Arizona Free Enterprise Club's Freedom Club PAC, et al. v. Bennett, et al; McComish, et al. v. Bennett, et al., 564 U.S. 721 (2011)
The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act (matching funds provision), Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. 16-940 et seq., created a voluntary public financing system to fund the primary and general election campaigns of candidates for state office. Petitioners, candidates and independent expenditure groups, filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the matching funds provision. The Court held that the matching funds provision substantially burdened the speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups without serving a compelling state interest where the professed purpose of the state law was to cause a sufficient number of candidates to sign up for public financing, which subjected them to the various restrictions on speech that went along with that program. Therefore, the Court held that the matching funds scheme violated the First Amendment and reversed the judgment of the Ninth Circuit.
The First Amendment bars a state from giving matching funds to candidates who participate in a scheme of public funding for elections, while denying funds to candidates who rely on private funding rather than participating in the scheme.
Arizona provided a public financing system for candidates for state office under the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act. Candidates who used this system to fund their primary and general election campaigns were required to accept certain restrictions and obligations but then would be issued public funds to conduct their campaigns. The program also provided for candidates to receive additional matching funds if their initial state allotment was surpassed by the expenditures of a privately financed candidate, combined with expenditures made by independent groups in support of the privately financed candidate or opposition to the publicly financed candidate.
The matching funds program would allow a publicly financed candidate to receive one dollar for every dollar raised or spent by the privately financed candidate and for every dollar spent by the independent groups. Multiple publicly financed candidates in the same race would receive matching funds on an individual basis to match the spending of privately financed candidates and independent groups. However, expenditures by independent groups would not trigger matching funds when they are made in opposition to a privately financed candidate. The matching funds program also had a cap at two times the initial amount of funds. Candidates and independent expenditure groups argued that this system placed unconstitutional burdens on political speech under the First Amendment.
- John G. Roberts, Jr. (Author)
- Antonin Scalia
- Anthony M. Kennedy
- Clarence Thomas
- Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
The most important application of the First Amendment is to political speech, and strict scrutiny is required of laws that implicate it. The government must show that it has a compelling interest and that the means used to further that interest is narrowly tailored. The matching funds program requires candidates to choose between their First Amendment right to engage in political speech and submitting to the limitations on the fundraising program. Candidates who use their personal funds to support their own candidacies face a First Amendment burden because their exercise of the right ultimately benefits their opponents, since it triggers the matching funds program. The same general concept is true for independent expenditure groups. They face an even more serious quandary than candidates because candidates at least have the option to use public rather than private funding. Independent groups, by contrast, must accept that their speech will also benefit opposing viewpoints, change their message, or refrain from exercising their free speech rights at all. The state cannot force candidates and groups to adjust the content of their messages through these funding programs. While speech may be increased overall, it is only because the speech of the publicly funded candidates is increased, and this imbalanced benefit is improper. The state identifies preventing political corruption as the compelling interest that this law serves, but it is more plausible that it is simply trying to level the playing field with regard to candidate resources. This is not a compelling interest, and the state should not be permitted to interfere in elections to this extent. Assuming that the state's assertion of preventing political corruption is genuine, moreover, this is not a narrowly tailored means to achieve that objective. Corruption is not prevented by imposing burdens on a privately funded candidate's expenditures on his or her own campaign. The use of personal funds actually reduces the risk of corruption by making the candidate less reliant on outside sources who might be able to improperly influence the candidate. Independent expenditures also are unlikely to increase the risk of corruption because their political speech is not associated with any candidate. They likely will not be able engage in the illicit quid pro quo relationship with a candidate that the law is allegedly designed to prevent. The legislature is entitled to determine whether public financing is an appropriate way to fund a candidate, but the matching funds provision is impermissible under the First Amendment.
- Elena Kagan (Author)
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg
- Stephen G. Breyer
- Sonia Sotomayor
None of the symptoms of a First Amendment problem are present. The law does not discriminate against any viewpoint or type of candidate, nor does it infringe on any party's ability to speak. Instead, it expands the scope of public debate by encouraging more people to speak. The state's interest in preventing corruption is warranted and compelling, since it is designed to reduce the reliance of candidates on large donors. Public financing is a useful way to fight back against corruption, as long as a sufficient number of candidates use it. Candidates will have little incentive to choose public financing if they cannot be competitive with privately financed candidates, and the matching funds program addresses that potential problem. The amount of the subsidy is appropriately calculated and does not meaningfully limit speech. Candidates are not restricted in how they can spend their money, when they can spend it, or how much they can spend. It encourages political speech and thus furthers First Amendment goals, while the majority's opinion clashes with many areas of this doctrine.Case Commentary
There has been debate over whether the Court applied the correct standard of review. It evaluated this law under a strict scrutiny test, which rarely is satisfied, rather than the closely drawn standard established in similar precedents that is still demanding but not quite as formidable. In the end, this decision makes it more difficult for candidates who cannot finance their own campaigns or find wealthy private donors, while potentially undermining fairness in elections.
