Arizona Free Enterprise Club's Freedom Club PAC et al. v. Bennett, Secretary of State of Arizona, et al.

Arizona Free Enterprise Club's Freedom Club PAC et al. v. Bennett, Secretary of State of Arizona, et al.

June 27, 2011
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The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act created a public financing system to fund the primary and general election campaigns of candidates for state office. Candidates who opt to participate, and who accept certain campaign restrictions and obligations, are granted an initial outlay of public funds to conduct their campaign. They are also granted additional matching funds if a privately financed candidate’s expenditures, combined with the expenditures of independent groups made in support of the privately financed candidate or in opposition to a publicly financed candidate, exceed the publicly financed candidate’s initial state allotment.

Once matching funds are triggered, a publicly financed candidate receives roughly one dollar for every dollar raised or spent by the privately financed candidates — including any money of his own that a privately financed candidate spends on his campaign — and for every dollar spent by independent groups that support the privately financed candidate. When there are multiple publicly financed candidates in a race, each one receives matching funds as a result of the spending of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups. Matching funds top out at two times the initial grant to the publicly financed candidate.

Petitioners, past and future Arizona candidates and two independent expenditure groups that spend money to support and oppose Arizona candidates, challenged the constitutionality of the matching funds provision, arguing that it unconstitutionally penalizes their speech and burdens their ability to fully exercise their First Amendment rights. The District Court entered a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the matching funds provision. The Ninth Circuit reversed, concluding that the provision imposed only a minimal burden and that the burden was justified by Arizona’s interest in reducing quid pro quo political corruption.