November 29, 2010
"Can Publicly Financed Elections Survive Without Punishing Free Speech?"
The Institute for Justice has issued this press release, which begins: "Today, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Institute for Justice's challenge to Arizona's "Clean Elections" Act. According to Professor Rick Hasen, a prominent proponent of publicly financed elections and publisher of a widely read and highly respected blog on election law, the Court's decision to hear the case spells doom for taxpayer financing of campaigns. ("An Effective End to Public Financing" by Rick Hasen, http://summaryjudgments.lls.edu/2010/11/it-is-with-great-pleasure.html.) The reason, according to Hasen, is that the Court is likely to strike down the "matching funds" provision of the system, under which the state provides additional funds to participating candidates when non-participating opponents and even independent groups spend money on speech that opposes them. As Professor Hasen puts it, rational politicians"will not opt into the public financing plan unless they think they will be able to run a competitive campaign under the public financing system. The whole point of the extra matching funds in the Arizona plan is to give candidates assurance they won't be vastly outspent in their election." Professor Hasen raises an important point, but if he is right, this is a reason to oppose public financing, not to lament the fact that matching funds violate the First Amendment."