Arizona Campaign Finance (Second Challenge)


Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club
PAC v. Bennett & McComish v. Bennett

Institute for Justice and Goldwater Institute
Challenge Arizona’s “Clean Elections Act”

View Clean Elections VideoIn 2008, the Institute for  Justice and the Goldwater Institute teamed up to challenge Arizona’s punitive  system of funding campaigns with taxpayer money.  The consolidated challenges to the  “matching funds” provision of Arizona’s so-called “Clean Elections” Act  eventually made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which on March 28, 2011,  heard argument in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett (No. 10-238) and McComish v.Bennett (No. 10-239).

The cases sought to vindicate  the rights of independent political groups and candidates who did not take  taxpayer funds to speak freely during political campaigns without having the  government attempt to “level the playing field.”  Under the Arizona law, if a group made an independent expenditure in favor of a  privately financed candidate, the unelected bureaucrats at the Clean  Elections Commission doled out an almost dollar-for-dollar amount of “matching  funds” to the publicly funded candidate.  That meant that for every  dollar a group or individual spent to support the candidate of their choice,  over the publicly funded candidate’s initial government subsidy, the  government paid an equal amount of money to the political competition.  

The Ninth Circuit, in conflict  with controlling Supreme Court precedent and contrary to decisions from other  federal appellate courts, found this system to be constitutional.  IJ and Goldwater successfully petitioned the Supreme Court for review of that  decision, and on June 27, 2011, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit, striking down Arizona’s unconstitutional “Clean Elections”  system.

Essential Background

Audio, Video and Images

Backgrounder: The Dirty Truth about Arizona’s “Clean Elections” Act

AUDIO USSC: Oral Argument in this case, March 28, 2011 (length: 60 min)  
Download this file as an .mp3

View the Transcript of the USSC argument

Latest Release: U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona’s “Clean Elections” Act Court Protects Free Speech and Political Participation (June 27, 2011) IJ Podcast: IJ's Bill Maurer discusses SCOTUS decision on Arizona Clean Elections case (June 9, 2010) MP3 {enclose maurer-clean-elections-6-9-10.mp3}
Launch Release: Lawsuit Exposes Dirty Little Secrets Behind Arizona’s "Clean" Elections (January 28, 2004) Case Video: The Dirty Game of AZ’s “Clean Elections”
 Press Conference Video following the argument (March 28, 2011)

Fed Soc Podcast: Fair Elections Now Act (October 7, 2009)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

U.S.S.C. Clean Elections Opinion (June 27, 2011)
Reply Brief (March 16, 2011)
Petitioners Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC, et al.’s Merits Brief (January 13, 2011)
Petition for a Writ of Certiorari in Arizona Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett (August 17, 2010)


Court Order (June 8, 2010)

Court Decision (January 21, 2010)

Motion for Summary Judgment
Expert Report from Dr. David Primo

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


January 29, 2004

Court Filed:


U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona



January 20, 2010, federal district court in Arizona strikes down matching funds provision.

May 21, 2010, Ninth Circuit reverses district court and upholds matching funds system.

June 8, 2010, U.S. Supreme Court stays Ninth Circuit’s decision pending disposition of IJ’s request to review the case.

Current Court:


U.S. Supreme Court



U.S. Supreme Court Victory

Next Key Date:



Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: “Clean Elections” Case before U.S. Supreme Court Seeks to End Unconstitutional Government Funding Of Political Campaigns (January 14, 2011)

none available
Release: U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Challenge to Arizona’s Campaign Finance Scheme (November 29, 2010)

