Breaking News: SCOTUS blocks matching funds in Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

SCOTUSblog reports breaking news this morning:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday morning blocked the state of Arizona from releasing further subsidy payments to candidates who are running for state offices this year with public financing.  The order was issued without any noted dissent.  The Court specified that the order would stay in effect until the Court acts on a coming appeal by challengers to the subsidy scheme.  If review is granted, the order will stay in effect in the meantime, until a ruling emerges.

For state candidates running with subsidies, the ruling means that they will be eligible for only one third of the amount of public money that they had been eligible to receive.  That situation is expected to continue through the primary election in August and the general election in November, since the Court is unlikely to finally resolve the test case before its next Term, starting Oct. 4. The general election is on Nov. 2 this year.

The Arizona candidate financing system had been struck down by a federal District judge in Arizona, but that ruling has been on hold during an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court.  The Ninth Circuit on May 21 upheld the system.  But, in Tuesday’s order, the Supreme Court barred the Circuit Court from putting its ruling into effect (by staying the mandate), and ordered the Circuit Court to lift a February order that had blocked the District Court decision against the subsidies.

The District judge had ruled that the subsidies would put an unconstitutional burden on state candidates who are running with only private funds, because increasing fund-raising and campaign spending by the privately financed candidates to get out their message would trigger added subsidies for the publicly financed candidates.

The challengers to the system, including some privately funded candidates, took the issue to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Circuit Justice for the Ninth Circuit, after the Circuit Court’s may decision upholding the system.  After some procedural missteps by the challengers, their latest plea to Kennedy was granted by the full Court after Kennedy shared it with his colleagues.

The order was issued in a standard format for such actions: delaying the Circuit Court ruling pending filing of a petition to review it, and disposition of that petition, with the order to dissolve automatically if review were denied, but stay in effect if review were granted.  While the order contained no notations of dissent, that fact does not necessarily mean that no members of the Court were opposed to the action; if they were, they simple refrained from public mention.

The conservative activist Roberts Court that earlier this year reversed a century of law to permit corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money (corporations are people too!) to effect the outcomes of elections in Citizens United v. FEC has now injected itself directly into Arizona's election where the lack of matching "public" funds may be determinative in several high profile races.

Today's big winner is Buz Mills, a self-funded millionaire running for governor. Today's big losers are Gov. Jan Brewer and Treasurer Dean Martin, also running for governor, but as Citizens Clean Elections candidates.

The biggest loser — John Munger, who quit the governor's race last week citing the 9th Circuit Court ruling, stayed by SCOTUS today. Munger's premature departure belies the real reason for his departure — no popular support among Republicans.

Today's ruling indicates to me that the same five justices on the Roberts Court who struck down the "millionaire's amendment" in the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform law in a 5-4 decision in Davis v. FEC (2008) will now strike down the matching funds provision of Arizona's Citizens Clean Elections law. Supreme Court Strikes Down ‘Millionaire’s Amendment’ – "[T]he court is increasingly hostile to campaign finance reform,” said Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia Law School.

The effect of this portending decision will render Citizens Clean Elections useless. Without matching funds, a publicly financed candidate is defenseless against the attacks from a well-funded "traditional" candidate or an independent expenditure committee (unlimited corporate money).

Supporters of a publicly financed campaign system have only one option: an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. First, you have to have it approved by Congress, no small task, and then you must have the amendment ratified by 38 states. That's an uphill fight, especially now with unlimited corporate money available to defeat the amendment.

0 responses to “Breaking News: SCOTUS blocks matching funds in Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections

  1. The Patriot

    Thane, try spelling your posts correctly and one might…just might take them seriously.


    by the money, for the money, of the money

    candidate with the most money = best candidate

    ’cause that is who wins

  3. The candidate does not need to make the case that they are the better candidate. All they have to do is raise (or self-fund) more money and the media and the sheeple do the rest for them.

    We don’t have elections, we have coronations and then people vote for the foregone conclusion.

  4. Thane Eichenauer

    Candidates got elected before government election subsidies existed and they will continue to be elected when and if government election subsidies are limited or eliminated.

    If Brewer and Martin are unable to make the case that they are the better candidate then they deserve to loose.

    Barack Obama was elected without an election subsidy.