Clean Elections Staff Warned Candidates "Don't Count On" Matching Funds

Sounds like Jan Brewer may have missed the memo.

As we reported yesterday, the governor's campaign committee recently filed an affidavit in the pending Clean Elections lawsuit being pursued by the Goldwater Institute -- arguing that her campaign was counting on matching funds and would be "irreparably" harmed if U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver blocks the funds' issuance in the 2010 election.

As we've explained, Arizona's publicly funded election system provides a set amount for candidates pursuing state office. But if opponents choose to raise money the "traditional" way -- from donors or their own pocketbooks -- Clean Elections matches the amount for candidates participating in its program.

The Goldwater Institute says that's an unconstitutional drag on the First Amendment. It's asking Judge Silver to stop that part of the Clean Elections program.

While she has yet to rule, Judge Silver has indicated that the Goldwater Institute may be on solid constitutional footing. And that's why we were so surprised to see the affidavit from Governor Brewer's campaign, claiming that its strategy for 2010 rests on the ability to get matching funds. Really, doesn't Brewer's campaign have anyone monitoring this very important litigation?

As it turns out, we're not the only people who think Brewer's campaign is full of crap on this one. In fact, we learned that Clean Elections staffers have actually been telling candidates not to count on getting matched this year.

According to an affidavit filed by Margaret Dugan, a candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Clean Elections' Voter Education Manager Michael Becker was asked during a candidate training session about the probability of matching funds being available back in September 2009.

His response, according to Dugan: "Don't count on it."

Not much confusion there.

John Munger, a Republican from Tucson who plans to challenge Brewer in the GOP primary, was similarly dismissive of Brewer's cries for help.

In a declaration he filed on behalf of the Goldwater Institute, Munger wrote that he found it unbelievable that "any reasonable person, much less an attorney" could read the relevant Supreme Court precedent and "rely on matching funds being issued in the 2010 election cycle." Munger called Brewer's averred expectations as "unreasonable and risky." Damn.

As we noted, a hearing is set for Friday in which Judge Silver will consider motions for both sides in this litigation, asking her to resolve the case via summary judgment. And we're getting the sense she's not messing around: Silver recently announced that tomorrow, she'll give both parties a highly unusual "draft order" signaling her intentions in the case. The way we figure it, the burden will then be on the losing side to talk her out of whatever's in the draft at the hearing on Friday. (We are not, of course, lawyers, so take that analysis with a huge grain of salt.)

Judge Silver's rulings could have profound implications on the 2010 election. You'd be wise to stay tuned on this one -- and yes, we're talking to you, Jan Brewer!

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske