Arizona campaign finance ruling tumbles into Florida and Maine

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July 1, 2011

By Bailey Ludlam


Earlier this week, the United States Supreme Court struck down Arizona's campaign finance matching provision, citing a violation of the First Amendment. Less than a week later, the ruling has impacted not one, but at least two states.


On Wednesday, June 29, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle emulated the SCOTUS ruling in Arizona. The judge struck down a provision of the Florida campaign finance law that provided matching tax dollars to opponents of privately-financed candidates. Specifically, the provision would increase payments to candidates who faced privately-backed candidates who reached or exceeded the state's spending caps.[1]

And like the Arizona case, the state's broader public financing law remains on the books.[1]

The ruling included a mention of the 2010 gubernatorial election. Gov. Rick Scott challenged the state's law as he approached the spending cap during the Republican primary against then-Attorney General Bill McCollum. According to reports, McCollum withdrew his efforts to maintain the provision after losing the election. Secretary of State Kurt Browning has reportedly stated that he would not object to an injunction on the provision.[2]


Like Arizona and Florida, Mainers should expect to see some changes. In anticipation of the June 27 SCOTUS ruling, the legislature took preliminary votes on a measure to allow legislators to amend the state's own "Clean Election Act."[3]

For some, the ruling has reinvigorated the larger debate about public financing. House Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing said, "Upon further review, I hope the decision will show that the entire process of public funding does not accomplish some of the stated goals of the Clean Elections advocates."[3]

Others, however, found the ruling unexpected and disappointing. State Sen. John Patrick said, "I'm of the opinion that the decision will put special interests and big money smack dab in the middle of the election process."[3]

According to reports, an estimated 80 percent of state legislative candidates use the public financing system.[3]

2012 ballot measures

Earlier this week, a related certified ballot measure for the 2012 ballot in Arizona remained uncertain following the court ruling. The proposed measure would disallow the use of public money to fund political campaigns.

The SCOTUS ruling, in particular, only affected a provision of the state's public financing law which funded candidates dollar for dollar against non-participants, up to a limit of $2 million.

However, as of July 1 reports indicate that the measure will remain on the ballot.

See also

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