PHOENIX – The Goldwater Institute filed today a formal appeal that asks the U.S. Supreme Court to permanently strike down the “matching funds” portion of Arizona’s taxpayer-funded campaign finance system. The Institute’s appeal in McComish v. Bennett will be litigated by lead attorneys Nick Dranias and Clint Bolick. The case has nationwide implications because similar systems in numerous states could be overturned if the Supreme Court grants the appeal.
“The First Amendment requires matching funds to be struck down,” said Mr. Dranias, the Goldwater Institute’s director of constitutional studies. “Political speech by one candidate cannot be silenced by the threat of government campaign subsidies to the opposing candidate.”
Arizona’s use of matching funds punishes privately-funded candidates by giving each of their taxpayer-funded opponents matching government subsidies, which are triggered whenever private campaign funds are raised or spent above a certain spending limit. Arizona is not alone in arranging its electoral system in this way. Although labeled differently, similar matching funds provisions exist (or have existed) in taxpayer-funded systems in Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
The Goldwater Institute promised to file a timely appeal in early June 2010 as part of an emergency request for the Supreme Court to suspend the use of matching funds for Arizona’s 2010 elections. Previously, the Goldwater Institute secured three rulings from U.S. District Judge Roslyn O. Silver that Arizona’s matching funds provision violated the First Amendment. Those rulings were overturned by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on May 21, 2010.
On June 8, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Ninth Circuit’s decision from taking effect and suspended the use of matching funds until the Supreme Court acts on the appeal that now has been filed. Later decisions in the Second and 11th Circuit Courts of Appeal followed the Supreme Court’s lead in the Arizona case, and they struck down similar matching fund provisions in Connecticut and Florida.
Next, the Supreme Court could take up the Goldwater Institute’s appeal and request additional briefs and oral arguments before issuing a final decision. Or the Court could choose to reject the appeal and restore the Ninth Circuit decision.
The Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation represents John McComish, Nancy McClain and Tony Bouie, candidates for the Arizona Legislature. Their appeal to the Supreme Court has been joined by several elected officials represented by the Institute for Justice, which has also filed a formal appeal after intervening in the McComish case.
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.