OCTOBER TERM, 2010
ARIZONA FREE ENTERPRISE CLUB'S FREEDOMCLUB PAC V. BENNETT
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
ARIZONA FREE ENTERPRISE CLUB’S FREEDOM CLUB PAC et al. v. BENNETT, SECRETARY OF STATE OF ARIZONA, et al.
certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit
No. 10–238. Argued March 28, 2011—Decided June 27, 2011
The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act created a public financing system to fund the primary and general election campaigns of candidates for state office. Candidates who opt to participate, and who accept certain campaign restrictions and obligations, are granted an initial outlay of public funds to conduct their campaign. They are also granted additional matching funds if a privately financed candidate’s expenditures, combined with the expenditures of independent groups made in support of the privately financed candidate or in opposition to a publicly financed candidate, exceed the publicly financed candidate’s initial state allotment. Once matching funds are triggered, a publicly financed candidate receives roughly one dollar for every dollar raised or spent by the privately financed candidate—including any money of his own that a privately financed candidate spends on his campaign—and for every dollar spent by independent groups that support the privately financed candidate. When there are multiple publicly financed candidates in a race, each one receives matching funds as a result of the spending of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups. Matching funds top out at two times the initial grant to the publicly financed candidate.
Petitioners, past and future Arizona candidates and two independent expenditure groups that spend money to support and oppose Arizona candidates, challenged the constitutionality of the matching funds provision, arguing that it unconstitutionally penalizes their speech and burdens their ability to fully exercise their First Amendment rights. The District Court entered a permanent injunction against the enforcement of the matching funds provision. The Ninth Circuit reversed, concluding that the provision imposed only a minimal burden and that the burden was justified by Arizona’s interest in reducing quid pro quo political corruption.
Held: Arizona’s matching funds scheme substantially burdens political speech and is not sufficiently justified by a compelling interest to survive First Amendment scrutiny. Pp. 8–30.
(a) The matching funds provision imposes a substantial burden on the speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups. Pp. 8–22.
(1) Petitioners contend that their political speech is substantially burdened in the same way that speech was burdened by the so-called “Millionaire’s Amendment” of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which was invalidated in Davis v. Federal Election Comm’n, 554 U. S. 724. That law—which permitted the opponent of a candidate who spent over $350,000 of his personal funds to collect triple the normal contribution amount, while the candidate who spent the personal funds remained subject to the original contribution cap—unconstitutionally forced a candidate “to choose between the First Amendment right to engage in unfettered political speech and subjection to discriminatory fundraising limitations.” Id., at 739. This “unprecedented penalty” “impose[d] a substantial burden on the exercise of the First Amendment right to use personal funds for campaign speech” that was not justified by a compelling government interest. Id., at 739–740. Pp. 8–10.
(2) The logic of Davis largely controls here. Once a privately financed candidate has raised or spent more than the State’s initial grant to a publicly financed candidate, each personal dollar the privately financed candidate spends results in an award of almost one additional dollar to his opponent. The privately financed candidate must “shoulder a special and potentially significant burden” when choosing to exercise his First Amendment right to spend funds on his own candidacy. 554 U. S., at 739. If the law at issue in Davis imposed a burden on candidate speech, the Arizona law unquestionably does so as well.
The differences between the matching funds provision and the law struck down in Davis make the Arizona law more constitutionally problematic, not less. First, the penalty in Davis consisted of raising the contribution limits for one candidate, who would still have to raise the additional funds. Here, the direct and automatic release of public money to a publicly financed candidate imposes a far heavier burden. Second, in elections where there are multiple publicly financed candidates—a frequent occurrence in Arizona—the matching funds provision can create a multiplier effect. Each dollar spent by the privately funded candidate results in an additional dollar of funding to each of that candidate’s publicly financed opponents. Third, unlike the law in Davis, all of this is to some extent out of the privately financed candidate’s hands. Spending by independent expenditure groups to promote a privately financed candidate’s election triggers matching funds, regardless whether such support is welcome or helpful. Those funds go directly to the publicly funded candidate to use as he sees fit. That disparity in control—giving money directly to a publicly financed candidate, in response to independent expenditures that cannot be coordinated with the privately funded candidate—is a substantial advantage for the publicly funded candidate.
