Entries in Public Financing (2)


Divided Court Strikes Down Provision of Ariz. Public Financing Law

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In its first major campaign finance ruling since Citizen’s United, a divided Supreme Court on Monday struck down a key provision of an Arizona public financing law.

The law allows a candidate who qualifies for public financing to receive a lump sum grant from the government if he or she refuses to accept private contributions. It also says that participating candidates can qualify for additional matching funds from the government if their opponents -- who chose not to participate in public funding -- spend more than the initial grant.

In its opinion the majority targeted this so called “trigger mechanism” and found that it violated the free speech rights of non participating candidates.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for himself and the four other conservatives on the bench, wrote the matching funds provision “substantially burdens the speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups without serving a compelling state interest.”

He said that laws “like Arizona’s matching funds provision that inhibit robust and wide-open political debate without sufficient justification cannot stand.”

But Justice Elena Kagan, who argued the Citizen’s United case on behalf of the government before becoming a Supreme Court Justice, issued a forceful dissent on behalf of herself and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer.

She emphasized that the law was passed in order to stem corruption.

“The First Amendment’s core purpose is to foster a healthy, vibrant, political system full of robust discussion and debate” she wrote.

Kagan who took the unusual step of reading her dissent from the bench said,  “No fundamental principle of our Constitution backs the Court’s ruling; to the contrary it is the law struck down today that fostered both the vigorous competition of ideas and its ultimate object -- a government responsive to the will of the people. Arizona deserves better.”

The law, the Citizens Clean Elections Act, was passed in 1998 following a string of corruption scandals in the state. The ruling will affect public financing laws in several other states with similar trigger mechanisms, but it won’t affect those public financing systems, such as the presidential system, that do not. The ruling leaves standing a 1976 Supreme Court decision that found public financing in general was constitutional.

Supporters of the plan argued it helped to prevent corruption while also encouraging candidates to take public financing and promoting competition in races. The matching funds provided by the government are capped at three times the initial grant.  

But opponents said it was a violation of the rights of the free speech rights of the non-participant candidates.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Public Financing for Presidential Campaigns on the Chopping Block

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A year after the Supreme Court overturned the federal government's decades-old restriction on corporate spending in political campaigns, Republicans are attempting to end the Presidential Election Fund, a move that Democrats charge will only boost the presence of special interest groups.

House Republicans on Wednesday passed a bill to eliminate public financing for presidential campaigns, a program that has been in place for 35 years.

The bill would terminate all taxpayer funding of presidential election campaigns and party conventions "to reduce federal spending and the deficit." The funds that remain would go into the Treasury Department's general fund and would only be used for deficit-reduction purposes.

Under current law, Americans can designate $3 on their income tax filings toward the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. The fund currently collects about $42 million annually, and its balance was $195 million at the end of 2010, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

To qualify for the public funds, presidential candidates and party convention committees have to limit their campaign spending.

The nonpartisan CBO estimated that eliminating the public financing system would reduce direct spending by $617 million in the 2011-2021 period.

The bill faces a bleak future in the Senate. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced the bill Wednesday in the Senate, calling the fund "an outdated, wasteful Washington program" and a "welfare for politicians."

But Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., thus far has no plans to bring the measure to a vote on the floor, setting the stage for more partisan wrangling.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio