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The big one in the batch was Citizens United [pdf]. This continues the corporate free speech atrocities, as today the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Arizona’s longstanding public campaign financing law, 5-4:

…ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined. KAGAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GINSBURG, BREYER, and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined…


Under Arizona law, candidates for state office who accept public financing can receive additional money from he State in direct response to the campaign activities of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups. Once a set spending limit is exceeded, a publicly financed candidate receives roughly one dollar for every dollar spent by an opposing privately financed candidate. The publicly financed candidate also receives roughly one dollar for every dollar spent by independent expenditure groups to support the privately financed candidate, or to oppose the publicly financed candidate.

We hold that Arizona’s matching funds scheme substantially burdens protected political speech without serving a compelling state interest and therefore violates the First Amendment….

Because the compelling state interest, in the opinion of the court, must be that anonymous corporate money trumps everything.

From Justice Kagan’s dissent:

….The First Amendment’s core purpose is to foster a healthy, vibrant political system full of robust discussion and debate. Nothing in Arizona’s anti-corruption statute, the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act, violates this constitutional protection. To the contrary, the Act promotes the values underlying both the First Amendment and our entire Constitution by enhancing the “opportunity for free political discussion to the end that government may be responsive to the will of the people.” Id., at 269 (internal quotation marks omitted). I therefore respectfully dissent….

….Indeed, what petitioners demand is essentially a right to quash others’ speech through the prohibition of a (universally available) subsidy program. Petitioners are able to convey their ideas without public financing-and they would prefer the field to themselves, so that they can speak free from response. To attain that goal, they ask this Court to prevent Arizona from funding electoral speech-even though that assistance is offered to every state candidate, on the same (entirely unobjectionable) basis. And this Court gladly obliges….

….Most important, and as just suggested, the very notion that additional speech constitutes a “burden” is odd and unsettling. Here is a simple fact: Arizona imposes nothing remotely resembling a coercive penalty on privately funded candidates. The State does not jail them, fine them, or subject them to any kind of lesser disability. (So the majority’s analogies to a fine on speech, ante, at 19, 28, are inapposite.) The only “burden” in this case comes from the grant of a subsidy to another person, and the opportunity that subsidy allows for responsive speech. But that means the majority cannot get out from under our subsidy precedents. Once again: We have never, not once, understood a viewpoint-neutral subsidy given to one speaker to constitute a First Amendment burden on another. (And that is so even when the subsidy is not open to all, as it is here.) Yet in this case, the majority says that the prospect of more speech-responsive speech, competitive speech, the kind of speech that drives public debate-counts as a constitutional injury. That concept, for all the reasons previously given, is “wholly foreign to the First Amendment.” Buckley, 424 U. S., at 49….

[emphasis added]

The motto of the “balls and strikes” Roberts Court: Them that has the gold, makes the rules.


Those who have the gold get to rule (June 10, 2010)

HB 1201 in Jefferson City: public campaign financing (April 5, 2009)

Missouri campaign finance legislation: same planet, different worlds (February 14, 2008)