June 27, 2011 1 Comment
I am so tired of conservative complaints about activist judges. Once again, the “conservative” majority of the court has struck down a piece of legislation by the duly-elected representatives of the people (in this case, the Arizona legislature) and replaced their own judgement. Now, sometimes that needs to be done, e.g., Brown v. Board of Ed, but let’s just not pretend this conservative jurists have any genuine interest in deferring to elected bodies when those elected bodies pass laws they don’t like. In this case, it strikes me as a particularly tortured reading of the 1st amendment:
In its first campaign-finance decision since its 5-to-4 ruling in the Citizens United case last year, the Supreme Courton Monday struck down an Arizona law that provided escalating matching funds to candidates who accept public financing.
The vote was again 5-to-4, with the same five justices in the majority as in the Citizens United decision. 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. [emphasis mine]
“Laws like Arizona’s matching funds provision that inhibit robust and wide-open political debate without sufficient justification cannot stand,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. Justice Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the majority opinion.
Seriously? They might not want to spend money because that affects the amount of public money their opponents receive and that’s somehow a 1st amendment violation? Please. Unfortunately, Arizona’s law was a particularly thoughtful way of public financing:
But supporters of campaign finance regulation worried that the decision represented a first step in a broader legal assault on public financing.
States and municipalities are now blocked from using a method of public financing that is simultaneously likely to attract candidates fearful that they will be vastly outspent and sensitive to the avoidance of needless government expense.
Short version: First amendment prohibits wise government expenditures on fairer elections but allows unlimited corporate spending. Urggghh.