The nation's high court this morning voided a key provision of the state's system of public financing of elections, potentially crippling the 13-year-old system. (Capitol Media Services)

In a divided decision, the U.S. Supreme Court said Arizona cannot provide additional funds to publicly financed candidates when their privately financed foes spend more. Also gone are provisions which give extra money when independent committees run commercials against them.

Here's what others are saying about the decision.

This morning, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his opinion on behalf of a 5–4 majority in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, Nos. 10-238 and 10-239. You may have heard the case called “McComish,” after the plaintiff now listed second in consolidated court filings.

The Supreme Court struck down the matching-funds provisions in the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act. (Campaign “reformers” learned long ago not to call such statutes the “Taxpayer Subsidies to Candidates Act.”)

The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, issued an outstanding decision today (PDF) properly applying the First Amendment when it struck down as unconstitutional Arizona’s public financing system for political candidates.  There is no doubt that Roberts and the four justices who joined him in the majority opinion in Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett will be assailed by the same misinformed critics that went after the Court for its decision in Citizens United.  But our history and fundamental principle of protecting free speech leaves no doubt that the Court acted properly when it threw out a law that impermissibly burdened and censored the political speech of Arizona candidates and independent groups.

The American Prospect, Tapped blog: Supreme Court Prefers Plutocracy to Free Speech

Speaking of Catch-22s, the Arizona campaign-finance case that the Prospect’s Jamelle Bouie wrote about last year has been decided by the Supreme Court, with results that are all too predictable. In Citizens United, the Court already made it nearly impossible to restrain expenditures by self-financed candidates or third parties, which allows people and corporations with more resources to drown out the voices of citizens with fewer or none. In response, the state of Arizona responded by providing matching funds to candidates who accept public campaign financing (while allowing candidates who turn down public funding to spend as much as they wish.)  Arizona’s system would allow candidates to accept public financing without the fear of being swamped by third-party expenditures without directly restricting speech.

Alas, today the Supreme Court’s Republican appointees made it clear that their real motivation in consistently ruling for big money in politics had more to do with protecting plutocracy than with concerns about free speech.

The Supreme Court today, in a 5-4 decision, struck down the long-standing Arizona law providing matching funds for publicly financed candidates running against well-financed opponents. In Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Bennett, the Court’s majority held that the matching funds provision violates the First Amendment by chilling the speech of private campaign donors. Arizona’s voters adopted the clean elections law in the 1990s to reduce the political corruption that was repeatedly driving the state into crisis. Two governors had faced criminal indictment. Nearly ten percent of the Arizona legislature ended up facing civil or criminal charges after several legislators were caught on video accepting campaign contributions and bribes in exchange for legislative acts. Arizonans acted to reduce candidates’ dependence on wealthy campaign funders and restore integrity to their elections. Today’s elimination of the matching funds provision severely damages the state’s hard-won clean elections law.

The US Supreme Court’s conservative majority continued its project of bartering off American democracy to the highest bidder with a decision Monday that will make it dramatically harder to counter free-spending attack campaigns funded by billionaire donors and corporate spin machines.