March 11, 2005
A federal judge on Thursday threw out a lawsuit filed by failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon that claimed it is illegal for the state to equalize funding among candidates under the Citizens Clean Elections Law.
U.S. District Judge Earl Carroll said the government can adopt rules designed to abolish even the appearance of corruption in the political process.
The ruling is the latest in a string of defeats for opponents of the law.
Attorney Tim Keller, of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, who filed the lawsuit, promised an appeal.
Voters approved the law in 1998. It allows candidates for statewide and legislative offices to have publicly financed campaigns if they collect the requisite number of $5 donations, an indication of public support. The financing depends on the office sought.
The lawsuit challenged two related elements of the law. One gives more cash to publicly funded candidates when privately financed foes raise additional donations. Keller argued federal courts preclude the state from equalizing funding for candidates.
The other provides additional money to publicly financed candidates when independent groups take out ads attacking them or supporting their privately funded foes. Yet independent expenditures made on behalf of the publicly funded candidate are not considered.
Keller said the net effect is to illegally coerce candidates into accepting public funds.
But Carroll said the purpose behind the law was to diminish the influence of special interest money. "The statute’s provisions were intended to restore the faith of the public in the political process,’’ he wrote.