Death of Public Financing Greatly Exaggerated

Surprising no one, the Supreme Court today struck down matching funds provisions in the Arizona public financing case Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett (consolidated with McComish v. Bennett). However, the ruling actually upheld the constitutionality of public financing itself.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the matching funds triggers provision “substantially burdens protected political speech without serving a compelling state interest and therefore violates the First Amendment.” Later in the opinion, Roberts says:

The government “may engage in public financing of election campaigns,” and doing so can further “significant governmental interest[s].” Buckley, 424 U. S., at 57, n. 65, 92–93, 96.

Matching funds are not the cornerstone of fair elections. In fact, the Fair Elections Now Act, which is pending in Congress, includes no such provisions.

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