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Supreme Court strikes down Ariz. public-financing law

Handing out the final decisions of the current term, the Supreme Court issued two -- one of which is related to politics.

It invalidated, by a 5-4 vote, a 1998 Arizona law that gave a financial boost to publicly funded candidates if their privately funded opponents spent more money.

Under the law, candidates who declined to accept campaign contributions could participate in the public financing system, which gave them a lump-sum grant for the campaign. But if an opponent, who was not publicly funded outspent the amount of the state grant, the publicly funded candidate received more money from the state to bring the candidates into rough spending parity.

The system was challenged on First Amendment grounds by several privately funded candidates, who claimed that they reined in their spending to avoid triggering the matching funds for their publicly funded opponents. The law, they argued, acted as a restraint on their campaigns and thus violated their free-speech rights.