U.S. Supreme Court: Clean Elections' Matching Funds "Burdens Political Speech"

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Arizona's Clean Election program, which provides campaign dollars for candidates for state office, suffered another blow today, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that its matching-fund program is unconstitutional.

The 5-4 ruling (which you can find here) doesn't bring an end to the program—but it does seriously hamstring candidates who decide to use it. Qualifying candidates will still be able to get an initial lump sum of money, which varies depending on the office they are seeking. But if their opponent (or independent committees) spend more money than that, the Clean Elections candidates will no longer be eligible for matching funds to level the playing field.

On a practical level, this decision means that any candidate who can raise funds privately would be smarter to go that route.

Clean Elections faces more threats in the future. State lawmakers have put a proposition on the 2012 ballot that would ban the use of any public funds on political campaigns, which would bring an end to both Clean Elections and the city of Tucson's system of publicly financed campaigns. Supporters of Clean Elections have challenged the constitutionality of the ballot proposal in state court.

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