The Center for Competitive Politics sent an updated letter to Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle on the constitutionality of a recently-passed bill instituting taxpayer financed judicial campaigns. The letter is in response to misleading statements from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign about recent federal court decisions concerning the constitutionality of “rescue funds” in similar taxpayer funded campaign programs.
Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign sent a letter to Gov. Doyle responding to the Center for Competitive Politics’ initial criticism. He erroneously claimed that the most recent federal court decisions support so-called rescue funds, which provide additional taxpayer money to participating candidates in response to the spending of non-participating candidates or outside groups.
The case McCabe cites, North Carolina Right to Life v. Leake, was decided in May of 2008, before the Supreme Court ruled in Davis v. Federal Election Commission. Davis struck down the “Millionaire’s Amendment” in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which allowed candidates special fund-raising privileges if their opponent spent personal funds above a certain amount on their own campaign.
Since Leake and in the wake of Davis, two federal district court judges have ruled against matching funds. In August 2008, federal district Judge Roslyn Silver in Arizona ruled that Arizona’s matching funds provision in their taxpayer-financed campaign program was likely unconstitutional according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Davis decision. A final decision from her court is still pending.
More recently, in August 2009, federal district Judge Stefan Underhill struck down Connecticut’s entire public financing program, which included a matching funds provision. Judge Underhill found the matching funds provision to be unconstitutional after the Davis decision, writing: “I conclude that the trigger provisions place a substantial burden on the exercise of First Amendment rights and the state has failed to advance a compelling state interest that would otherwise justify that burden.”