U.S. District Court Declines to Halt Coercive Provisions of Arizona Public Campaign Financing Scheme

John Kramer
John Kramer · July 8, 2004

Phoenix, AZ—U.S. District Court Judge Earl Carroll today declined to issue an injunction against the onerous reporting and matching funds provisions of Arizona’s public financing scheme, the so-called Clean Elections Act. Judge Carroll’s order is not a final decision on the merits of the case.

“While disappointed that the District Court is allowing the public financing scheme’s most coercive and punitive provisions to continue, we will move quickly to secure a decision on the merits,” declared Tim Keller, executive director of the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter. “We are confident that the Clean Elections Act’s trampling of freedom of speech will be brought to a halt.”

IJ-AZ filed the lawsuit in January 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, two-term State Senator Dean Martin, and former State legislator Lori Daniels.

The lawsuit seeks to vindicate the Plaintiffs’ cherished free speech rights, protected by the First Amendment, from the Clean Elections Act’s matching funds provisions, which drown out of the voice of groups seeking to make independent expenditures, and from the harsh penalties levied against nonparticipating candidates. 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;
  • Paying matching funds to government-funded candidates based on the gross amount of money that their privately supported opponents raise (without subtracting what their opponents spend to raise it);
  • Requiring (in addition to the six regularly-scheduled campaign finance reports) that privately supported candidates spend time and money filing 37 special “trigger” reports in the four months before Election Day, while government-funded candidates have only three extra reports to file.

“The Clean Elections Act goes way beyond encouraging candidates to accept taxpayer dollars and actually coerces participation in the system,” Keller explained. “Federal courts have made it clear that coercing candidates to participate in public financing schemes by punishing them for nonparticipation violates the Constitution.”