Supreme Court agrees to hear campaign finance law case that could be ‘game changer’

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter

A suit against an Arizona campaign finance law that the Supreme Court agreed to hear yesterday could be a “game changer” in the world of campaign finance, according to Bill Maurer, lead counsel for Institute for Justice, a plaintiff in the suit. The suit takes on Arizona’s “Clean Elections Act,” which requires the government to give more funding to a publicly funded candidate each time a privately funded candidate spends more money so that the two are afforded equal money, and therefore speech.

IJ says this is a violation of free speech. “It allows the government to put its thumb on the scales in favor of publicly financed candidates,” said Maurer.

Since each act of speech on the part of a privately funded candidate automatically enables more speech from his or her publicly funded opponent, the law “creates an enormous burden on speech,” Maurer says.

Maurer believes the case could have a significant effect. A ruling in IJ’s favor would “more clearly establish that the government has no role in playing radio engineer with particularly speakers and deciding whose voice is too loud and turning them down…We get to decide who gets the bigger megaphone. The government has no role in deciding the volume of people’s speech.”

The Supreme Court will reconcile disparate rulings in the circuit courts on the issue of matching funds. The Second Circuit Court struck down a similar law in Connecticut and the Eleventh Circuit Court did the same in Florida. The Ninth Circuit upheld the rule.