The US Supreme Court's conservative majority continued its project of bartering off American democracy to the highest bidder with a decision Monday that will make it dramatically harder to counter free-spending attack campaigns funded by billionaire donors and corporate spin machines.
With a 5-4 vote, the Court has struck down a matching-funds mechanism in Arizona's Clean Elections Law that allowed candidates who accepted public funding to match the spending of privately funded candidates and independent groups that might attack them. Under the Arizona law -- which has long been considered a national model for using public funds to pay for campaigns -- candidates who accept public funding are limited in what they can spend.
Candidates who refuse public funding are not so constrained; and nor are independent groups that support privately funded candidates; indeed, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's sweeping Citizens United v. FEC ruling of 2010, which cleared the way for corporations to spend as much as they like to influence election, restrictions to the flow of private money into politics have been all but eliminated.
Faced with the threat of being overwhelmed by private money, no candidate would go the "Clean Elections" route, unless some mechanism was put in place to counter attack ads by privately funded opponents and groups associated with those opponents. The Arizona Clean Elections law provided that mechanism under a formula requiring that for every dollar a privately funded candidate (or group supporting that candidate) spent above established spending limits, a dollar in additional public funding would go to the "Clean Elections" candidate.