First Amendment Protects Freedom of Speech, Not Equality of Speech

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Arizona Free Enterprise PAC v. Bennett, the first campaign finance case since the Court decided Citizens United last January. While the case will not affect as many laws as Citizens United, it promises to be just as controversial, for it involves the constitutionality of what “good government” types have long seen as a sort of campaign finance holy grail—government financing of political campaigns.

Under Arizona’s Citizens Clean Elections Act, candidates for state office can opt to have their campaigns funded by the state, instead of raising funds from private donors. The catch—and there’s always a catch when the government is handing out “free” things—is that they must reject private funds and spend only the limited funds provided by the state. Proponents of government funding have long viewed the programs as a way to limit campaign spending and “level the playing field” among candidates they believed could not win without government subsidies, and the Act’s proponents were no different.

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