U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Free Speech Case Affecting Connecticut In 10 Days

HARTFORD – Oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court in McComish v Bennett, an important free speech case concerning taxpayer funded political campaigns, are scheduled for Monday, March 28. Underscoring the case’s relevance to Connecticut, Attorney General George Jepsen and former candidate Ned Lamont recently signed onto briefs in the case – albeit on the opposite side of the Yankee Institute, which has been involved in the case since last fall.

“The U.S. Supreme Court accepts less than two percent of cases appealed to it, so the Court’s decision to take this case for review is a big deal with national implications,” said Fergus Cullen, Executive Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, which has filed two amicus briefs in the case. The first, filed last fall, encouraged the court to accept the case for review. The second brief, filed in January, argues the merits of the case.

The McComish case comes out of Arizona and challenges the constitutionality of taxpayer funded political campaigns. Specifically, it challenges so-called “matching grants” like those used in Connecticut’s gubernatorial primaries last year. More broadly, it challenges the notion that the state has a compelling interest in leveling the playing field among candidates by using public funds to ensure they have equal resources. This is the premise of so-called clean elections laws in place in ten states. Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine have the broadest such laws.

In the recent Davis and Citizens United decisions, the high court has limited government regulation of political free speech. “When government is involved in leveling a playing field, it usual means changing the natural pitch and contour of the land. It amounts to tipping the field for or against certain candidates,” Cullen said.

“Arguably, public funding in last year’s gubernatorial campaign determined its outcome, both in the primary and the general election. At the legislative level, public financing amounts to an Incumbent Protection Act. We think government should butt out and leave it to the voters to determine election winners and losers,” Cullen said. Gov. Dannel Malloy received $8.5 million in taxpayer funding for his successful campaign last year.

McComish case background: from the Goldwater Institute

Yankee Institute brief for petitioner: Click here

Attorney General George Jepsen signed this brief for respondent: Click here

Ned Lamont signed this brief for respondent: Click here

SCOTUS blog containing links to all related filings: Click here

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ABOUT THE YANKEE INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC POLICY: The Yankee Institute is Connecticut’s independent think tank dedicated to free markets, free enterprise, and private sector solutions to public policy questions. Founded in 1984, Yankee has offices on the campus of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. The Yankee Institute is nonpartisan research and educational organization and is classified by the IRS as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit.


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