US Supreme Court Strikes Down AZ Campaign Finance Law
In a 5-4 vote yesterday, the US Supreme Court struck down as an unconstitutional violation of free speech a provision in an Arizona public campaign finance law that gives additional public funds to a candidate who adheres to personal spending limits of $500, agrees to participate in at least one debate, will return unspent money, and faces a high-spending opponent who does not accept public funds. The extra funding depends upon the amount spent by an opponent candidate. The law, the result of a 1998 ballot initiative following a bribery scandal in Arizona involving state legislators, aimed to "level the playing field" for candidates who accept public funds in their campaigns. The decision will likely discourage candidates, many of whom are women, from accepting public funding for fear that they will be greatly outspent by self-financed opponents.
This case involves the fifth campaign finance law struck down by the Roberts Court in a 5-4 decision. This is the first campaign-finance decision to go before the Supreme Court since the Citizens United case last year, in which the Roberts Court ruled 5-4 that corporations are people and struck down limiting independent election spending by corporations and unions.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito Jr., and Anthony Kennedy, contended that the Arizona law violates the First Amendment rights of candidates who choose to self-finance their campaign and/or raise private money. However, Justice Elena Kagan, who was joined in dissent by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer, defended the Arizona law stating, "By providing more resources to many candidates, [the law] creates more speech and thereby broadens public debate....Less corruption, more speech. Robust campaigns leading to the election of representatives not beholden to the few, but accountable to the many. The people of Arizona might have expected a decent respect for those objectives."
Media Resources: New York Times 6/27/11; Los Angeles Times 6/27/11
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .