In February, a Tucson-area physicians group argued before the Ninth Circuit that Arizona's Clean Elections system is unconstitutional, and a decision is expected this summer. Several Arizona policymakers, including State Treasurer Dean Martin, argued that the current system of financing campaigns restricts free speech.
On the face of it, one might think that more money would expand political speech. However, the plaintiffs believe their First Amendment rights are being violated. Under Clean Elections, each time an organization sends a donation to a candidate who has refused government money, the opposing candidate who is taking government money receives an equal sum from the government. This government support essentially cancels out or neuters the voice of the regular citizen, effectively silencing the peoples voices.
Political speech is at the heart of the free speech protections of both the First Amendment and Article 2.6, of the Arizona Constitution. Unfortunately, given the track record of the Ninth Circuit on the subject, there is little reason to hope they will strike down this unconstitutional system. A ballot initiative to remedy this injustice may be Arizona's best hope to restore free speech.
Jeffrey McLerran is a Goldwater Institute Ronald Reagan Fellow.