Roberts Court Strikes Public Campaign Financing in Arizona

If the Roberts Court is set on anything it is making sure corporations, and the powerful who run them, have unfettered access and influence to the electoral process.

The latest victim in the Roberts Court war on clean and corruption free-elections is Arizona’s voluntary public financing law.  The law, passed by voters as a ballot initiative in response to well-documented pay-for-play scandals, provided extra public financing for candidates facing millionaire opponents who could spend freely from their own coffers or who faced attack from major outside spending enshrined by Swift Boat style groups who abuse their 503(c)(4) non-profit status.

The Court’s 5-4 ruling said the law impermissibly forces privately funded candidates and independent political organizations to either restrain their spending or risk triggering matching funds to their publicly financed opponents.  According to Chief Justice Roberts, the matching provision served as a “punishment” for those groups who spent money by awarding money to their opponents each time they did.

I guess one man’s punishment is another’s leveling of the playing field, which is the point made by Justice Elena Kagan in a blistering dissent that accused the conservative majority of intellectual dishonesty and “chutzpa”.

While it is a bad decision, it could be worse.  The ruling did not go so far as to rule limits on direct campaign contributions unconstitutional as some thought they might after the sweeping opinion in Citizens United.  That’s important since Citizens United and anti-campaign finance law advocate Jim Bopp cites to Citizens United in his nation-wide attempts to have all contribution limits struck down.

And the decision also did not rule public financing of campaigns as unconstitutional per se. The trick is going to be finding a mechanism of public financing that survives First Amendment scrutiny.


photo courtesy of Tracy O via Flickr

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LMj Sunshine

Thank you for article.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for article.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle4 years ago

I always considered the justice branch the least corrupt of the 3 branches of government, but times have changed, and it makes me heartsick. The Supreme Court of the United States should be the arbiter of the finest in law, seeking justice for ordinary people. When I think of the courts in the past with wise scholars, I am heartsick at what resides there now. And I feel for the fine justices that have to deal with the right-wingers there now.

Mick R.
Mick R.4 years ago

Temperance R. - It is nice to know there is a more balanced and progressive part of your state and where it is for future travel plans. Unfortunately, I believe that the Constitution does not allow a new state to be created from an existing state. I was reading it today and I'm 99% sure that's what it said. I also didn't see any reference to that being changed by a more recent Amendment. You might want to double check on that in Article IV. Section. 3.

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Melanie K.
Melanie K.4 years ago

Typical right wing decision. I get the rights, you get the shaft!

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L.4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

The corruption is through the whole system.
We need to vote for people that are for the citizens....not cor[orations.

Lori Ann H.
Lori Hone4 years ago

Here in Arizona we are in the process of RECALLING Pierce who was the brains behind SB1070 and other BS that the far right republicans fooled the voters into voting for. Lies, Lies, Lies and more Lies, nothing but lies from the republicans. RECALL ALL REPUBLICANS before you have no rights left!

Karen & Edward O.
Karen and Ed O.4 years ago

When I was in school we learned about the three branches of government --- the executive, the legislative and the judicial. We were taught that when judges became members of the Supreme Court they did so because of their integrity and knowledge of the Constition. Nothing was higher than the Supreme Court and there didn't have to be since we had people like William O. Douglas, Thurgood Marshall and Earl Warren. But look what we have now!

I understand there is an ethics board that oversees higher court judges. It is time to amend the Constitution, and set up a committee that investigates corruption and imprepriety by the Supreme Court. They would have a couple of cases already for them.