Campaigns/Elections

How Can We Raise Money for Our Campaigns If We Can't Get It From the Government?

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Last week, when the Supreme Court blocked the distribution of "matching funds" under Arizona's Citizens Clean Elections Act while it considers a constitutional challenge to the law, publicly financed candidates complained that the Court was changing the rules in the middle of an election campaign and depriving them of money they were expecting. It is hard to feel bad for them, not only because they chose to mooch off taxpayers instead of raising money from voluntary supporters but also because they were put on notice nearly two years ago that their subsidies were likely to be found unconstitutional. In October 2008, U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver ruled (PDF) that the candidates challenging Arizona's campaign finance system "have shown a very strong likelihood of success on the merits," although she declined to issue a preliminary injunction at that point, with the general election less than a month away.

The commission that oversees Arizona's "clean elections" system claims (PDF) that Gov. Jan Brewer and other candidates who were counting on matching funds have no recourse: Although they still get basic funding, they won't get taxpayer money to match the spending of privately funded opponents, and they are not allowed to raise  money on their own. Goldwater Institute attorney Nick Dranias, who challenged the Clean Elections Act along with Bill Maurer of the Institute for Justice, says the commission is misinterpreting the law:   

There is nothing in the law that prohibits withdrawal from the Clean Elections system—provided taxpayer-funded candidates return their government subsidies and run with private financing. No provision in the Citizens Clean Elections Act addresses the issue of voluntary withdrawal from the system. And no rule prohibits the Commission from allowing candidates to withdraw from the system if they return their subsidies.

In interviews with the Phoenix New Times, Dranias and Clint Bolick, Goldwater's director of constitutional litigation, make the case against sympathy for publicly funded candidates:

"If they behaved reasonably," they would have a contingency plan," Dranias said. "After 19 months of rulings from the district court saying this is unconstitutional, no serious candidate would not be prepared for this contingency."

Added Bolick, "People who gambled that public subsidies would be available to them now are reaping the folly of such a gamble."

Look for my column about the case tomorrow.

NEXT: Predicting the Chicago Gun Case

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  1. expecting. It is hard to feel bad for them, not only because they chose to mooch off taxpayers instead of raising money from voluntary supporters but also because they were put on notice nearly two years ago that their subsidies were likely to be found unconstitutional.

    When it comes to being given stolen money (what Americans call with a sick sense of humor “taxes”), ANY change, even if announced, will be taken with complete surprise by the thieves themselves.

  2. The beauty of such thinking is that since there’s always an election around the corner, and there will obviously always be candidates that request such funding, it would be unfair to ever enjoin the use of such funds!

    1. Being surprised by, and unable to cope with, a ruling such as this speaks volumes about a candidates qualifications for office, don’t you think? Do you really want to elect somebody who doesn’t know how to prepare for changing circumstances, nor adjust to them as they arise?

  3. Making people suffer for their lack of preparedness is not the American way. These candidates deserve a federal bailout. Have some empathy.

    1. Will you do the same for me if my Celtics wager goes awry tonight?

  4. “If they behaved reasonably,” they would have a contingency plan,” Dranias said. “After 19 months of rulings from the district court saying this is unconstitutional, no serious candidate would not be prepared for this contingency.”

    I predict that these people will all win, because that sounds like exactly the type of people who always win elections.

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