Nick Dranias

Federal judge declares Clean Elections matching funds unconstitutional

Posted on September 03, 2008 | Author: Nick Dranias
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In June I asked readers of the Goldwater Institute daily email to stay tuned for more information about how a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision would impact Arizona's Clean Elections system. Theres good news to report.
Two weeks ago the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit challenging the matching funds provisions of Clean Elections. Last Friday Judge Roslyn Silver ruled that the Matching Funds provision of the [Clean Elections] Act violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it opens up new avenues for possible corruption in the electoral process.

Judge Silvers ruling enforces the Supreme Courts decision in Davis v. F.E.C., which said that 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 violates the First Amendment.

The matching funds provisions should not stand under Davis because they produce fundraising advantages for taxpayer-subsidized candidates who are running against privately-financed candidates. The Supreme Court has plainly stated that such schemes restrict the freedom of speech of non-subsidized candidates and their contributors.

Fridays decision was a preliminary ruling and the details on how it will impact the current election cycle are still to be determined. Today at 1:30 p.m., the Goldwater Institute will be back in court for a hearing to determine whether matching funds should be available to taxpayer-subsidized candidates for the November general election.

Even if matching funds are provided for the remainder of this years elections, it seems likely that the days of matching funds are numbered. Judge Silvers decision is an important victory for free speech.

Nick Dranias is the constitutional policy director at the Goldwater Institute.

Learn more:

Goldwater Institute: McComish v. Brewer
Goldwater Institute: "Candidates File Lawsuit Against Clean Elections"
Goldwater Institute: "Campaign Promises: A Six-year Review of Arizona's Experiment with Taxpayer-financed Campaigns"

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