The U-S Supreme Court has decided to weigh in on an Arizona plan for public financing in elections. KPCC's Molly Peterson says voters in California today are casting ballots on a similar plan for the Golden State.
The debate in Arizona concerns what that state terms a Clean Elections law - it's a decade old. Candidates who agree to limits on campaign spending get subsidies. Big spenders, including self-financed candidates, don't. Because big spenders have to limit their expenses to avoid triggering more public money for opponents, some in Arizona argue that's an illegal infringement of free speech rights. A federal district court first ruled that way, then the 9th circuit court of appeals decided the public spending plan is kosher. The Supreme Court hasn't ruled on that question - in fact, the court hasn't even decided to take it up. What the court did do is stop the flow of public money to Arizona candidates while it decides if further action's warranted. Californians are at the polls today considering public financing: proposition 15 would, if passed, create a similar pilot program here. Starting with the office of Secretary of state in 4 years, the initiative would distribute a pool of money to candidates, using fees levied on lobbyists in Sacramento.