Supreme Court Strikes Down Matching Funds: A KJZZ Special Report

June 27, 2011

U.S. Supreme CourtMonday, the United States Supreme Court struck down the matching funds provision of Arizona's Clean Elections law--a law that was supposed to reduce the influence of special interests in state campaigns. The matching funds provision, struck down 5-4, gives Clean Elections candidates matching funds if traditionally-funded candidates spend above a preset amount, or if a third party spends money on a race.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the matching funds provision imposes a “substantial burden on the speech of privately financed candidates” and third party groups.   That was essentially the same argument Roberts made in another landmark campaign finance case last year that allowed corporations to give unlimited campaign contriubutions. 

Take a listen to this KJZZ News Special Report with Steve Goldstein to hear reaction and analysis from some key players.

Ed Ableser is one of the law's defenders, a Democratic state representative from Tempe. Ableser says matching funds allowed him to respond to $25,000 spent against him by a local corporation. He won that race, but fears today’s ruling will make elections more about money than ideas.

One of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case is former State Treasurer Dean Martin.   He’s opposed to Clean Elections financing.  Martin says the problem is traditional candidates have to work to raise money, but Clean Elections candidates get matching funds for free.

Host Steve Goldstein also discussed the issue with Nick Dranias of the Goldwater Institute, the attorney who brought the lawsuit. Also weighing in, Republican political consultant Nathan Sproul and Bart Turner, President and CEO of the Clean Elections Institute.

Plus, Arizona isn’t the only state that will feel the impact of today’s Supreme Court decision.  Maine, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Wisconsin all have matching funds provisions for some political campaigns.

Allison Smith, co-president of the board of directors for Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, says she was disappointed by today’s ruling--but says her state is already going back to the drawing board.

Finally, supporters of Arizona’s public campaign finance system suggest it too can be amended in light of today’s Supreme Court decision.  

But the question remains, will they have the chance? 

Arizona’s legislature referred a repeal of clean elections to the November 2012 ballot.

Take a listen to this KJZZ News Special Report, hosted by Steve Goldstein.

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