U.S. District Court Dismisses Legal Challenge to Public Financing Scheme

John Kramer
John Kramer · March 10, 2005

Phoenix, AZ—The U.S. District Court of Arizona today granted a motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the most coercive and punitive provisions of Arizona’s public financing scheme, the so-called Citizens Clean Elections Act. The Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter filed the lawsuit in January 2004 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 Matt Salmon, and State Senator Dean Martin.

“We are disappointed with the District Court’s decision, especially in light of the adverse effects Arizona’s scheme of publicly financing elections had on free and open debate this last election cycle,” declared Tim Keller, executive director of the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter. “We remain confident that the courts will ultimately put a halt to the repeated trampling of free speech.”

Arizona’s public financing scheme tilts the playing field sharply in favor of government-funded candidates by treating independent expenditures differently depending on whether they favor a government-funded or a privately supported candidate. Under the system, government-funded candidates receive dollar-for-dollar matching funds when an independent group expends resources to support a privately funded candidate. Matching funds are also doled out to taxpayer-financed candidates when their traditionally financed opponents work hard and raise money. Then to add injury to insult, the matching funds paid to government-funded candidates are calculated based on the gross amount of money that their privately supported opponents raise (without subtracting the amount spent to raise it).

“Proponents of taxpayer-funded elections assert that this system increases political participation and enhances free speech but nothing could be farther from the truth,” Keller explained. “Paying matching funds to government-funded candidates clearly drowns out of the voice of groups seeking to make independent expenditures. We are now considering an appeal of this unfortunate decision.”