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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


AZ elections no longer free or fair

Last week in a narrow 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upended Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Act, dealing yet another crippling blow to the democratic process.

Under this law, candidates for state office who collect a sufficient number of $5 contributions from voters and agree to an overall expenditure cap are offered a lump sum of public funds to pay for their campaign expenses. The Supreme Court deleteriously struck down CCEA’s matching funds provision, which levels the playing field when the expenditures of privately-funded candidates exceed the amount of state funding granted to publicly-financed candidates. For every dollar that a privately financed candidate raises or spends, the candidate receiving public funding receives a dollar.

CCEA’s aim is quite simple: to preserve democracy by loosening the stranglehold that big money has on our political process. Any fair-minded believer in democracy would agree that the law’s intent is hardly objectionable. CCEA’s naysayers seem to believe that a person’s chances of winning an election depend solely upon how much money they have at their disposal. While funds are certainly important, a candidate’s message and platform are meaningful too. Should he or she be able to develop a strong and substantive ground to stand on, they should have no problem competing with publicly financed candidates with equal funding.

The five conservative Supreme Court Justices who have deemed the matching funds provision “”unconstitutional”” claim that it flies in the face of the First Amendment. Chief Justice John Roberts and his four partners-in-crime (Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito) have held that CCEA restricts political speech by forcing privately-funded candidates to curtail their fundraising efforts to avoid triggering the matching funds provision. But as proponents of the law have pointed out, all candidates are free to spend and raise as much money as they please. Arizona’s clean election program is strictly voluntary. If a candidate chooses to fund his campaign through private and personal funds, the law does not limit the amount of campaign contributions he or she can accept, nor does it dictate how much money they can spend to convey their message. Any claim to the contrary is, quite frankly, baseless and absurd. A simple reading of CCEA’s text dispels the central premise of the Court’s decision.

So what are the implications of the court’s flawed ruling? Well, if you had already lost faith in the democratic process, this decision isn’t likely to lift your spirits. The upending of CCEA has marked the end of free and fair elections in Arizona. Candidates more concerned with winning elections than serving the public’s interest will make corrupt bargains with big business and special interest to gain the funds needed to fuel their campaigns. Office seekers who are the least financially endowed will have their voices drowned out.

Nyles Kendall is a political science senior. He can be reached at


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