Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Goldwater Institute: Judge Strikes Down Connecticut’s Taxpayer-funded Campaign Matching Funds

Decision could have implications for Arizona's Clean Elections system
Phoenix--On August 27, 2009 federal Judge Stefan R. Underhill permanently blocked the State of Connecticut from enforcing a taxpayer-funded campaign finance system, including matching funds provisions that mirror those of Arizona's "Clean Elections" law.
In the 138-page decision, Judge Underhill ruled, "Like the proverbial sword of Damocles, which need not fall for its impact to be felt, the threat of [Connecticut's Matching Funds] provisions alone is sufficient to prospectively chill First Amendment-protected expression."

"The First Amendment requires taxpayer-funded matching funds laws to be struck down," said Nick Dranias, Goldwater Institute director of constitutional studies. "Under the First Amendment, political speech by one candidate cannot be silenced by the threat of government campaign subsidies to the opposing candidate."

Judge Underhill's final decision echoes preliminary rulings made by Judge Roslyn O. Silver in McComish v. Bennett, which the Goldwater Institute filed in federal court last year. Last year Judge Silver ruled "the Matching Funds provision of the [Clean Elections] Act violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution" and "opens up new avenues for possible corruption." Judge Silver has yet to reach a final ruling.

Both Judges Silver and Underhill understand that matching funds cannot be squared with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Davis v. F.E.C. In Davis, the Supreme Court struck down a campaign finance scheme where "the vigorous exercise of the right to use personal funds to finance campaign speech produces fundraising advantages for opponents in the competitive context of electoral politics."

Arizona's matching funds provisions similarly punish privately-funded candidates and their supporters for exercising their First Amendment rights by causing their campaign contributions and expenditures to trigger government subsidies to opposing publicly-funded candidates.

To learn more about this lawsuit, or any other case filed by the Goldwater Institute's Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation, please visit www.goldwaterinstitute.org/litigation. The Goldwater Institute is an independent government watchdog supported by people who are committed to expanding free enterprise and liberty.

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