As controversy continues over the Supreme Court's decision last term in Citizens United v. FEC, the high court agreed this week to hear another potentially high-impact campaign-finance case.
Two challenges to an Arizona law that provides matching funds to publicly funded candidates will go before the court this term, The National Law Journal reports.
"The Arizona law allows candidates to receive an initial outlay of taxpayer dollars, as well as additional public matching funds if they face a privately financed opponent or independent political group that out-raises or outspends them," the newspaper reports. "Opponents say the additional matching funds provide publicly financed candidates with an unfair advantage and interfere with the ability of privately backed candidates and groups to deliver their messages."
Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, Professor Rick Hasen, who maintains Election Law Blog, blogged about the impact the case would have just a day before the Supreme Court announced it would take the case. He predicts that the court will strike down the Arizona public financing system, taking away "one of the only tools available to drafters of public financing measures to make such financing attractive to candidates."
Public financing has a number of benefits, including reducing the threat of corruption and the appearance of corruption, providing a jump start for new candidates who are not professional politicians, and freeing up candidates and officeholders to have more time to interact with voters. But rational politicians who are serious candidates will not opt into the public financing plan unless they think they will be able to run a competitive campaign under the public financing system. The whole point of the extra matching funds in the Arizona plan is to give candidates assurance they won't be vastly outspent in their election. While an adverse ruling by the Supreme Court in McComish [v. Bennett] would not mean that all public financing systems would be unconstitutional, it would eliminate one of the best ways to create effective public financing systems.
The full piece, posted on the Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, faculty blog, Summary Judgments, is available here.