WASHINGTON — Less than a year after removing most limits on election spending by corporations and organized labor, the Supreme Court is signaling trouble for another campaign law that aims to curtail the political power of big money.
The court on Monday said it will consider dismantling Arizona’s program that gives extra cash to publicly funded candidates who face privately funded rivals. Similar matching funds programs exist in a half-dozen other states and a handful of big cities.
Under the Arizona program, candidates who opt for public financing can get funds up to two times their base amount when they’re outspent by privately funded rivals or targeted by independent group spending. The program was set up in response to public corruption scandals in the 1990s.
The high court already blocked the state in June from handing out the extra money in the recent election. The justices have agreed now to hear an appeal from opponents who say the public money chills free-speech rights of privately financed candidates and their contributors by inhibiting fundraising and spending.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the matching funds did not violate the First Amendment.
Argument will be heard in the spring in two appeals joined together as one high court case. The appeals are Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett, 10-238, and McComish v. Bennett, 10-239.