Late Tuesday a federal district court in New Mexico declared unconstitutional a provision of Albuquerque’s system of public funding for elections that provides taxpayer funding to legislative candidates based on opposition speech.
Albuquerque’s Open and Ethical Election Code provides taxpayer funding for Albuquerque city council and mayoral candidates who agree to limit how much money they raise and spend on their campaigns. Under the scheme, city council candidates receive $1 for each registered voter in their area. In addition, candidates may receive “matching funds” if they are outspent by their opponent or by independent groups.
New Mexico Turn Around, a free market oriented advocacy organization, filed suit earlier this year against Albuquerque’s public funding scheme for city council candidates, asserting it is an unconstitutional infringement of their First Amendment free speech rights.
The federal order, agreed to by the parties, follows the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom PAC v. Bennett, which declared unconstitutional a similar Arizona scheme.
“The court’s decision here is just a straightforward application of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bennett,” said James Bopp, Jr., counsel for the plaintiffs. “Requiring people to effectively fund candidates they opposed simply by exercising their First Amendment rights is blatantly unconstitutional.”