Sapphire Sky

May 25, 2011

The High Cost of Free Speech

Filed under: biz, legal, and professionalism — deborahlawyer @ 8:11 pm

Sometimes it costs money to speak, particularly in the context of a campaign or heated political debate.  Candidates and their supporters must raise and spend funds in order to get their message to the people.  But what if—every time you spent a dollar—the government cut a check to your opponent?

That’s the essence of Arizona’s “Matching Funds” provision, an integral part of its state campaign finance law.  Some candidates choose to finance their own campaigns privately, while others opt for public funding.  Suppose you are a privately financed candidate.  When you—or a supporting independent group—spend money for your campaign, the government disburses an equal amount to each of your opposing publicly financed opponents.

This scheme discourages political speech, one of our core First Amendment rights in America.  It is especially unfair to independent groups formed to advocate for particular issues—pro-life groups, for example.  Justice and Freedom Fund filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court, focused on how the law burdens these groups.  Arizona’s scheme allegedly guards against political corruption—a goal not applicable to independent advocacy groups.  It also attempts to “level the playing field”—a purpose the Supreme Court has held to be unconstitutional in our free country.

On March 28, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging Arizona’s law.  Deborah Dewart, Senior Legal Counsel for Justice and Freedom Fund, was there to listen.  Based on the lively questions the Justices posed to attorneys, it looks like a victory for free speech.  Stay tuned!

Check out:  http://justiceandfreedom.org for more information on Justice and Freedom Fund.

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