Press Release

Supreme Court ruling should lead to N.C. matching-funds moratorium

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Click here to view and here to listen to Daren Bakst discussing this press release.

RALEIGH — North Carolina should place an immediate hold on the “matching-funds” provision of its taxpayer-financed election campaign system. That’s the assessment the John Locke Foundation’s legal expert offers after reviewing a new U.S. Supreme Court order.

The high court’s brief order today blocks Arizona from awarding extra money to taxpayer-financed candidates in that state who are outspent by their privately financed rivals. If Supreme Court justices decide to hear a full appeal from opponents of the so-called “matching-funds” provision in Arizona’s taxpayer-financed campaign system, the order would stand until the court rules in the case.

“While the Court’s current actions may not technically block matching funds in North Carolina, its actions warrant an immediate moratorium on matching funds in North Carolina,” said Daren Bakst, JLF Director of Legal and Regulatory Studies. “If the Court felt that there are likely First Amendment problems in Arizona, then there’s no reason why it wouldn’t have taken the same action regarding North Carolina’s system.”

Bakst argued in a January 2009 Spotlight report that a previous Supreme Court case made North Carolina’s taxpayer-financing scheme “clearly unconstitutional.” North Carolina’s system allows taxpayer-financed candidates to collect extra money, “matching funds,” whenever a privately funded candidate spends beyond a certain government-set threshold. The matching-funds provision kicks in even if an outside group pushes total spending “supporting” the privately funded candidate above that threshold.

“The North Carolina Board of Elections should immediately cease any actions furthering the matching-fund system, and no matching funds should be disbursed,” Bakst said. “State Attorney General Roy Cooper should provide immediate guidance to this effect.”

“There would even be a possibility that individuals working for the state and still disbursing matching funds could be held personally liable for doing so under federal law,” Bakst added. “It was already very clear that such actions were likely unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s recent action makes it even more clear.”

“This is a great day for those who believe in free speech,” Bakst said. “It is a bad day for the ‘reformers’ who think it is OK to violate the First Amendment. I don’t want to count my chickens, but this is a strong indication that the end is near for the poorly named scheme of ‘clean elections.'”

For more information, please contact Daren Bakst at (919) 828-3876 or [email protected]. To arrange an interview, contact Mitch Kokai at (919) 306-8736 or [email protected].

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About John Locke Foundation

We are North Carolina’s Most Trusted and Influential Source of Common Sense. The John Locke Foundation was created in 1990 as an independent, nonprofit think tank that would work “for truth, for freedom, and for the future of North Carolina.” The Foundation is named for John Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher whose writings inspired Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders.

The John Locke Foundation is a 501(c)(3) research institute and is funded solely from voluntary contributions from individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations.