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Public financing of campaigns

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Some states allow candidates to use public funds while campaigning for state offices. Public campaign funds are generally raised through donations made on tax returns to specific political parties, known as "add-ons" or "check-offs". Add-ons are donations made by choosing to increase an individual tax return by a small sum, usually between one and ten dollars, and check-offs are earmarks that can be placed on a small sum of money from an individual tax return. Candidates then have the option of using public funds, if they meet state requirements and agree to follow certain restrictions and spending limits, or raising campaign funds through private donations. A total of 24 states have or had some form of public funding, though the method of collecting and distributing the funds varies by state. Additionally, with the June 2011 U.S. Supreme Court Case of Arizona Freedom Enterprise v. Bennett, Arizona's public financing program and those like it have been ruled unconstitutional. That same month,Wisconsin's government moved to eliminate its public financing program.




Arizona participates in a "Clean Elections" program, whereby those candidates who chose to participate in the public financing option are subject to certain qualifications and spending limits, but are compensated with public funds for any amount in excess of the spending limit that an opponent raises in private contributions.[1] This policy is codified in Title 16 Chapter 6 of the Arizona state statutes governing campaign contributions and expenses:

"Whenever during a general election period a report has been

filed, or other information comes to the attention of the commission, indicating that the amount a nonparticipating candidate who is not unopposed has received in contributions during the election cycle to date less the amount of expenditures the nonparticipating candidate made through the end of the primary election period exceeds the original general election spending limit, including any previous adjustments, the commission shall immediately pay from the fund to the campaign account of any participating candidate qualified for the ballot and seeking the same office as the nonparticipating candidate an amount equal to any excess of the reported difference over the general election spending limit, as previously adjusted, less six per cent for a nonparticipating candidate’s fund-raising expenses. The general election spending limit for all such participating candidates shall be adjusted by increasing it by the amount that the commission is obligated to pay to a

participating candidate."[2]

However, this a "fund matching" or "triggering" program was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that it limits the free speech of private donors. The case of Arizona's Free Enterprise Club's Freedom Club PAC et al. v. Bennett, Secretary of State of Arizona, et al. was decided on June 27, 2011. In the 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional.[3] The majority ruled that public "fund matching" programs ultimately discourage non-participating candidates who chose to raise private donations from raising or spending campaign funds, and thus discourage political debate. Several other states have public financing programs similar to Arizona's, and are now facing the issue of being shut down on this precedent.[4]

In 2010, the top 10 recipients of public campaign funds were:[5]

Candidate Amount Result
Republican Party Jan Brewer, Governor $1,768,577 Approveda
Democratic Party Terry Goddard, Governor $1,760,945 Defeatedd
Republican Party Ken Bennett, Secretary of State $458,008 Approveda
Republican Party John Huppenthal, Superintendent of Public Instruction $229,679 Approveda
Republican Party Brenda Burns, Arizona Corporation Commissioner $229,113 Approveda
Republican Party Gary Pierce, Arizona Corporation Commissioner $229,113 Approveda
Democratic Party David Bradley, Arizona Corporation Commissioner $228,711 Defeatedd
Republican Party Dean Martin, Governor $200,501 Defeatedd
Democratic Party David Lujan, Attorney General $183,311 Defeatedd
Republican Party Andrew Thomas, Attorney General $183,311 Defeatedd



Connecticut's public campaign financing program is funded through the Citizens' Election Program (CEP). This program provides grant money to candidates who raise a specified number of low-sum, "qualifying contributions" and who agree to abide by spending limits. Originally, the CEP was designed similarly to Arizona's laws in that it had a "triggering" provision, granting equivalent funds to participating candidates whenever privately-funded candidates out-spent them. However, on July 13, 2010, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court ruling on the case of Green Party of Connecticut v. Garfield[6] stating that this grant-matching provision was unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated First Amendment rights to free speech. The court did also reverse a provision of the lower ruling that claimed that the CEP discriminated against minority parties.[7] On June 28, 2011, one day after Arizona's grant-matching public finance program was deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of the Connecticut law, thus affirming the lower court's ruling as well as the idea that public campaign financing is not inherently unconstitutional.[8]

In 2010, the top 10 recipients of public funds were:[9]

Candidate Amount Result
Democratic Party Dannel Patrick Malloy, Governor $8,460,089 Approveda
Republican Party Michael Fedele, Governor $2,477,728 Defeatedd
Democratic Party Denise Merrill, Secretary of State $1,121,163 Approveda
Democratic Party Kevin Lembo, Comptroller $1,106,205 Approveda
Republican Party Jeff Wright, State Treasurer $749,950 Defeatedd
Democratic Party Denise Nappier, State Treasurer $749,490 Approveda
Republican Party Jerry Farrell, Secretary of State $744,900 Defeatedd
Democratic Party George Jepsen, Attorney General $740,381 Approveda
Democratic Party Gerry Garcia, Secretary of State $374,950 Defeatedd
Democratic Party Michale Jarjura, Comptroller $374,000 Defeatedd












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