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Popularly Enacted Arizona Public Financing System Survives Attack In the Courts

March 24, 2003

For Immediate Release
March 24, 2003

Contact Information:
Amanda Cooper, 212 998–6736
Laura Weiner, 212 998–8631

Popularly Enacted Arizona Public Financing System Survives Attack in the Courts
Supreme Court Denies Review of Arizona Clean Elections Case

On Friday, the United States Supreme Court refused to review a case challenging Arizonas Clean Elections system. That decision left in place the Arizona Supreme Courts holding that the ten percent surcharge on civil and criminal fines used to finance the state’s public financing system is constitutional. The Arizona Supreme Court rejected the effort to de-fund the Clean Elections system.
This decision represents an important victory for democracy, 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 represented Arizonans for Clean Elections in the successful effort to defend the law. Arizonas public funding system has had a dramatic effect on the states elections, by reducing the importance of money and promoting healthy competition, said Ms. Goldberg. The Supreme Courts decision to leave the Arizona Supreme Courts ruling in place ensures that the Clean Elections system will continue to have enough money to function properly.

Five other states Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Vermont have enacted full public funding programs similar to the one in Arizona for various elective offices. When opponents of reform dont have the votes to repeal a campaign finance law, they try to de-fund it, Ms. Goldberg noted. The courts have firmly rejected that effort, protecting the system that the voters of Arizona created to take the money out of politics.

In the most recent Arizona election, more than half of the candidates participated in the public funding program, including incumbents and challengers, Republicans and Democrats. According to a recent poll, nearly two-thirds of Arizonans believe that the Clean Elections system has had a positive effect on Arizona elections.

The Arizona Supreme Court decision was May v. McNally, 55 P.3d 768 (Ariz. 2002). The United States Supreme Court denied review under the name May v. Brewer, docket number 02–1065.

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 Laura Weiner at 212 992–8631.