PRESS RELEASE FROM THE MADISON CENTER
Friday, July 22, 2011
Contact: James Bopp, Jr.
Maine House Candidate Victorious in Public Funding Challenge
On Thursday, a federal district court in Maine declared unconstitutional a provision of Maine’s system of public funding for elections that provides taxpayer funding to legislative candidates based on opposition speech.
The Maine Clean Elections Act, passed in 1995, provides taxpayer funding for Maine legislative and gubernatorial candidates who agree to limit how much money they raise and spend on their campaigns. Under the scheme, state legislative candidates receive between $500 and $19,000 in initial funding, plus additional “matching funds” of up to $38,000 if they are outspent by their opponent and independent groups.
Rep. Andre Cushing, state representative for District 39 of the Maine legislature, brought suit last August along with Respect Maine PAC, and Harold Clough, challenging the constitutionality of the matching fund. Rep. Cushing did not take public funding for his campaign, and argued the money he raises shouldn't trigger additional funding to his opponent. “I don’t support having taxpayers foot the bill for a politician’s election campaign” says Cushing, “but making me fund my opponent by giving him a dollar for each dollar I raise is simply unconstitutional.”
The federal order makes reference to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom PAC v. Bennett, which declared unconstitutional a similar Arizona scheme.
“The court’s decision here is just a straightforward application of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bennett,” said James Bopp, Jr., counsel for the plaintiffs. “Requiring people to effectively fund candidates they opposed simply by exercising their First Amendment rights is blatantly unconstitutional.”
“The court has reaffirmed that Maine election laws must pass constitutional muster,” said David Crocker of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, local counsel for the plaintiffs. “This decision clears a roadblock to free speech, which Maine’s citizens should justly celebrate.”
The case is Cushing et al. v. McKee et al., 1:10-cv-330. Copies of the order and other documents related to the case are available in PDF online at the James Madison Center’s website, www.jamesmadisoncenter.org, under “Cushing v. McKee.”
James Bopp, Jr. has a national federal and state election law practice. He is General Counsel for the James Madison Center for Free Speech and former Co-Chairman of the Election Law Subcommittee of the Federalist Society.