Reports and Strategic Research

Institute for Justice Research Brief: What Does Research Say About Public Funding for Political Campaigns? (August 2010)
 Release: Can Publicly Financed Elections Survive Without Punishing Free Speech? (November 29, 2010)
Locking Up Political Speech: How Electioneering Communications Laws Stifle Free Speech and Civic Engagement
 Release: U.S. Supreme Court Considers Whether to Hear IJ’s Challenge to Arizona’s “Clean Elections” Scheme (November 16, 2010)
Campaign Finance Red Tape:
Strangling Free Speech & Political Debate
Release: IJ Asks U.S. Supreme Court To Protect Free Speech by Striking Down Arizona’s Taxpayer-Financed Campaign System (August 17, 2010) Disclosure Costs: Unintended Consequences of Campaign Finance Reform
Release: U.S. Supreme Court Prevents Arizona From Penalizing Free Speech During 2010 Election (June 8, 2010)

Release: Ninth Circuit Deals Significant Blow to Free Speech; Court’s Ruling Reinstates So-Called “Clean Elections” Provisions (May 21, 2010)

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: Research Shows Clean Elections' Harms; Liberty & Law (June 2011)

Release: 9th Circuit Hearing Arguments Today In Landmark Free Speech Case (April 12, 2010)

 Article: Defending the First Amendment at the Supreme Court; Liberty & Law (June 2011)

Release: Institute for Justice Asks 9th Circuit to Affirm Decision That Arizona’s Campaign Financing Scheme is Unconstitutional (March 2, 2010)
Visit IJ's Free Speech Blog:
Release: Federal Court Strikes Down “Matching Funds” In Arizona Taxpayer-funded Elections Scheme (January 21, 2010)
Article: IJ's Challenge to Arizona's "Clean Elections" Goes to the U.S. Supreme CourtLiberty & Law (February 2011)
Release: Arizona Clean Elections Scheme Violates First Amendment Rights, Say Candidates and Independent Groups (June 11, 2009) Video: The Dirty Game of Arizona's "Clean Elections"; (November 15, 2010)
Release: Federal Court Finds “Strong Likelihood” That First Amendment Challenge To Arizona’s “Matching Funds” Scheme Will Succeed (October 17, 2008) Article: IJ Appeals Arizona “Clean Elections” Case To U.S. Supreme Court, Liberty & Law (October 2010)
Release: Federal Court Declines to Halt “Matching Funds” In Arizona Taxpayer-funded Elections Scheme (October 14, 2008) Article: Judge Delivers Blow to Arizona “Clean Elections” Scheme; Liberty & Law (December 2008)
Release: Federal Court to Decide on Expedited Schedule Whether to Halt Arizona Clean Elections System (September 3, 2008)

Article: Freeing Speech from Government Control; Liberty & Law (February 2008)

Release: Institute for Justice and Clients Move to Join New “Clean Elections” Challenge, Ask for Injunction for November Election (September 2, 2008)
Article: IJ State Chapters Team Up to Fight Campaign Finance Case Before 9th Circuit, Liberty & Law (April 2007)
Release: Institute for Justice Renews Challenge to Arizona’s Scheme of Taxpayer-Funded Political Campaigns (November 27, 2007) Article: 2004 Election Cycle Demonstrated Dirty Secret Behind “Clean Elections Act”, Liberty & Law (February 2005)
Release: Appellate Court Dismisses Challenge to Arizona’s Scheme of Publicly Funding Elections (May 10, 2007) Article: IJ-AZ Lawsuit Exposes Dirty Little Secrets Behind Arizona’s “Clean” Elections Liberty & Law (April 2004)
Release: 9th Circuit Case Could Decide Future of Free Speech in Elections (February 8, 2007)

Article: IJ Preserves Free Speech, Forces State To Refund Fees; Liberty & Law (August 2002)

Release: U.S. District Court Dismisses Legal Challenge to Public Financing Scheme (March 10, 2005)  Article: Arizona Chapter Vindicates First Amendment; Liberty & Law (August 2002)

Release: U.S. District Court Declines to Halt Coercive Provisions of Arizona Public Campaign Financing Scheme (July 8, 2004)


Release: IJ Asks Federal Court to Enjoin Arizona’s "Clean" Elections Act (February 19, 2004)

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