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February 23, 2011

Miller Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Arizona Campaign Finance Law

(DES MOINES, Iowa)  Attorney General Tom Miller led a group of five states in filing a “friend-of-the-court” brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that public financing of state elections should remain available as a tool to restore public confidence.

The attorneys general joined the case of Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC, et al, v. Ken Bennett, et al.  At issue is whether the First Amendment prohibits states from basing the amount of funding that candidates participating in a public campaign-financing program receive in part on the amount of independent expenditures and the contributions or expenditures of privately financed opposing candidates.

Numerous states, including Arizona, publicly finance elections in order to combat the threat of actual or apparent corruption in the political process.  As part of Arizona’s effort, which was enacted in 1998, state statute provides for matching funds triggered upon an opponent’s or a third party’s independent expenditures.

In their brief, Miller and the states argue that this provision does not run afoul of the First Amendment.  The statute does not curtail the right of a nonparticipating candidate to solicit contributions or make expenditures.  Nor does the statute place a ceiling on the amount of independent expenditures allowed by or in favor of nonparticipating candidates.  The states contend that Arizona’s statute does not contradict the First Amendment, as the state’s interest in combating corruption or the appearance of corruption is substantially related to its public financing legal structure.

State attorneys general from the following states joined Miller and Iowa in the amicus brief: Connecticut, Maryland, New Mexico and Vermont.  The amicus brief, written by Iowa Solicitor General Mark E. Schantz, was filed Tuesday.

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