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Supreme Court to examine Arizona campaign-finance reform law

The Supreme Court will look at whether an Arizona campaign-finance law that discourages candidates from spending large amounts of money is constitutional.

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Citizens United President David Bossie (r.) meets with reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington Jan. 21, after the Supreme Court ruled on a campaign-finance reform case. The Supreme Court has now taken up a new campaign finance case regarding an Arizona clean elections law.

Lauren Victoria Burke/AP/file

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Less than a year after cutting back on campaign-finance reforms at the federal level in its controversial Citizens United decision, the US Supreme Court has set the stage for another major showdown over election-funding reform, this one in Arizona.

The high court on Monday agreed to examine the constitutionality of a campaign-finance reform program that provides state money to certain candidates when their opponent exceeds government-set campaign spending limits.

Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Act is designed to level the playing field among political candidates by creating a strong incentive for candidates to limit the amount they spend in statewide campaigns.

The system is aimed at undercutting the influence of campaign contributions from special interests. It is also designed to foster a more substantive discussion of the issues rather than sustain a free-for-all of expensive attack advertisements cluttering the air waves.

Candidates that agree to pre-set spending limits receive public funding for their campaigns. Those opposed to the campaign-spending limits or who wish to use their own money to fund their campaigns are free to opt out of the program.

The dispute is over what happens next.

Under the Arizona system, if a nonparticipating candidate spends more than the state’s pre-set limit for a particular seat, the participating candidates are no longer required to abide by the spending limits. Instead, under the program, the state provides all participating candidates with matching funds equal to the amount being spent by the nonparticipating candidate.

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