A divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down an Arizona campaign-finance law that offered extra public funding to state political candidates who faced well-heeled opponents.
Arizona said its public-financing system promoted free speech by giving candidates the opportunity to run for office without depending on private political donors. But the law's challengers—five conservative politicians and two political action committees—said the law stifled free speech. They argued that, when they raised and spent money to promote their messages, their speech was punished because it triggered government subsidies to their rivals.
The Supreme Court's conservative majority agreed with the challengers in a 5-4 ruling.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, the latest in a series of rulings where the court's conservative majority has overturned efforts to increase regulation of campaign funding.
"Laws like Arizona's…that inhibit robust and wide-open political debate without sufficient justification cannot stand," he wrote, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
The newest justice, Elena Kagan, wrote the dissent, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. She argued that states had legitimately sought to keep elections clean by keeping "massive pools of private money from corrupting our political system."
The Institute for Justice celebrated victory in the case. It earlier produced a video explaining its argument against the Arizona law: