As Arizona mulls public funding measure, U.S. high court hears challenge on same issue

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March 29, 2011


PHOENIX, Arizona: A measure that would alter the Arizona Clean Elections Act, a law that was approved by voters in the 1998 general election, is currently being considered by Arizona Legislature during 2011 state legislative session. The proposed ballot measure would disallow the use of public money to fund political campaigns.

This same issue is now being heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court heard a challenge on March 28, 2011 to Arizona's system of public campaign financing, specifically the Clean Elections Act. The case is officially called McComish v. Bennett, referring to State Senator John McComish, who stated that the clean elections law has had a "chilling" effect on races.[1]

According to the law, public funds are provided to Candidate A if his or her opponent, Candidate B, is running on private funds and outspends them. If Candidate B spends more money than the public funds given to Candidate A, that would trigger additional public funding to Candidate A.

Opponents of the law also argue that the additional funding yields a restriction on the free speech of candidates who are running privately funded races, which could be deemed unconstitutional.

According to Campaign Legal Center's Gerry Hebert and Tara Malloy in a written statement, "The [ U.S. Supreme Court ] case could have a broad impact on federal and state efforts to create alternative methods for funding election campaigns. Depending on its scope, an adverse ruling from the high court could undermine public financing systems across the country and increase still further the grossly disproportionate voice given to corporations and unions in our elections."

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