PHOENIX— Today the Goldwater Institute filed a new request asking the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately block the release of “matching funds” by the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission. A U.S. district judge declared matching funds unconstitutional in January but kept them in place for this year’s elections.
This morning, the Supreme Court denied a request the Goldwater Institute filed two weeks ago asking for an injunction to stop the use of matching funds this year. But the Court gave the Institute permission to file the request again along with an assurance that the Institute plans to appeal the recent opinion from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that overruled the District Court and declared matching funds to be legal. A new request and a commitment to appeal the Ninth Circuit decision was filed this afternoon.
“This morning’s decision does not guarantee matching funds will be in place for this fall’s elections,” said Nick Dranias, the Institute’s leading lawyer in this challenge. “The Court still has time to stop matching funds and prevent further First Amendment violations.”
The Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation represents John McComish, Nancy McClain and Tony Bouie, candidates for the Arizona Legislature whose campaigns are funded by private donations. All three are running against taxpayer-funded candidates who will receive a dollar-for-dollar match from the government for every dollar privately raised.
In January 2010, U.S. District Judge Roslyn O. Silver ruled that matching funds discourage traditionally funded candidates from raising or spending their donations so they can avoid triggering more taxpayer-funded campaign money for their opponents. Judge Silver determined that matching funds are an unconstitutional burden on the election speech of privately funded candidates.
A three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit disagreed in May, and issued an opinion stating the damage to free speech is minimal.
Mr. Dranias said the Institute is asking the Supreme Court to intervene now because the final outcome of the lawsuit will be determined too late to protect the First Amendment rights of candidates running for office this year.
The Ninth Circuit’s ruling could become official as soon as June 14, 2010. The Clean Elections Commission is scheduled to start handing out matching funds on June 22, 2010. Today’s filing asks the U.S. Supreme Court to stop matching funds from being handed out this year, but does not ask the Court to make a final ruling in the case.
Read more about this and other Goldwater lawsuits to protect individual rights and keep government within its constitutional limits at www.goldwaterinstitute.org/litigation. The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog supported by people who are committed to expanding free enterprise and liberty.