Last month, the Supreme Court decided it would hear another set of cases that deal with campaign spending and freedom of speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment. The two lawsuits, McComish v. Bennett and Arizona Free Enterprise Club's Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, concern a new Arizona law that provides public funding to candidates underfunded in local elections. According to the Brennan Center, which will be defending the law in the Supreme Court, the voters of Arizona passed the “clean elections” law in response to a series of corruption scandals that involved an elected official stuffing money into a gym bag. The Act established a voluntary public financing system for legislative and statewide executive political elections. John McComish, the Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC and others claim that their freedom of speech is violated by the section of the law that provides additional money to candidates facing high spending opposition. While a federal appeals court upheld the “clean elections” law in April, the Supreme Court elected in June to put enforcement of the law on hold pending further review.
Along the lines of the landmark ruling in Citizens United earlier this year, the arguments in these cases are highly polarized. Those who have sued to challenge the laws assert that donating money in support of a political candidate is a First Amendment right and that the government should not tamper with or otherwise invalidate the private will. At the other side of the spectrum, “Arizona lawmakers have argued there is a compelling state interest in equalizing resources among competing candidates and interest groups.” And many people are worried more generally about the influence of money in elections and are concerned about corporate interests allowing some candidates to outspend their opposition.
As ever, stay tuned.
(Photo by Indiana Public Media.)