James Madison Center

Right to Life Groups Renew Challenge to North Carolina Matching Funds

Last Friday, North Carolina Right to Life’s independent expenditures committees filed a federal suit in North Carolina against the state’s matching funding scheme as an unconstitutional infringement on their First Amendment free speech rights.

North Carolina’s Public Campaign Finance Fund provides state supreme court candidates with the option to receive public funding if they agree to limit how much money they raise and spend on their campaigns. The Fund’s matching fund scheme also gives publicly-funded candidates additional dollars based on the spending of nonpublicly-funded candidates and third party groups.

North Carolina Right to Life previously challenged the scheme as unconstitutional in 2005, but was told by the federal court of appeals in 2008 that such a scheme is allowed under the First Amendment.  However, the United States Supreme Court this past June struck down a similar provision as unconstitutional.  Because its committees still want to participate in judicial elections—something it has not done since its initial lawsuit—North Carolina Right to Life renewed its challenge to the scheme.

James Bopp, Jr., counsel for North Carolina Right to Life in both lawsuits, observes, “this matching funds scheme has been preventing North Carolina Right to Life’s ability to participate in judicial elections for years.  In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, the scheme should be struck down once and for all.” Says Bopp, “Laws that cause groups not to run ads or publicly support a candidate because their speech will fund that candidate’s opponent are unconstitutional.”

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