Connecticut's Matching Funds Struck Down


Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit overturned the subsidies that Connecticut provides to publicly funded candidates for state office so they can match the campaign spending of their privately funded opponents. The court ruled that Connecticut's matching funds impose an unconstitutional burden on freedom of speech because they are triggered by the spending of privately financed candidates and independent groups. In effect, the subsidies punish nonparticipating candidates for exceeding spending limits, which the Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional when they are imposed directly.

Connecticut's campaign finance system is very similar to Arizona's, which the Supreme Court is expected to consider next term. While the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld Arizona's matching funds in May, the 2nd Circuit found its opinion unpersuasive, saying the attempt to equalize spending is "clearly unconstitutional" under the reasoning of Davis v. FEC, the 2008 decision in which the Supreme Court rejected a provision of federal law that raised contribution limits for candidates facing wealthy, self-financed opponents.

The 2nd Circuit decision, Green Party of Connecticut v. Garfield, is here (PDF). I discussed the challenge to Arizona's "clean elections" system in a column last month.