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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Justices to Tackle Arizona|Campaign Finance Law

(CN) - The Supreme Court on Monday said it would review an Arizona campaign finance law that gives additional public money to publicly funded candidates whose privately funded rivals outspend them.

The high court in June barred enforcement of the law pending appeal, vacating a stay that the 9th Circuit had granted supporters of Arizona's Clean Elections Act.

The Clean Elections law, enacted in 1998, allows candidates who collect a certain number of $5 donations to receive a lump sum of public money if they agree to refuse money from special interest groups. Candidates can qualify for more public money if an opponent running as a traditional candidate spends more money on his campaign than the publicly funded candidate initially received.

Republican candidates said the system hinders political speech by forcing them to rein in their own spending to avoid triggering additional matching funds for their Clean Elections opponents.

Publicly funded candidates Jan Brewer and Dean Martin had counted on getting about $2.1 million under the law, but the Supreme Court limited them to the $707,440 they initially received for their Republican primary bid. The privately funded opponent, Buzz Mills, had spent close to $2.3 million, according to the Arizona Daily Sun.

The 9th Circuit ruled in May that the law did not violate the First Amendment. The high court initially refused to block enforcement of the law, but later decided to ban matching funds until it has ruled on the case.

The high court is combining two appeals to be heard in the spring: McComish v. Bennett, no. 10-239, and Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett, no. 10-238.

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