First Amendment
Political Speech

Arizona Campaign Finance Oral Argument

  • IJ challenged Arizona’s punitive system of funding political campaigns with taxpayer funds. Under Arizona’s “Clean Elections” Act, if a privately financed candidate or an independent political group supporting that candidate spent more than the government wished, the state would provide “matching funds” to the publicly funded candidate—on top of that candidate’s initial government subsidy.
  • We argued that the matching funds provision unconstitutionally burdened the speech of privately financed candidates and the groups supporting them because any time they spent beyond the government’s arbitrary limit, the candidate’s opponent received more public money. Speaking out therefore triggered an outpouring of taxpayer funds to a candidate they opposed. This meant candidates and groups had to consider the effect of matching funds when deciding whether to speak about specific political races.
  • In June 2011, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Arizona’s matching funds provision as unconstitutional, vindicating the right of independent political groups and candidates who do not take taxpayer funds to speak freely during political campaigns without having the government attempt to “level the playing field.”
Listen to the Argument

Attorney Who Argued The Hearing