California: Judge invalidates law that would have allowed public financing of political campaigns | Los Angeles Times

A Superior Court judge has struck down a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown that would have allowed cities, counties and the state to provide public financing of political campaigns, ruling that it violates a ban on that use of taxpayer dollars established nearly 30 years ago, officials said Monday. Judge Timothy M. Frawley in Sacramento ruled that the financing law, which was signed last September, “directly contradicts” Proposition 73, an initiative approved by voters in 1988 that bans use of public money for campaigns.

Florida: Corcoran gets push-back on public campaign finance repeal | Palm Beach Post

Florida Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala was quick to respond this week to House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s call to abolish public financing for statewide elections. Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, wants the Constitution Revision Commission to place a measure on the 2018 general election ballot that would eliminate the financing system, which offers to candidates matching state funds for individual contributions up to $250. Under the system, candidates also pledge to cap their overall expenditures. Corcoran, who is considering a run for governor, called the system “welfare for politicians,” noting that more than $10 million in public funding supported candidates running for governor and the three state Cabinet seats in the 2010 and 2014 elections. But Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who is an announced candidate for governor and might use public financing in his campaign, said it is a non-issue in a race that should focus on the bigger problems facing the nation’s third-largest state.

Florida: House speaker wants repeal of public campaign financing | Palm Beach Post

House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced Wednesday that he wants to repeal part of the Florida Constitution that provides public financing for statewide election candidates. Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and House Commerce Chairman Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, announced they are asking the Florida Constitution Revision Commission to place the repeal on the 2018 general-election ballot. The commission, which meets every 20 years, has the power to directly place proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. Corcoran has appointed nine of the 37 commission members, meaning his proposals are likely to carry a lot of weight with the panel.

Washington: About those ‘democracy vouchers.’ They didn’t work for everyone | KUOW

This year, Seattle embarked on a bold political experiment in public funding for elections: the Democracy Voucher program. But Hisam Goueli, a candidate for Seattle City Council Position 8, says the new voucher system is broken and lead to “frustration and tears” for his campaign. Although he received nearly $20,000, the money arrived the day before the primary election. Goueli saw the program as a great opportunity for a first-time candidate like himself to run a competitive campaign. In the taxpayer-funder program, each registered voted in Seattle was issued four $25 vouchers, which they can “donate” to the candidate of their choice. But Goueli says that dream turned into a total nightmare, when he and his campaign manager ended up spending “four or five hours each day trying to get the democracy voucher program working.” 

National: The Price of Public Money: The Presidential Election Campaign Fund Has $300 Million and No One Wants It | The Atlantic

Matthew King of suburban Tacoma, Washington, is a Democrat who believes the average American should donate to presidential candidates to thwart big money’s influence. Though he is looking for work, he feels so strongly about the issues that he makes small monthly contributions to Democratic candidates and causes. “It’s democracy in action,” King says, describing his hopes for a president who will combine leftist ideals with strong Christian values. “Right now, money is our voice in politics.” Last fall, King, who is in his late 30s, was working at a local Taco Bell; he charged $20 to his credit card to support a presidential candidate, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. King did not know it at the time, but his donation would help O’Malley’s campaign qualify for more than $1 million in matching funds thanks to a cumbersome bureaucratic process: a relic known as the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. O’Malley was the only one of 23 initial primary contenders in 2016 to seek public funds for his campaign. Only three candidates are still in the race, but more than $300 million remains in the fund—and no one wants to touch it.

Vermont: Senate approves changes to the state’s public campaign financing law | Vermont Press Bureau

The Senate has given its approval to a bill intended to make publicly financed political campaigns more viable. By a vote of 19 to 6, Senate lawmakers Friday approved S.220, a bill that moves up the date a candidate seeking public financing can start a campaign, which supporters say will allow these candidates to better compete with those who are privately financed. “My feeling is, we shouldn’t privilege publicly financed candidates, but we shouldn’t punish them, either,” said Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, the lead sponsor of the bill. The punishment Baruth is referring to is the amount of lead time a privately financed candidate has over one seeking public financing.

Maine: After legislative raids and funding delays, public campaign-finance money could run out | The Portland Press Herald

The publicly funded campaign-finance system backed by Maine voters in a November referendum could run out of money during this year’s election because lawmakers have repeatedly raided the fund for other purposes. Jonathan Wayne, executive director of Maine’s ethics commission, told the Legislature’s budget-writing committee Tuesday that lawmakers have taken nearly $12 million from the Maine Clean Elections fund since 2002, including $3.4 million through the fiscal year that ended in June 2015. The Legislature has repaid $5.6 million, but Wayne said the voter-approved program designed to limit big-money influence on legislative and gubernatorial candidates could run into a “cash flow problem” later this year. That’s because more candidates are entering the program after last fall’s referendum, which increased the amount of money that could be available to support campaigns. If the Maine Clean Elections program runs out of money, it will suffer a “black eye” that could lower confidence and participation among candidates, said Wayne, whose agency oversees the campaign finance system.

Maine: Voters approve clean election expansion | The Portland Press Herald

Mainers approved a proposal Tuesday to expand the state’s public campaign financing system and passed two bond issues for $100 million for senior housing and transportation projects. The proposal to revitalize the Maine Clean Election Act, Question 1, was leading 55-45 percent, with 83 percent of precincts reporting. … Approved by voters in 1996, the Maine Clean Election Act allows candidates running for the Legislature or governor to receive public campaign financing in exchange for agreeing to forgo private donations. Question 1 will increase the total pool of money available to the Maine Clean Elections program and increase the potential disbursements to candidates while allowing them to collect additional $5 donations.