The burdens that matching funds impose on independent expenditure groups are akin to those imposed on the privately financed candidates themselves. The more money spent on behalf of a privately financed candidate or in opposition to a publicly funded candidate, the more money the publicly funded candidate receives from the State. The effect of a dollar spent on election speech is a guaranteed financial payout to the publicly funded candidate the group opposes, and spending one dollar can result in the flow of dollars to multiple candidates. In some ways, the burdens imposed on independent groups by matching funds are more severe than the burdens imposed on privately financed candidates. Independent groups, of course, are not eligible for public financing. As a result, those groups can only avoid matching funds by changing their message or choosing not to speak altogether. Presenting independent expenditure groups with such a choice—trigger matching funds, change your message, or do not speak—makes the matching funds provision particularly burdensome to those groups and certainly contravenes “the fundamental rule of protection under the First Amendment, that a speaker has the autonomy to choose the content of his own message.” Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc., 515 U. S. 557, 573. Pp. 10–14.
(3) The arguments of Arizona, the Clean Elections Institute, and amicus United States attempting to explain away the existence or significance of any burden imposed by matching funds are unpersuasive.
Arizona correctly points out that its law is different from the law invalidated in Davis, but there is no doubt that the burden on speech is significantly greater here than in Davis. Arizona argues that the provision actually creates more speech. But even if that were the case, only the speech of publicly financed candidates is increased by the state law. And burdening the speech of some—here privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups—to increase the speech of others is a concept “wholly foreign to the First Amendment,” Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1, 48–49; cf. Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U. S. 241, 244, 258. That no candidate or group is forced to express a particular message does not mean that the matching funds provision does not burden their speech, especially since the direct result of that speech is a state-provided monetary subsidy to a political rival. And precedents upholding government subsidies against First Amendment challenge provide no support for matching funds; none of the subsidies at issue in those cases were granted in response to the speech of another.
The burden on privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups also cannot be analogized to the burden placed on speakers by the disclosure and disclaimer requirements upheld in Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm’n, 558 U. S. ___. A political candidate’s disclosure of his funding resources does not result in a cash windfall to his opponent, or affect their respective disclosure obligations.
The burden imposed by the matching funds provision is evident and inherent in the choice that confronts privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups. Indeed every court to have considered the question after Davis has concluded that a candidate or independent group might not spend money if the direct result of that spending is additional funding to political adversaries. Arizona is correct that the candidates do not complain that providing a lump sum payment equivalent to the maximum state financing that a candidate could obtain through matching funds would be impermissible. But it is not the amount of funding that the State provides that is constitutionally problematic. It is the manner in which that funding is provided—in direct response to the political speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups. Pp. 14–22.
(b) Arizona’s matching funds provision is not “ ‘justified by a compelling state interest,’ ” Davis, supra, at 740. Pp. 22–28.
(1) There is ample support for the argument that the purpose of the matching funds provision is to “level the playing field” in terms of candidate resources. The clearest evidence is that the provision operates to ensure that campaign funding is equal, up to three times the initial public funding allotment. The text of the Arizona Act confirms this purpose. The provision setting up the matching funds regime is titled “Equal funding of candidates,” Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §16–952; and the Act and regulations refer to the funds as “equalizing funds,” e.g., §16–952(C)(4). This Court has repeatedly rejected the argument that the government has a compelling state interest in “leveling the playing field” that can justify undue burdens on political speech, see, e.g., Citizens United, supra, at ___, and the burdens imposed by matching funds cannot be justified by the pursuit of such an interest. Pp. 22–25.
(2) Even if the objective of the matching funds provision is to combat corruption—and not “level the playing field”—the burdens that the matching funds provision imposes on protected political speech are not justified. Burdening a candidate’s expenditure of his own funds on his own campaign does not further the State’s anticorruption interest. Indeed, “reliance on personal funds reduces the threat of corruption.” Davis, supra, at 740–741; see Buckley, supra, at 53. The burden on independent expenditures also cannot be supported by the anticorruption interest. Such expenditures are “political speech … not coordinated with a candidate.” Citizens United, 558 U. S., at ___. That separation negates the possibility that the expenditures will result in the sort of quid pro quo corruption with which this Court’s case law is concerned. See e.g., id., at ___–___. Moreover, “[t]he interest in alleviating the corrupting influence of large contributions is served by … contribution limitations.” Buckley, supra, at 55. Given Arizona’s contribution limits, some of the most austere in the Nation, its strict disclosure requirements, and the general availability of public funding, it is hard to imagine what marginal corruption deterrence could be generated by the matching funds provision.
