Phoenix, AZ—Today the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the constitutionality of Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Act but sided with big money interests by declaring triggered matching funds unconstitutional. Arizona voters passed the Act in 1998. At issue was whether candidates participating in the Clean Elections program would continue receiving limited triggered matching funds when they were outspent by opponents funded by private, lobbyist and corporate money.
Supporters of Clean Elections were quick to criticize the decision saying Arizona Clean Elections does not chill thevoices of privately-financed opponents or outside groups, it simply protects the speech rights of ordinary citizens who can’t make big campaign contributions. In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote of the plaintiffs “So they are making a novel argument: that Arizona violated their First Amendment rights by disbursing funds to other speakers even though they could have received (but chose to spurn) the same financial assistance. Some people might call that chutzpah.”
“Voters want elected officials to be accountable to them, not wealthy donors,” said Linda Brown, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network Foundation. “Unfortunately this Court favors the money over the many. They are pushing our country, and more importantly our democracy, down a dangerous path.”
Clean Elections remains very popular in Arizona with more than 77 percent of likely 2012 voters saying they support the program (Lake Research poll, April 2011.) “Voters value Clean Elections because it frees candidates from being beholden to big money special interests,” added Brown. “That’s how government of, by and for the people should work.”
Brown said the Arizona Advocacy Network will be asking the legislature to amend the law so that Clean candidates can receive matching funds based on the amount of money they are able to raise from small donors within their districts. The small donor model is based on the Fair Elections Now Act, a proposal currently making its way through Congress.
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