Nick Dranias, director of the Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute, shown in a 2009 file photo, says publicly financed candidates purchasing computers and paying relatives as campaign workers and consultants are products of a well-meaning but flawed law.

Alexander MacLean, Cronkite News Service

The U.S. Supreme Court was set to decide whether it will hear arguments regarding a case challenging a matching-funds provisions of Arizona’s Clean Elections system of publicly financed campaigns.

Last June, the court put an injunction on matching funds in Arizona for this election cycle, which political observers said may have altered outcomes in statewide races, most notably the Democratic and Republican attorney general primaries, which pitted one privately and one publicly financed candidate against each other.

Matching funds are designed to level the playing field by triggering money to publicly financed candidates when their privately financed opponents outspend their initial Clean Elections disbursement.

In McComish v. Bennett, the Goldwater Institute challenged matching funds on the basis that they infringe on a privately financed candidate’s First Amendment rights by suppressing speech.

“They punish people for exercising their First Amendment right to spend money supporting the things they believe in and projecting their ideas to the public,” said Nick Dranias, director of the Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.

A U.S. Superior Court judge agreed with that argument in January, but in May the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Clean Elections law.

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