Matching funds provision of Clean Elections law ruled unconstitutional

System “skewed toward candidates who accept taxpayer’s subsidies”

U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver has ruled that a key provision of Arizona’s public campaign financing system violates constitutional free speech rights.

Judge Silver issued the ruling Friday in a suit filed last week by the Goldwater Institute on behalf of six Republican legislative candidates.

The suit asked the judge to bar the state Clean Elections Commission from paying so-called “matching funds” to candidates who are outspent by opponents who don’t sign up for state financing.

The Rocky Mountain News reports that Judge Silver refused to grant a temporary restraining order blocking the state from issuing matching funds, which could affect Tuesday’s primary election. She wrote that the late challenge to the law hasn’t given either side time to present evidence.

Silver set a hearing for Wednesday to consider issuing a preliminary injunction or to hold further hearings.

Still, the ruling could have a major impact in November’s general election. If Silver issues a preliminary injunction, candidates who opted not to take public financing could spend as much as they want without worrying that their opponents would get a supplemental cash infusion from the state.

“We think yesterday’s ruling was a victory for free speech rights,” said Goldwater Institute attorney Clint Bolick. The so-called “Clean Elections” system creates a playing field that is skewed toward candidates that accept taxpayer’s subsidies and against those who raise voluntary contributions. We are cautiously optimistic that the matching funds provision will be invalidated in the near future,” Bolick said.

The heavy-handed system is plagued with inequities, and voices have rightfully been raised against it since its inception in 1998, when it was passed by Arizona voters.

However, there is a strange and unifying whiff emanating from some of the plaintiffs in the case. Those who sued include incumbent Republican state Reps. John McComish of Phoenix and Nancy McLain of Bullhead City.

But others are new GOP legislative candidates Frank Antenori, Tony Bouie, Kevin Gibbons, and Doug Sposito. At least some (check the links) of these candidates are on the receiving end of large donations from those who oppose Arizona’s Fair and Legal Employment Act, commonly referred to as the employer sanctions law.

The deep-pocket donors, business entities who rely on a steady stream of exploitable illegal laborers, clearly do not want conservative candidates enacting laws to secure the border. Neither do they want such candidates to benefit from their generous cash infusions into the campaign coffers of their business-as-usual hopefuls.

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14 Responses to Matching funds provision of Clean Elections law ruled unconstitutional

  1. Macbeth says:

    How interesting that the newbie candidates who usually have scant independent knowledge of issues (compared to longtime politicos) and are in learning mode, are in the forefront of this lawsuit.
    Personally, I have never liked the public funding of candidates, known as “Clean” elections. However, a guy like Tony Bouie, who didn’t even know what the term ‘employer sanctions‘ referred to, is far too green to have been a independent opponent of this scheme. It’s clear he was put up to joining this lawsuit by his more astute financial bakers and handlers.

  2. Ajo Joe says:

    Check out Bouie’s contributors:
    http://www.azsos.gov/cfs/PublicReports/2008/6925BBC5-04EF-444D-ADA9-8873BB72B7C8.pdf

    The list is chock full of lobbyists who he would never have known were it not for his association with the open border/big business interests hanging their hats on his acquiescing votes (if God forbid, he is elected) on the issue near and dear to them…the continuation of an illegal labor pool they can pay substandard wages and enhance their own bottom line.

    The sleazy Nathan Sproul’s Lincoln Strategy Group employees are also well represented here, along with the Chambers of Commerce members. There is no hiding when the contributor lists appear.

  3. Stanford says:

    Did you notice contributions from Cindy Hensley McCain’s Anheuser-Busch distributorship PAC and employees? That tells us even more about the amnesty angle. John McCain has never concealed his views in that regard. He was one of the three architects of the failed “Comprehensive Immigration Reform scheme. The other two were Sens. Jon Kyl and Teddy Kennedy. What a flagrant betrayal of the American citizens that debacle was. But, look for it to return. But on the state level these new candidate plaintiffs are part and parcel of this misdeed against America’s citizen taxpayers who are underwriting the exorbitant costs associated with illegal immigration.

