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A Winning Night for Political Speech

In the excitement of the primary outcomes yesterday it was easy to overlook decisions concerning the fundamental nature of our electoral system. Free speech won two victories yesterday, one in a courtroom and one on a ballot.

The Supreme Court blocked an Arizona campaign finance provision that forces taxpayers to subsidize elections. The Arizona law provides government "matching funds" for candidates running against those spending privately-raised campaign contributions. The law would have been in effect for the 2010 election season had the Supreme Court not intervened. Rest assured, taxpayers of Arizona, your money won't be used to fund candidates whose policy views you disagree with. For now.

And in California, voters rejected Proposition 15, which would have instituted a system similar to the Arizona one. Candidates running for office in California would have received at least $2.3 million of taxpayer money for the primary and general elections.

As Roger Pilon at Cato summarized,

When taxpayers underwrite the campaign expenses of candidates for public office, serious questions arise: Not least, why should taxpayers subsidize candidates or ideas they oppose? But when taxpayers subsidize only one side in a campaign, there should be outrage.

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