Cleaning Elections

The term “clean elections” refers to systems of full public financing, wherein participating candidates rely entirely on public subsidies to run their campaigns without any private money. Although only a small number of jurisdictions use clean elections, evidence suggests that they have a variety of positive effects on the democratic system. Recently, however, the viability of clean elections has been called into doubt by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in *Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett*, which ruled an important provision of such systems unconstitutional. This Note first compares the effectiveness of traditional campaign finance reform with clean elections systems and concludes that the latter is superior as a policy matter. It then analyzes the Court’s decision in *Arizona Free Enterprise* and applies its reasoning to efforts aimed at campaign finance reform. It concludes that the Supreme Court has made a number of novel attempts at campaign finance reform almost impossible, but has left open venues for reforming clean elections systems to keep them viable and effective. Therefore, clean elections are the best option available to jurisdictions interested in campaign finance reform.