PRESS RELEASE – Stein: D.C. Circuit Fails to Ensure Equal Protection for Third Party Campaigns in Public Funding Program


Tuesday, August 9, 2023
Jill Stein for President (2016)

Boston – Dr. Jill Stein issued the following statement in response to the recent D.C. Circuit Court ruling that upheld a Federal Election Commission order directing her 2016 presidential campaign to repay $175,272 in matching funds awarded under the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account Act (“the Act”):

The DC Circuit Court decision upholds a campaign finance system that’s gone wildly off the rails. It fails to ensure fair access to minimal public funding for small donor, third party candidates — within a system where huge quantities of anonymous cash are fueling major party campaigns, distorting our democracy beyond recognition.

At a time when nearly two-thirds of voters are calling for alternatives to the major parties, it is critically important that campaign finance laws are applied equally to protect competition and participation by all qualified parties. By challenging this arbitrary repayment order, we are defending fair public funding for third parties and independents in general.

The order for our campaign to repay a substantial portion of public funding because of an obscure rule – terminating third party funding on the last date of national party conventions – exemplifies this unfairness. This arbitrary cut-off date violates third parties’ right to Equal Protection: as applied, the Act guarantees that major parties are eligible for funding for the entire length of their primary election campaigns, but terminates third parties’ eligibility for funding in the midst of their primary campaigns if the major parties hold early nominating conventions.

That undermines the Act’s entire purpose, which is to provide primary election matching funds to parties that qualify — as the Green Party did. It also leads to arbitrary results. In 2012, my campaign qualified for funding during the entire primary election season, but in 2016 our eligibility period was cut short only because the major parties held earlier conventions.”

The lead attorney on the case, Oliver Hall of the Center for Competitive Democracy said, “It’s disappointing that the D.C. Circuit didn’t engage with the merits of the claim we raised in this appeal. The Court simply upheld the Act because the Supreme Court rejected a different Equal Protection claim nearly 50 years ago. But we showed that the Act is grossly unequal as applied here, and that claim warrants the Court’s serious consideration.”

Stein continued:

In rejecting our challenge, the D.C. Circuit has upheld a sick campaign finance system. The decision effectively withholds fair funding from third party and independent candidates who spurn superPACs, dark money and other schemes giving the economic elite their stranglehold on elections.

This further undermines the public funding program created in the wake of Watergate that once served as a partial counterweight to the corrupting influence of big money in presidential elections.

This comes as the latest phase of a decades-long effort by both establishment parties to keep alternative party competition off the ballot. Democratic and Republican-dominated legislatures have long erected barriers requiring third party candidates to spend vast quantities of their money collecting signatures to secure a ballot line. The Court’s decision denying grassroots access to matching funds reinforces this strategy of ballot denial.

Public hunger for choices outside the political establishment is at an all time high. Record numbers of voters are clamoring for alternatives and supermajorities of youth are saying that government has failed them. The FEC and the courts should be expanding voters’ choices, not further limiting them. The voter rebellion is here. The courts, Congress, the parties of war and Wall Street cannot suppress it.

The Stein 2016 campaign committee is considering its options for further appeal.