US Supreme Court Ruling on Public Funding of Campaigns Changes State's Political Landscape
Phoenix, AZ – The high court agreed to put on hold the part of the law that
provides extra cash to publicly funded candidates when their
privately financed foes spend more. The justices gave no reason,
other than to give time for foes of the system to seek review of
a 9th Circuit decision which upheld the matching funds provision.
But Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute said it shows the
justices found merit in arguments by his public interest law firm
that there is something unfair about the system.
(The Supreme Court has spoken in a way that preserves important
First Amendment rights, which is to speak in a campaign context
without having the government put its heavy thumb on the scale.)
The essence of the argument is that candidates running with
private dollars would limit their campaigns because they know
every dollar they spend above the initial allocation means an
extra dollar for their publicly financed opponents. But Todd Lang
director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission said the
ruling twists the essence of the First Amendment by letting
candidates with resources deny their foes the money to respond.
(The First Amendment's one of our most sacred values. The First
Amendment's always protected freedom of speech as a shield. But
now it's being used as a sword to stifle more debate.)
Given the timing of the order, there is no way matching funds can
be restored for the August primary, no matter what the high court
ultimately rules. That will have major implications starting with
the governor's race. Publicly funded Republican candidates Jan
Brewer and Dean Martin were alloted about $707,000 for their
campaigns. But Buz Mills already has spent close to $2.3 million.
That would have entitled Brewer and Martin to a dollar-for-dollar
match up to three times the original amount, or $2.1 million. Now
they have to live with the base amount no matter how much Mills
ends up spending. Brewer issued a statement calling the high
court order -- quote -- terribly troubling. But campaign
spokesman Doug Cole sought to minimize the impact, saying it
won't change much. And Martin said Mills' money doesn't mean he's
going to walk away with the nomination.
(If that money had been able to buy him more points, he would be
doing a lot better. The guy's doing mailers every single week,
hundreds of radio commercials and he's barely moved.)
The order has implications that could be much deeper beyond the
governor's race. Consider the fight for attorney general. It
means Republican Andrew Thomas, running with public dollars, will
have just $183,000 for his primary fight against Tom Horne who is
soliciting private donations. Pollster Earl de Berge said that
could sharply limit Thomas' chances of winning.
(You're not in the game at that level because it just takes so
much money to get people aware of particularly secondary level
races even though they're statewide. I think it's a great
For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.