challenge the "matching funds" provisions in the system based on a June 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Davis v. F.E.C. case. That case 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."
Read more about this and other Goldwater lawsuits to protect individual rights and keep government within its constitutional limits at www.goldwaterinstitute.org/litigation. The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog supported by people who are committed to expanding free enterprise and liberty.