“Clean Elections Act” Funding Declared Unconstitutional

John Kramer
John Kramer · June 18, 2002

Washington, D.C.—In a landmark ruling with national implications for taxpayer-subsidized campaigns, the Arizona Court of Appeals today unanimously struck down the main source of funding for the so-called Clean Elections Act.

“This is a major victory for freedom of speech,” declared Clint Bolick, vice president of the Institute for Justice, whose Arizona Chapter has litigated the case. “It establishes the principle that contributions to politicians must be voluntary.”

The ruling struck down a 10-percent surcharge on criminal and civil fines, including on parking tickets, which last year represented 69 percent of the fund’s revenues. An earlier ruling invalidated lobbyist fees for the same purpose, and the Clean Election Commission is refunding up to $400,000 in wrongfully collected lobbyist fees.

The Court ruled that the involuntary fees represent “an unconstitutional restraint on the exercise of free speech.” The Court enjoined the Commission from collecting further fees.

The Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter takes the position that no revenues from the surcharges can be used in this year’s campaigns, in which 8 of 9 candidates for governor are running with public subsidies. Approximately $11 million of the fund’s $16 million has come from these surcharges.

“After this ruling, Arizonans no longer should have to fund politicians with whom they disagree,” said Thomas P. Liddy, executive director for the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter.

The Institute represents Representative Steve May, who objected to the use of his parking ticket fees for candidates he does not support