  4. Calypso says:

    This is the underlying reason many of the newly recruited candidates are running without public financing. There are no limits are what they can raise and spend. The only fly in the ointment is the matching funds their opponents are able to generate–hence the lawsuit with THESE specific plaintiffs.
    Incidentally, I also think the system is corrupt, but not for the reason some of these particular plaintiffs have entered this case.

  5. Dist. 6 PC says:

    Many of Bouie’s contributors are also out of town and certainly not in his district. Criminal defense attorneys and lobbyists seem to make up his major contributors. Why is that?

  6. West Washington Watcher says:

    And for those who are not familiar with downtown eateries, Morton’s and Portland’s are where the fundraisers were held. These are favorite haunts of the lawyer/lobbyist crowd and easy to get to after a long day in the legislative halls.

  7. Lori says:

    Bouie backers are more “enablers” than they are “contributors.” Everything about this guy is disgusting. How can these donors like Bouie’s politics when he didn’t have any until a few weeks ago?

    Bouie’s “contributors” simply bought him off the shelf. That’s fine with Doug Clark and Pamela Gorman, obviously.

  8. nightcrawler says:

    It doesn’t sound very conservative to whine about that lack of handouts. Remember our roots, if a candidate can’t raise the funds without the “AZ Political Dole” they should look for other work.

  9. Stanford says:

    Nightcrawler:

    Most of us agree that candidates should not be recipients of taxpayer’s dollars to fund their campaigns. There are many things wrong with such a system. For one, my money is used to support the campaign of someone with whom I have enormous disagreements. If I want to give donations to a specific candidate whose positions on the issues energize me, that should be my prerogative.

    Also, the fact that the unselected panel of “Clean” Elections commissioners have the ability to remove a candidate from office as they did with Rep. David Burnell Smith, should be abhorrent to everyone. Smith had been elected to his seat by the people of his district. And, it was Smith who advised the commission that there was an irregularity in his treasurer’s report. Still, the citizens who voted this Clean Elections debacle in, were stunned to learn that the Clean Elections commission had such immense powers. Smith was wrongly removed from office by these folks, obscuring the will of the voters in District 7.

    Having said all of that, where I have a problem with the lawsuit at this particular time and with some of these particular plaintiffs, is that the folks such as Tony Bouie, Kevin Gibbons and Doug Sposito are now suing to prohibit their opponents from getting matching funds from their deep pocket patrons during the primary election and going into the general, while the system is in place and an election cycle is underway. There is no question the system is flawed. The timing and particular candidates, all proponents of open borders and recipients of generosity from the supporters of open borders, is very suspect.

    I would be delighted to see the Goldwater Institute win this case — AFTER this cycle, when no one will benefit to the exclusion of others who were relying on a process that was in place at the start of the campaign.

  10. Gary says:

    Stanford:
    Thanks for this enlightening comment. I had completely forgotten about the sham that occurred to Rep. David Burnell Smith. My error. For this reason alone, the scheme known as Clean Elections, needs to go. This is a perfect example of a bad idea winning citizen approval due to a dishonest name, calculated to win support of those who don’t really pay necessary attention.

    I also agree that this horrible system should not be removed in the middle of a campaign, when candidates entered the cycle assuming they would have access to it. Yes, by all means, Judge Silver, rule in favor of the Goldwater Institute….AFTER this primary and general election have concluded.

    The candidates this time around entered with the expectation of receiving matching funds. That should play out this cycle. Then, it should be ditched!

  11. nightcrawler says:

    Stanford and Gary,

    I also agree with you on the timing of the issue. The Ninth Circuit is an untamed beast, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Having said that, Silver is one of the more reasonable judges who does look closely at all sides of a case.

  12. Gary says:

    Let’s hope that the judges take into consideration the fact that this would constitute a bait-and-switch on the candidates who entered this 2008 election relying upon something that could now be removed mid-cycle. I hope it ultimately is removed, but changing the rules in the middle of the game would be patently unfair to candidates of both parties.

  13. Refused says:

    Steve Pierce beat O’Halleran by 6 points after spending over $200k of his own money. Both ran privately. Had Pierce run clean, O’Halleran would still be in office.

    So clean elections is fine, but because of the incumbent advantage, we’ll only have fair elections if we impose one-term limits.

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