Express Yourself!

Posted on October 13, 2005
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Can restrictions on freedom of speech be lifted? Two cases just added to the U.S. Supreme Court docket may signal the start.

The outcome in either of the two cases could affect Arizona's Clean Elections Act. 

The first case, Randall v. Sorrell, concerns a Vermont law that set an extremely low limit on how much money citizens could contribute to candidates and limited the amount of money candidates could spend on their campaigns. 

The second case, Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission, is a challenge to the federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as the McCain-Feingold Act. In this case, the Act prohibited a non-profit group from running certain advertisements shortly before federal elections. The Court will decide whether such restrictions on non-profit, grassroots groups are constitutional.

Either case before the Court could renew support for constitutional challenges to Arizona's Clean Elections Act, which also restricts speech by deterring private citizens and independent groups from spending money on speech regarding publicly financed candidates lest it be automatically matched by the state.  If the Vermont challenge succeeds, the Court will have reaffirmed the importance of money in expressing political views, and declared that expenditure limits are invalid under the Constitution.  If the Wisconsin challenge succeeds, the constitutional strength of independent grassroots speech will be improved.

A victory in either case would be a significant step toward restoring the fundamental importance of allowing unfettered political speech, and could signal the beginning of the end for Arizona's Clean Elections program.

Key Links:

- Arizona Republic: "Court takes up vote funding"
-James Madison Center for Free Speech:  Randall v. Sorrell
-James Madison Center for Free Speech:  Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC 
-Goldwater Institute: Is Cleanliness Political Godliness?

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