Federal Court Finds “Strong Likelihood” That First Amendment Challenge To Arizona’s “Matching Funds” Scheme Will Succeed

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · October 20, 2008

Arlington, Va.—In findings released today, Judge Roslyn O. Silver of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona found a “strong likelihood” that a First Amendment challenge to the “matching funds” provision of Arizona’s “Clean Elections” system will ultimately succeed.

That is because matching funds unconstitutionally burden the free speech of candidates who refuse taxpayer funds for their campaigns and instead run traditional campaigns supported by voluntary contributions.

As Judge Silver wrote, the candidates and independent groups challenging the law “have shown a very high likelihood that their First Amendment rights of free speech are being restrained.”

In the opinion, Judge Silver explained the reasoning for a decision earlier this week denying a preliminary injunction that would have halted matching funds payments for this election cycle, saying it was too close to the November 4 election. The parties will now proceed to a full hearing on the merits to determine whether the matching funds provision should be permanently ended for future elections.

“First Amendment violations should never be tolerated, but we are heartened that Judge Silver has clearly recognized the unconstitutional chilling effect matching funds has on candidates who refuse taxpayer dollars for their campaigns,” said Bill Maurer, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, which represents privately funded candidates and independent groups in the challenge to the law. “We look forward to a trial on the merits and a final decision that will finally put an end to Arizona’s unjust scheme that has tilted the political playing field and suppressed the free speech of candidates, citizens and independent groups.”

In the case, McComish v. Brewer, IJ represents state Rep. Rick Murphy and state Sen. Robert Burns, as well as Arizona State Treasurer Dean Martin, the Freedom Club PAC and the Arizona Taxpayers Action Committee.

Read more information about Arizona’s Clean Elections system.