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.