U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Matching Funds in AZ
Posted by Daren Bakst at 12:33 PM
The United States Supreme Court has just blocked the distribution of matching funds in Arizona until the Court issues an opinion on the matter (or declines to hear the case, which is unlikely given its actions).
As I have argued, matching funds, like we have in North Carolina's taxpayer financing systems, are unconstitutional. If a candidate that doesn't take taxpayer financing (unsubsidized candidate) spends beyond a threshold amount of money, such as $10,000 beyond that threshhold, the opposing candidate automatically receives $10,000 in matching funds. As a result, this punishes candidates for engaging in free speech because they wouldn't want to help their opponents.
Even worse, in calcuating whether a candidate has spent beyond a threshold amount of money, the expenditures of independent groups are added. Therefore, independent groups that support an unsubsidized candidate won't engage in free speech either because they don't want to hurt their candidate.
The matching fund system is so extreme that independent groups supporting a taxpayer-financed candidate can spend an unlimited amount of money without triggering matching funds to an unsubsidized candidate, but independent groups that support the unsubsidized candidate can spend very little before triggering matching funds.
It is possible that a taxpayer-financed candidate along with the supporting independent groups could outspend the unsubsidized candidate along with the supporting independent groups by millions (unlimited amount), yet matching funds would go to the taxpayer-financed candidate!
The Court's action are a fairly clear signal that they will strike down matching funds and as a result our taxpayer financing systems will officially be unconstitutional.
While the Court's current actions may not technically block matching funds in North Carolina, its actions warrant an immediate moratorium on matching funds in North Carolina.
If the Court felt that there are likely First Amendment problems in Arizona, then there's no reason why it also wouldn't have taken the same action regarding North Carolina's system.
The NC Board of Elections should immediately cease any actions furthering the matching fund system and no matching funds should be disbursed. Roy Cooper, the state Attorney General, should provide immediate guidance to this effect.
There would even be a possibility that individuals working for the state and still disbursing matching funds could be help personally liable for doing so under Section 1983 (federal law). It was already very clear that such actions were likely unconstitutional. The Court's recent action makes it even more clear.
This is a great day for those that believe in free speech. It is a bad day for the "reformers" who think it is ok to violate the First Amendment.
I don't want to count my chickens, but this is a strong indication that the end is near for "clean elections."
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