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Supreme Court upholds Clean Elections, Munger withdraws

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Supreme Court upholds Clean Elections, Munger withdraws

John Munger quits bid for GOP governor's nomination

  • Munger

John Munger has quit the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

The Supreme Court's decision Tuesday upholding Arizona's Clean Elections law forced him from the race, the Tucson attorney said in a statement.

Public election funding "presents an insurmountable obstacle," he said.

Arizona's Clean Elections law provides campaign funds to candidates who collect a certain amount in $5 donations, if they forgo funds from special-interest groups. Candidates must also agree to fundraising and spending limits, and attend debates.

"Clean" candidates can receive dollar-for-dollar matching funding if traditionally-financed opponents outspend them, up to three times the original limit.

"Matching funds add viewpoints to the marketplace of ideas." said Todd Lang, executive director of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, in a news release.

"These funds enable voters to hear both sides of the story and add to a robust debate."

The Goldwater Institute, a conservatitve think-tank, and the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm, filed a 2008 lawsuit on behalf of Republican candidates, including state Treasurer Dean Martin, Sen. Bob Burns of Peoria, Rep. John McComish of Phoenix and Rep. Nancy McLain of Bullhead City.

The high court rejected an emergency appeal Tuesday, but did not close all avenues for review.

"Justice Kennedy's order clarifies election rules and provides a measure of needed certainty to candidates preparing for 2010 primary contests for which early voting begins in less than 60 days," said Secretary of State Ken Bennett in a statement. Bennett's office oversees oversees elections.

"Broader questions involving the constitutionality of matching provisions under the state's Clean Elections system will likely be left to a full hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is appropriate," said Bennett.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law last week.

"We conclude that the matching funds provision of the Act imposes only a minimal burden on First Amendment rights," the circuit court ruled. "No plaintiff … has pointed to any specific instance in which she or he has declined a contribution or failed to make an expenditure for fear of triggering matching funds."

Arizona has a "long history" of political corruption, which matching funds may reduce, the appeals court said.

"AzScam, in which legislators literally sold their votes for cash bribes, was just one of many substantial, wide-spread, and highly-publicized political scandals that Arizona experienced in the late 1980s and 1990s. The more candidates that run with public funding, the smaller the appearance among Arizona elected officials of being susceptible to quid pro quo corruption," said the ruling.

The Goldwater Institute refiled a request for an injunction against the Clean Elections program Tuesday, saying it will file an appeal of the high courts denial of review.

The case is McComish v. Bennett.

Munger's statement

The Supreme Court's decision to leave in place the "matching funds" provision of Arizona's so-called Clean Elections law presents an insurmountable obstacle to my campaign for Governor. As I have previously stated publicly and in legal filings, these dollar-for-dollar taxpayer matching funds create an unequal playing field by discouraging financial contributions to traditionally-funded candidates.

Given the virtual impossibility of raising the necessary funds to compete against taxpayer-funded campaigns under this scenario, I have no choice but to officially withdraw from the race for Governor. I am eternally grateful to the many people who did pledge their financial support, embraced my ideas, and worked tirelessly for my campaign. At the present time, I am not endorsing another candidate in this race.

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