For Immediate Release
June 18, 2002
Amanda Cooper, 212 998–6282
Brennan Center Statement on Decision in Arizona Clean Elections Case
May v. Bayless Decision Should Not Discourage Public Financing
Yesterday, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that the First Amendment precluded the state from using a ten percent surcharge on civil and criminal fine to finance the state’s public financing system. The court held that the surcharge created an involuntary association of fine-payers, who were compelled to subsidize political speech in violation of their constitutional rights.
“We believe that the decision is wrong, and we will seek review in the Arizona Supreme Court,” said Deborah Goldberg of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. The Brennan Center and the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest are representing Arizonans for Clean Elections in an effort to defend the law. “Fortunately, this ruling is concerned only with a funding source for Arizona’s public financing program, not with the basic elements of the system. States and localities across the country can still look to Arizona for a model of constitutional campaign finance reform, while we continue to litigate the issue in this case.”
Three other states Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont have enacted full public funding programs similar to the one in Arizona. “When opponents of reform don’t have the votes to repeal a campaign finance law, they seek to defund it,” Ms. Goldberg noted. “We have seen one defunding strategy in Massachusetts which has failed and we are seeing another version in Arizona.”
Under the Citizens Clean Election Act, funding for Arizona’s system may also be drawn from an income tax check-off and voluntary contributions, which have not been challenged. To date, most funding has come from the surcharge.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law unites thinkers and advocates in pursuit of a vision of inclusive and effective democracy. Our mission is to develop and implement an innovative, nonpartisan agenda of scholarship, public education, and legal action that promotes equality and human dignity, while safeguarding fundamental freedoms. For more information, call Amanda Cooper at 212.998.6736, or visit http://www.brennancenter.org.