USA Today: Supreme Court to hear Ariz. campaign finance case

Written by admin on November 30th, 2010

The Supreme Court wades back into campaign finance.

USA Today

The case to be heard in early 2011 would be the first campaign-finance case since the justices’ divisive ruling last January in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. By a 5-4 vote, the court struck down federal limits on corporations’ independent spending in political races as an infringement on First Amendment speech rights.

The new dispute pits similar speech rights in elections against a state’s interest in limiting the potentially corruptive effect of campaign money. It specifically tests the constitutionality of a state “trigger matching funds” provision that tries to equalize resources among candidates by providing extra public subsidies to candidates who face wealthy, privately financed rivals.

Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a non-partisan group that supports campaign-finance regulation, said Monday that many states abandoned such trigger fund programs after the high court in 2008 struck down a federal regulation that favored candidates who faced millionaires who financed their own campaigns.

Wertheimer said resolution of the case could have limited national repercussions if the justices focus on the trigger-funds provision. Yet he and other election law analysts, including professor Rick Hasen of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said the ultimate decision could be more significant if the majority more broadly undermines public financing laws adopted nationwide to reduce the threat of corruption in races.

The Arizona law, which was adopted by ballot initiative in 1998 and took effect in 2000, covers candidates for state office who agree to relinquish their right to raise unlimited private money and instead collect certain qualifying contributions to be matched by public financing.


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