Maine: The Maine Clean Election Act explained | Bangor Daily News

It’s about three weeks from Election Day, but you may just now be hearing about the November ballot question to reform Maine’s program for taxpayer-funded political campaigns. Question 1 on the ballot aims to fortify the Maine Clean Election Act, a citizen-initiated effort passed by voters in 1996 to stem the influence of private money in state politics. It allows candidates to run for state office by accepting small-dollar campaign contributions, or “seed money,” that qualifies them for public money to run campaigns. Once they get it, they can’t raise private money. The law has been weakened in recent years, but Maine’s system is still one of the most progressive in the nation. Only 13 states provide public campaign financing; of those, just five open it to legislative hopefuls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But Maine could take it further this Election Day.

Maine: Bill to Repeal Maine’s Clean Elections Law Comes Under Fire | Maine Public Broadcasting

A freshman Republican lawmaker is encountering some significant opposition – some from within his own party – over his proposal to send Maine’s taxpayer-funded campaign law back to the voters for reconsideration. Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn wants to repeal the law and redirect the millions of tax dollars spent on legislative campaigns toward local education costs. But some critics say Brakey actually has an ulterior motive. With a title like “An Act To Repeal the Maine Clean Election Act and Direct the Savings To Be Used for the State’s Contribution toward the Costs of Education Funding,” you could say that Brakey’s bill appears pretty straightforward at first glance.

Illinois: Chicago Voters Endorse Campaign Finance Reform | Al Jazeera

Chicago voters endorsed by a wide margin Tuesday a plan to institute public campaign financing and limit outside contributions. The ballot measure, though non-binding, begins a process that will now move to city and state government, where legislation would be drafted. Asked whether the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois should “reduce the influence of special interest money in elections by financing campaigns using small contributions from individuals and a limited amount of public money,” voters signaled yes by a 58-point margin, 79 percent to 21 percent.

Arizona: High court allowing higher campaign contribution limits to go into effect | Associated Press

The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected arguments from the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission and allowed new, higher campaign contribution limits passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature to go into effect. The ruling issued just hours after the court heard oral arguments is a major victory for Republicans, who pushed for the major increases in contribution limits in the past legislative session despite warnings from Democrats that they would run afoul of state law protecting voter-approved laws. The court said it will issue a formal opinion explaining its reasoning later. The court overturned an October decision by the Arizona Court of Appeals that found the law conflicted with the Voter Protection Act. That law requires a three-fourths vote of the Legislature to make major changes to voter-approved laws. The brief court order also lifted the injunction the appeals court put in place blocking the higher limits from taking effect.

Arizona: Campaign Finance Limits Remain Unclear as Election Approaches | Arizona Law Review

As candidates for legislative and statewide elected offices in Arizona are gearing up for the 2014 elections, a crucial yet unanswered question looms over the proceedings: how much money are candidates allowed to accept from campaign donors? In attempting to clarify the answer, the Arizona Court of Appeals held last month that House Bill 2593 was ineffective because it had not been passed with a supermajority as required by the Arizona Constitution.1 In doing so, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Clean Elections Commission and against the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate. House Bill 2593, signed into law last spring, overrode existing campaign contribution limits by increasing the maximum contribution that political campaigns could accept from individual supporters. With the enjoinment of the new law, the previous, stricter, campaign contribution requirements are once again the law of Arizona—unless the Arizona Supreme Court steps in. The underlying dispute traces its genesis to the 1998 state general election.2 In that election, the voters of Arizona passed two ballot measures by popular referendum: Proposition 200, known as the Clean Elections Act;3 and Proposition 105, commonly referred to as the Voter Protection Act.4.

National: Much Ado About McCutcheon: The Continuing Erosion of Campaign Contribution Limits | Pacific Standard

Shaun McCutcheon wants to make political donations to federal candidates. Allow me to clarify; McCutcheon wants to make a lot of political donations to federal candidates. The Republican National Committee, among others, wants him to be able to do so. So what’s the problem? Currently, McCutcheon can give $2,600 per election directly to a federal candidate, a total of $48,600 per election to all federal candidates, and $74,600 per election to federal political party committees and political action committees, or PACs, that give money to federal candidates. Put another away, McCutcheon (and other individuals) are subject to a $123,200 per election aggregate contribution limit with respect to candidates, political parties, and PACs. McCutcheon, an electrical engineer living in Alabama, would like to change that. The result is the latest and greatest campaign finance question to hit the high court since Citizens United. In the early 1970s, in the wake of the Watergate scandals that lead to the resignation of President Nixon, Congress implemented the nation’s first comprehensive campaign finance law. The law limited how much could be given to and spent by candidates, how much could be spent by independent groups and organizations, required that certain donations and expenditures be disclosed to the public, and created a system of public campaign financing for presidential candidates. The primary reason that McCutcheon’s argument may likely carry the day is that five of the nine justices on the Supreme Court are, to varying degrees, hostile to campaign finance legislation.

Maine: Budget deal would eliminate clean elections funds in gubernatorial race | Bangor Daily News

Running as a clean elections candidate wouldn’t be an option for hopefuls in next year’s gubernatorial contest under a budget compromise crafted last week by Republican and Democratic legislators. But while public campaign financing would be off the table in the race for the Blaine House, it would still be an option for legislative candidates, who would be able to qualify for 20 percent more funding than they received during last year’s elections. Under the budget provision, the clean elections program would receive $2.8 million from the state’s general fund over the next two years. That’s $2.8 million more than the fund would have received under Gov. Paul LePage’s original budget proposal, which would have eliminated funding for the program, but $1.2 million less than the program normally receives every two years. LePage also proposed eliminating public campaign financing two years ago in his first budget proposal before taking that proposal off the table.