The State and the Clean Elections Institute contend that even if the matching funds provision does not directly serve the anticorruption interest, it indirectly does so by ensuring that enough candidates participate in the State’s public funding system, which in turn helps combat corruption. But the fact that burdening constitutionally protected speech might indirectly serve the State’s anticorruption interest, by encouraging candidates to take public financing, does not establish the constitutionality of the matching funds provision. The matching funds provision substantially burdens speech, to an even greater extent than the law invalidated in Davis. Those burdens cannot be justified by a desire to “level the playing field,” and much of the speech burdened by the matching funds provision does not pose a danger of corruption. The fact that the State may feel that the matching funds provision is necessary to allow it to calibrate its public funding system to achieve its desired level of participation—without an undue drain on public resources—is not a sufficient justification for the burden.
The flaw in the State’s argument is apparent in what its reasoning would allow. By the State’s logic it could award publicly financed candidates five dollars for every dollar spent by a privately financed candidate, or force candidates who wish to run on private funds to pay a $10,000 fine, in order to encourage participation in the public funding regime. Such measures might well promote such participation, but would clearly suppress or unacceptably alter political speech. How the State chooses to encourage participation in its public funding system matters, and the Court has never held that a State may burden political speech—to the extent the matching funds provision does—to ensure adequate participation in a public funding system. Pp. 25–28.
(c) Evaluating the wisdom of public financing as a means of funding political candidacy is not the Court’s business. But determining whether laws governing campaign finance violate the First Amendment is. The government “may engage in public financing of election campaigns,” and doing so can further “significant governmental interest[s].” Buckley, 424 U. S., at 57, n. 65, 92–93, 96. But the goal of creating a viable public financing scheme can only be pursued in a manner consistent with the First Amendment. Arizona’s program gives money to a candidate in direct response to the campaign speech of an opposing candidate or an independent group. It does this when the opposing candidate has chosen not to accept public financing, and has engaged in political speech above a level set by the State. This goes too far; Arizona’s matching funds provision substantially burdens the speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups without serving a compelling state interest. Pp. 28–30.
611 F. 3d 510, reversed.
Roberts, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, JJ., joined. Kagan, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, JJ., joined.
Together with No. 10–239, McComish et al. v. Bennett, Secretary of State of Arizona, et al., also on certiorari to the same court.
OPINION OF THE COURT
ARIZONA FREE ENTERPRISE CLUB'S FREEDOMCLUB PAC V. BENNETT
564 U. S. ____ (2011)
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
NOS. 10-238 AND 10-239
ARIZONA FREE ENTERPRISE CLUB’S FREEDOM CLUB PAC, et al., PETITIONERS 10–238 v. KEN BENNETT, in his official capacity as ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE, et al. JOHN McCOMISH, et al., PETITIONERS 10–239 v. KEN BENNETT, in his official capacity as ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE, et al. on writs of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit [June 27, 2011] Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court. Under Arizona law, candidates for state office who ac-cept public financing can receive additional money from the State in direct response to the campaign activities of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups. Once a set spending limit is exceeded, a publicly financed candidate receives roughly one dollar for every dollar spent by an opposing privately financed candidate. The publicly financed candidate also receives roughly one dollar for every dollar spent by independent expenditure groups to support the privately financed candidate, or to oppose the publicly financed candidate. We hold that Arizona’s matching funds scheme substantially burdens protected political speech without serving a compelling state interest and therefore violates the First Amendment. I A The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act, passed by initiative in 1998, created a voluntary public financing system to fund the primary and general election campaigns of candidates for state office. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §16–940 et seq. (West 2006 and Supp. 2010). All eligible candidates for Governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, superintendent of public instruction, the corporation commission, mine inspector, and the state legislature (both the House and Senate) may opt to receive public funding. §16–950(D) (West Supp. 2010). Eligibility is contingent on the collection of a specified number of five-dollar contributions from Arizona voters, §§16–946(B) (West 2006), 16–950 (West Supp. 2010),[Footnote 1] and the acceptance of certain campaign restrictions and obligations. Publicly funded candidates must agree, among other things, to limit their expenditure of personal funds to $500, §16–941(A)(2) (West Supp. 2010); participate in at least one public debate, §16–956(A)(2); adhere to an overall expenditure cap, §16–941(A); and return all unspent public moneys to the State, §16–953. In exchange for accepting these conditions, participating candidates are granted public funds to conduct their campaigns.