The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Republican-supported challenge to an Arizona law that furnishes extra dollars to publicly financed candidates running against wealthy, privately funded opponents.
The case from Arizona raises questions about campaign finance laws that were written to help publicly funded candidates get a more equal footing with self-financed candidates who outspend them.
In June, the Supreme Court signaled reservations about the Arizona law when it issued an emergency order barring the state from giving matching funds to qualifying candidates running for office, according to a Los Angeles Times article.
The Arizona law ties extra funds provided to participating candidates to the sums raised or spent on behalf of their foes. This is called a trigger mechanism. Critics have challenged the constitutionality of the provision, contending that giving taxpayer matching funds to qualifying candidates amounts to a penalty on their privately-funded opponents’ speech by inhibiting their fundraising.
A federal district judge found the Arizona provision unconstitutional, saying it violated the First Amendment because it causes candidates without public funding to limit their own campaigning, fundraising and spending of their own money. However, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld the provision.
Election law scholar Rick Hasen has written that a decision invalidating the measure would get rid of one of the most effective ways to encourage candidates to participate in public financing systems, according to a Bloomberg report. Hasen wrote Sunday in the Summary Judgments blog of the Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, faculty, that he expects the Supreme Court to strike down the Arizona public financing system:
“The court is likely to take away one of the only tools available to drafters of public financing measures to make such financing attractive to candidates.”
“While an adverse ruling by the Supreme Court in McComish would not mean that all public financing systems would be unconstitutional, it would eliminate one of the best ways to create effective public financing systems.” (more…)