Striking a blow to Arizona’s not-so Clean Election’s statute, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision declaring unconstitutional the matching funds provisions of the state taxpayer-funded campaign finance scheme. In a 5 to 4 decision, the court stated “Any increase in speech resulting from the Arizona law is of one kind and one kind only: that of publicly financed candidates. The burden imposed on privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups reduces their speech.”
The Supreme Court added: “The First amendment embodies our choice as a nation that, when it comes to [campaign] speech, the guiding principle is freedom — the ‘unfettered exchange of ideas’ — not whatever the State may view as fair.”
Whether Arizona’s matching funds provision comports with the First Amendment is not simply a question of whether the State can give a subsidy to a candidate to fund that candidate’s election, but whether that subsidy can be triggered by the speech of another candidate or independent group.
The Supreme Court’ s decision in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC et al. v. Bennett, Secretary of State of Arizona, et al. can be read here in its entirety.
“This decision protects democratic elections and gets government’s heavy thumb off the scale,” correctly concluded Nick Dranias, the Goldwater Institute’s director of Constitutional Studies and the lead attorney in the case. Read more here.