Today, the Institute for Justice filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the Court to overturn a decision of the Ninth Circuit upholding Arizona’s punitive system of taxpayer-financed campaigns. IJ’s challenge is Arizona Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett (known as McComish v. Bennett at the Ninth Circuit). At issue is Arizona’s so-called “clean elections system,” which provides full public financing for candidates who opt into the system. In order to “level the playing field” among candidates, the system provides additional public subsidies to government-funded candidates when candidates that do not take public money and the groups that support them engage in political activity above a certain, government-set, level.
Even though the decision only came out in May, the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning has already been rejected by two other federal appellate courts—the Second Circuit in New York and the Eleventh Circuit in Florida. The reason for the split among the circuits is simple—the Second and Eleventh Circuits got the First Amendment right and the Ninth Circuit got it wrong. The time has arrived for the Supreme Court to end the confusion and hold once and for all that these types of systems are unconstitutional. The Court should act now, as creating the most heavy-handed system of financing elections using the taxpayers’ money is a priority for “reformers” eager to more fully inject the government into the decision of who should govern us.
IJ represents two independent expenditure groups in the case, as well as two elected officials who would prefer to run without taxpayer money. Also seeking the Court’s review of the Ninth Circuit’s decision is the Goldwater Institute, which represents three privately financed candidates in the case. IJ’s petition requests the Court to grant both petitions and consolidate the challenges so that the Court has the entire range of harm caused by this scheme before it.