Today the US Supreme Court struck down an Arizona law that provided matching funds to publicly financed candidates outspent by privately financed opponents:
The majority’s rationale was that the law violated the First Amendment rights of candidates who raise private money. Such candidates, the majority said, may be reluctant to spend money to speak if they know that it will give rise to counter-speech paid for by the government.
The Court left public financing of campaigns battered but still standing:
Supporters of the law said the decision could have been worse. “Chief Justice Roberts at least recognized that public financing is a valid constitutional option,” said Monica Youn, a lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice, which represented one of the defendants in the case.
All that the minority had going for it was logic:
In a dissent summarized from the bench, Justice Elena Kagan said the Arizona law advanced First Amendment values.
“What the law does — all the law does — is fund more speech,” she wrote. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined the dissent.
“Arizona, remember, offers to support any person running for state office,” Justice Kagan wrote. The candidates and groups that challenged the law declined to accept that help, she said.
“So they are making a novel argument: that Arizona violated their First Amendment rights by disbursing funds to other speakers even though they could have received (but chose to spurn) the same financial assistance,” Justice Kagan wrote. “Some people might call that chutzpah.”
For the Court’s right-wing majority, logic has no standing against the need to protect the natural, rightful advantage of deep-pocketed candidates over their publicly funded opponents.