The U.S. Supreme Court denied the Goldwater Institute’s request to block matching funds for the 2010 election, but left open the possibility that it may still do so.
In a June 1 order, the Supreme Court rejected the Goldwater Institute’s motion for an injunction against matching funds, which the Citizens Clean Elections Commission is scheduled to begin distributing on June 22.
But the court said the Goldwater Institute could re-file its motion, as long as it also stated its intent to appeal a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that matching funds are constitutional.
The Goldwater Institute filed a new motion later in the day. Goldwater Institute attorney Nick Dranias said the Supreme Court simply wanted an assurance that the institute planned on continuing with its appeal if it got an injunction.
Clean Elections Commission Director Todd Lang described the Supreme Court’s ruling as a conditional rejection of the Goldwater Institute’s motion.
“It rejected it, but it said, ‘Feel free to re-file it and then let us know that you plan to appeal.’ And that’s what they did,” Lang said.
Lang said he expects the Supreme Court to eventually hear an appeal of the Ninth Circuit’s May 21 ruling that matching funds are constitutional. But, he said, he doesn’t think the court will block matching funds this late in the 2010 campaign cycle, when publicly funded candidates no longer have the opportunity to switch to private funding.
“I would be surprised if they struck down matching funds at this point without getting full briefing and an opportunity to review it,” he said.
While Lang said he took the ruling as a sign that matching funds are probably safe in 2010, Dranias said the Supreme Court could still rule either way.
“I don’t think you should read anything into anything,” Dranias said. “I don’t think there’s any way to interpret this order with certainty.”
Opponents say matching funds discourage traditionally funded candidates from spending their donations in order to avoid triggering dollar-for-dollar matches to their publicly funded challengers. Proponents of the system say it combats corruption.
The Supreme Court must rule by June 11 – when the Ninth Circuit’s mandate becomes official – in order to keep the public funding from being distributed.