Two months ago, U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver ruled that "the Matching Funds provision of the [Clean Elections] Act violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution." The Court, however, was unwilling to stop the flow of matching funds in the final days of the primary election. In response, the Goldwater Institute immediately asked the Court to halt matching funds during the general election.
Last week, Judge Silver held firm to her original preliminary ruling, underscoring "the [general] election is inextricably linked with the constitutional violations that have pervaded it." But again the Court refused to halt matching funds payments, citing concerns about disrupting the general election.
Concern about interfering with elections is legitimate, but in this case we believe the Court has exhibited too much judicial restraint. Elections are not exempt from the application of constitutional law. Traditional candidates who have relied upon the First Amendment should not be sacrificed to subsidized candidates who have relied upon violations of the First Amendment.
Fortunately, despite allowing the payout of matching funds to continue for this election, the Court has repeatedly given notice that the Act's matching funds provisions are unconstitutional. Once the election season has passed, we are confident that the First Amendment will be fully vindicated.
Nick Dranias is the constitutional policy director at the Goldwater Institute.