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Court Dismisses Lawsuit Against Arizona Clean Elections Law

March 11, 2005

For Immediate Release
Friday, March 11, 2005

Contact Information:
Deborah Goldberg, 212 998–6748
Dorothee Benz, 212 998–6318

Court Dismisses Lawsuit Against Arizona Clean Elections Law

New York, NY The United States District Court for Arizona yesterday dismissed the latest lawsuit brought against the states landmark Clean Elections Act. The ruling by federal District Court Judge Earl Carroll marks the seventh time that opponents of the reform legislation, which was passed by Arizona voters in 1998 and went into effect in 2000, triedand failedto stop the successful public funding program for state elections.

The case, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons v. Brewer, alleged the matching funds provision of the Clean Elections Act effectively makes participation in the public financing program compulsory. The Clean Elections Act provides for full public financing for participating candidates, who receive a lump sum; it also provides matching funds to participating candidates in amounts equal to any funds over the lump-sum amount that their non-participating opponents have raised or that have been spent on independent ads. In other words, it provides matching funds so that non-participating candidates cannot grossly outspend participating candidates, which would discourage participation and undermine the entire system. The plaintiffs in Association of American Physicians and Surgeons v. Brewer contended the law violated their First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights. Judge Carroll firmly rejected that claim.

The motion to dismiss the lawsuit was brought by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest on behalf of the Clean Elections Institute and Steven Poe, a 2004 candidate for the Arizona State Senate.

This latest ruling affirms once again that the Clean Election Act is constitutionally sound as well as good public policy, said Deborah Goldberg from the Brennan Center. The law has helped make government in Arizona more honest, open and accountable by allowing candidates to compete on the basis of ideas and popular support rather than personal wealth or campaign contributions.

The Arizona Clean Elections Law was the second state campaign finance reform measure to institute full public financing for all state elections. (The Maine Clean Elections system withstood a similar court challenge in the 2000 case Daggett v. Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, and Association of American Physicians and Surgeons v. Brewer adopts the reasoning of the earlier case.) It is one of a growing number of states that are instituting reform legislation both to open up the political process so that more people can participate and to address the corrupting influence of money on politics.