By Erik Opsal, communications coordinator at The Brennan Center for Justice.
For those following campaign finance law, this week’s Supreme Court decision to throw out one provision of Arizona’s public financing system came as no surprise. The Court’s one swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, tipped his hand when, during oral argument, he bluntly asked if it was fair to say the law restricted speech.
After last year’s sweeping decision in Citizens United, campaign finance reform advocates have come to expect the worst. In five years, the Roberts Court has heard five campaign finance cases. And in those five cases, voters lost out to powerful, wealthy interests every time.
Although this case is a setback, there is one clear silver lining — public financing remains constitutionally sound. The Chief Justice said so himself. “We do not today call into question the wisdom of public financing as a means of funding political candidacy,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the majority. “That is not our business.” As UC-Irvine Law Professor Rick Hasen characterized the Roberts decision: