PHOENIX - In a major victory for free speech, the U.S. Supreme Court this morning blocked the use of taxpayer money as campaign "matching funds." The Court will decide whether to review a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
"This ruling vindicates the right of traditionally funded candidates to run their campaigns without the heavy hand of government helping their opponents," said Nick Dranias, the Goldwater Institute's lead attorney in the case known as McComish v. Bennett.
Under the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act, candidates who run with public campaign subsidies receive an almost dollar-for-dollar match each time a privately funded opponent raises money above a certain amount, and additional matches when independent expenditures are made against the subsidized candidate.
Today, the Supreme Court restored an injunction against the use of matching funds ordered earlier this year by U.S. District Judge Roslyn O. Silver.
"In a time of soaring budget deficits, the last thing taxpayers should be paying for are politicians' campaigns," said Darcy Olsen, president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute.
The Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation represents John McComish, Nancy McClain and Tony Bouie, candidates for the Arizona Legislature whose campaigns are funded by private donations. All three are running against taxpayer-funded candidates who will receive a dollar-for-dollar match from the government for every dollar they privately raise.
In January 2010, Judge Silver ruled that matching funds discourage traditionally funded candidates from raising or spending their donations so they can avoid triggering more taxpayer-funded campaign money for their opponents. Judge Silver determined matching funds are an unconstitutional burden on the election speech of privately funded candidates.
A three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit disagreed in May, and issued an opinion stating the damage to free speech is minimal.
The Goldwater Institute requested that the Supreme Court intervene before the state started to hand out this year's first round of matching funds on June 22, 2010. In a filing before the Court on Monday, June 7, the Goldwater Institute emphasized that publicly subsidized candidates were first warned by Judge Silver more than 18 months ago that matching funds were unconstitutional. Judge Silver issued her final ruling in late January, but delayed her order so the state could appeal. The Supreme Court's action today ended that delay and put Judge Silver's order into effect immediately.
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.