The United States Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the matching funds provision of Arizona's Clean Elections law is unconstitutional.
The matching funds portion of the law was designed to give the little guy a fighting chance in state and local elections when faced against a candidate capable of raising a lot of money.
Under the matching funds system, publicly funded candidates are given lump sums for their campaigns. If an opponent spends his or her own money, and exceeds the initial lump sum, "clean" -- or publicly funded -- candidates get matching funds from taxpayers to level the playing field.
However, Governor Jan Brewer was a "clean" candidate set to receive loads of taxpayer cash under the system in last year's GOP primary. Then the Supreme Court put a halt to the program last June so it had a chance to review its constitutionality.
Also in the GOP gubernatorial primary with Brewer last year was businessman Owen "Buz" Mills, who dumped nearly $3 million of his own money into his campaign. Because Mills made it rain, Brewer stood to reap nearly $1.4 million in public funds for her campaign.
After signing SB 1070, Jan Brewer was hardly the little guy the program was intended to help.
Jan Brewer, however, isn't why the Supreme Court took issue with matching funds. Rather, it found the program violates a candidate's right to free speech. It agreed with the Goldwater Institute, which contends the program inhibits a privately funded candidate's fundraising and spending, plus limits what voters will hear about the campaign because there's no incentive for a privately funded candidate to raise and spend money on things like campaign ads when it would benefit that candidate's "clean" opponent.
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As far as democracy goes, it seems like a pretty flawed system, if you ask us, but we want to know what you think: is Arizona better off without matching funds?
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