Another "Clean Elections" Law Threatened

GavelThe U.S Supreme Court has blocked (pdf) the state of Arizona from disbursing any public campaign matching funds until a constitutional challenge to Arizona's public campaign finance law is resolved. The news is extremely worrying for advocates of campaign finance reform. The case, McComish v. Bennett, was brought by self-funded and well-funded candidates for office in Arizona who challenged Arizona's clean elections law based on what they believe is their right to run their campaigns "without the heavy-hand of government helping their opponents." The District Court agreed with the plaintiffs, but the Ninth Circuit reversed that decision in an eloquent defense of the public financing system. Arizona's Clean Elections law gives campaign funds to candidates who collect a certain amount in $5 donations. Candidates must also forgo money from special interest groups. Election lawyer Rick Hasen worries that this latest action suggests that the Supreme Court will probably review the lower court's judgement, and most likely reverse the Ninth Circuit's decision in the case. A decision declaring Arizona's law unconstitutional would jeopardize public campaign matching programs across the country, continue to erect judicial barriers to campaign finance reform, and throw into question legislative remedies to Citizens United being discussed at the state and federal level. The Supreme Court had initially denied the plaintiffs requests to block the matching funds for procedural reasons.