Arizona’s “Clean Elections” act punished privately-funded candidates by rendering their fundraising moot — for every dollar a privately-funded candidate spent, taxpayers would be forced to kick in a dollar for the candidate who receives public funds. The Supreme Court vacated the ruling of the Ninth Circuit which had claimed that any burden on traditional candidates is insignificant — as the Institute for Justice’s (IJ) Bill Maurer put it, “the government may not give an electoral advantage to one candidate by ‘leveling’ the speech of his opponents. The point of the Clean Elections Act is to limit spending on speech, and that is exactly what it does.”
If you wish to pursue the vigorous exercise of your free speech, the state has no compelling interest to fund your opponent. One IJ client shows how the law could adversely impact candidates:
Rep. Rick Murphy had three taxpayer-funded opponents in the general election, so for every dollar he raised to spend on his own speech his opponents received three additional dollars in taxpayer funds to counter his speech. Matching funds often guarantee that candidates who refuse taxpayer subsidies will be outspent by publicly-funded opponents. Indeed, Murphy raised only $21,000 in the general election, but his three opponents received more than $176,000 in public subsidies because of the matching funds provision. The motion to stay the issuance of the funds was brought by IJ and the Goldwater Institute, which also represents privately financed candidates in the case.
Hopefully this means Americans are one step further in recognizing that forcing taxpayer dollars to go to candidates is itself a much more insidious abridgment of free speech than privately funded candidates can ever be.