IJ Asks Federal Court to Enjoin Arizona’s “Clean” Elections Act

John Kramer
John Kramer · February 19, 2004

Phoenix, AZ—Today the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter asked U.S. District Court Judge Earl H. Carroll to issue a preliminary injunction to stop the State of Arizona’s enforcement of the “Clean Elections” government-funded campaign finance system well before the November election. If granted, this would stop the State from harassing privately funded candidates who voluntarily choose not to participate in the system in the 2004 election cycle.

An injunction would stop the State from enforcing an act that penalizes privately funded candidates who refuse taxpayer money. The current system requires (in addition to the six regular campaign finance reports) that privately supported candidates spend time and money filing 37 special “trigger” reports in the last 88 business days of the campaign, while government-funded candidates have only three extra reports to file. An injunction would also stop the State from drowning out the speech of individuals and groups who want to speak on behalf of these privately supported candidates by matching those contributions to taxpayer-funded candidates.

Federal courts have said that states can use taxpayer money to fund political campaigns, and even encourage candidates to accept that funding. But what a state cannot do is force candidates to take welfare for politicians, or punish them for refusing to do so. Courts have also said that such a system cannot muzzle the voice of individuals and groups who want to speak on behalf of privately funded candidates, yet that is exactly what Arizona’s “Clean” Elections Act does.

“In the federal public campaign funding system, the government requires nothing from nonparticipants. President Bush and Democratic frontrunner Kerry have voluntarily opted out of federal funding,” said Frank Conti Jr., IJ-AZ’s executive director. “All we ask is that our clients be permitted to do the same in Arizona. But unlike the federal system, Clean Elections has a fatal flaw: there is no escape for nonparticipants.”

The suit was filed on January 29 on behalf of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group that makes independent expenditures in political campaigns, as well as 2002 gubernatorial candidate and former three-term U.S. Congressman Matt Salmon, two-term state Sen. Dean Martin, and former state legislator Lori Daniels. Each of these individuals seeks to preserve his or her First Amendment right to free speech by running for public office as a traditional privately supported candidate rather than as a “Clean” Elections candidate who reaches into the taxpayers’ pockets. The suit asks the court to declare the Act’s matching fund, reporting requirement, and reduced maximum contribution limit provisions unconstitutional under the First Amendment.