Gavel Grab

Supreme Court Voids AZ Public Financing Provision

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court on Monday declared unconstitutional a key provision of Arizona’s law for the public financing of campaigns.

Under the provision, publicly funded candidates get additional dollars, called matching or “trigger” funds, when privately financed candidates or independent groups spend more.

The provision violates the First Amendment, the Supreme Court said, according to an Associated Press article. The conservative majority said Arizona was attempting to impermissibly “level the playing field,” CNN reported.

It was the latest in a series of rulings by the high court’s conservative majority that have cut back on the government’s ability to regulate campaign financing.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in the majority opinion, said the Arizona law places a substantial burden on protected political speech. In dissent was Justice Elena Kagan, and she was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen G. Breyer, according to an ABA Journal article.

Justice at Stake had warned in an amicus brief that an adverse ruling could gravely threaten fair courts, due to the “deluge of special interest money [that] is eroding public trust in America’s courts” and the strong promise for public financing  as a viable reform. Four states have adopted public financing for judicial elections with laws that use a provision like Arizona’s.

The ruling came in Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett, which was consolidated with another case, McComish v. Bennett.

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  1. [...] [...]

  2. [...] Walker’s signing of the bill was reported by the Associated Press. The budget legislation represented one of multiple assaults on public financing, as it was signed one day before the Supreme Court struck down a provision of Arizona’s campaign public financing law (see Gavel Grab). [...]

  3. [...] or “trigger” funds, when privately financed candidates or independent groups spend more (see Gavel Grab). The case is called McComish v. [...]

  4. [...] [...]

  5. [...] North Carolina became the first state, in 2002, to provide full public financing for judicial campaigns. It has a provision like the “trigger funds” mechanism that was voided by the Supreme Court (see Gavel Grab). [...]

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