The Center for Competitive Politics filed a friend of the court brief in a case before the Supreme Court that will determine the fate of the “matching funds” subsidy in Arizona’s tax financing system for political campaigns as well as similar programs in Connecticut, Maine, and Wisconsin.
The brief, authored by CCP Vice President of Policy Allison Hayward, argues that Arizona must prove a state interest to support government intervention in political campaigns on behalf of particular candidates.
“The Supreme Court should question the assumption that ‘clean elections’ laws serve any legitimate governmental purpose,” Hayward said. “When the court considers neutral academic studies of tax financing laws, the lack of evidence of any real benefits and the larger problems inherent with state subsidization of political activity, we’re confident the court will conclude that Arizona’s program violates the First Amendment.”
Arizona’s law assists some (but not all) candidates, by using public revenue to ensure that participating candidates will not be outspent. Arizona claims this is necessary to encourage candidates to participate in the tax financing system, which in turn supposedly prevents corruption. But, the asserted anti-corruption effect of government financing is unsupported by scholarly reviews of the evidence. Furthermore, government funding means the state itself is funding the process by which nominees and officeholders are selected. Such state-imposed burdens on expression and association cannot abrogate the constitutional separation of the incumbent government from the campaign process.
The case, Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett, will be argued before the Supreme Court March 28. The Institute for Justice, which represents an independent political group in this case, recently filed its merits brief. The Goldwater Institute, which represents non-participating Arizona candidates, also recently filed its merits brief.
The Center for Competitive Politics is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group dedicated to protecting First Amendment political rights. CCP seeks to promote the political marketplace of ideas through research, litigation and advocacy.