Imagine if every time The New York Times published an editorial about politics, the government cut a check to the New York Post, the Daily News, and The Wall Street Journal so they could respond. The Times would rightly condemn this policy for discouraging that paper from exercising its First Amendment rights.
Nonetheless, the Times lauds Arizona’s so-called “Clean Elections” system, which does essentially the same thing to groups of citizens that merely want to speak about politics. The Times also decries the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to temporarily halt that system while the plaintiffs, represented by the Institute for Justice and the Goldwater Institute, ask the Court to review a decision of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding that system.
Under Arizona’s law, when people spend money to advocate for a political candidate, the state gives a check for an equal amount of money to each of that candidate’s government-funded opponents. If there are three government-funded opponents lined up against a candidate who raises money through voluntary contributions—that’s three checks sent to the traditional candidate’s opponents. This system violates the First Amendment—no less than the hypothetical newspaper law described above would—and the Supreme Court was right to temporarily freeze it. The Court should follow up by taking the case for consideration next term and striking down Arizona’s bad “Clean Elections” law for good.