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U.S. Supreme Court

Chief Justice Checks Out a Website for Constitutional Ammunition in Campaign Finance Case

Posted Mar 29, 2011 8:39 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A majority of the U.S. Supreme Court appears ready to strike down an Arizona campaign finance law that doles out additional matching funds to publicly financed candidates as privately financed candidates spend more.

The five justices who appeared ready to strike down the law were all in the majority last year in the Citizens United decision finding corporations have a First Amendment right to support federal candidates, according to the New York Times, the National Law Journal and the Washington Post.

The lawyer challenging the Arizona law, William Maurer of the Institute for Justice, had argued the legislation was enacted for an improper purpose—to level the playing field and produce less political speech—rather than to combat corruption.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. appeared to agree with that view, pointing to his own research on the commission that runs the Arizona system, according to the Times story. “I checked the Citizens Clean Elections Commission website this morning,” Roberts told the lawyer representing the state of Arizona, “and it says that this act was passed to, quote, ‘level the playing field’ when it comes to running for office. Why isn’t that clear evidence that it’s unconstitutional?”

The arguments Monday were in two consolidated cases: Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett and McComish v. Bennett.

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