[Footnote 2] In many cases, this initial allotment may be the whole of the State’s financial backing of a publicly funded candidate. But when certain conditions are met, publicly funded candidates are granted additional “equalizing” or matching funds. §§16–952(A), (B), and (C)(4)–(5) (providing for “[e]qual funding of candidates”). Matching funds are available in both primary and general elections. In a primary, matching funds are triggered when a privately financed candidate’s expenditures, combined with the expenditures of independent groups made in support of the privately financed candidate or in opposition to a publicly financed candidate, exceed the primary election allotment of state funds to the publicly financed candidate. §§16–952(A), (C). During the general election, matching funds are triggered when the amount of money a privately financed candidate receives in contributions, combined with the expenditures of independent groups made in support of the privately financed candidate or in opposition to a publicly financed candidate, exceed the general election allotment of state funds to the publicly fi-nanced candidate. §16–952(B). A privately financed can-didate’s expenditures of his personal funds are counted as contributions for purposes of calculating matching funds during a general election. See ibid.; Citizens Clean Elections Commission, Ariz. Admin. Rule R2–20–113(B)(1)(f) (Sept. 2009). Once matching funds are triggered, each additional dol-lar that a privately financed candidate spends during the primary results in one dollar in additional state funding to his publicly financed opponent (less a 6% reduction meant to account for fundraising expenses). §16–952(A). During a general election, every dollar that a candidate receives in contributions—which includes any money of his own that a candidate spends on his campaign—results in roughly one dollar in additional state funding to his publicly financed opponent. In an election where a privately funded candidate faces multiple publicly financed candidates, one dollar raised or spent by the privately fi-nanced candidate results in an almost one dollar increase in public funding to each of the publicly financed candidates. Once the public financing cap is exceeded, additional expenditures by independent groups can result in dollar-for-dollar matching funds as well. Spending by independent groups on behalf of a privately funded candidate, or in opposition to a publicly funded candidate, results in matching funds. §16–952(C). Independent expenditures made in support of a publicly financed candidate can result in matching funds for other publicly financed candidates in a race. Ibid. The matching funds provision is not activated, however, when independent expenditures are made in opposition to a privately financed candidate. Matching funds top out at two times the initial authorized grant of public funding to the publicly financed candidate. §16–952(E). Under Arizona law, a privately financed candidate may raise and spend unlimited funds, subject to state-imposed contribution limits and disclosure requirements. Contributions to candidates for statewide office are limited to $840 per contributor per election cycle and contributions to legislative candidates are limited to $410 per contributor per election cycle. See §§16–905(A)(1), 16–941(B)(1); Ariz. Dept. of State, Office of the Secretary of State, 2009–2010 Contribution Limits (rev. Aug. 14, 2009), http:// www.azsos.gov / election / 2010 / Info / Campaign_Contribution _Limits_2010.htm (all Internet materials as visited June 24, 2011, and available in Clerk of Court’s case file). An example may help clarify how the Arizona matching funds provision operates. Arizona is divided into 30 districts for purposes of electing members to the State’s House of Representatives. Each district elects two representatives to the House biannually. In the last general election, the number of candidates competing for the two available seats in each district ranged from two to seven. See State of Arizona Official Canvass, 2010 General Election Report (compiled and issued by the Arizona secretary of state). Arizona’s Fourth District had three candidates for its two available House seats. Two of those candidates opted to accept public funding; one candidate chose to operate his campaign with private funds. In that election, if the total funds contributed to the privately funded candidate, added to that candidate’s expenditure of personal funds and the expenditures of supportive independent groups, exceeded $21,479—the allocation of public funds for the general election in a contested State House race—the matching funds provision would be triggered. See Citizens Clean Elections Commission, Participating Candidate Guide 2010 Election Cycle 30 (Aug. 10, 2010). At that point, a number of differ- ent political activities could result in the distribution of matching funds. For example:
KAGAN, J., DISSENTING
ARIZONA FREE ENTERPRISE CLUB'S FREEDOMCLUB PAC V. BENNETT
564 U. S. ____ (2011)
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
NOS. 10-238 AND 10-239
ARIZONA FREE ENTERPRISE CLUB’S FREEDOM CLUB PAC, et al., PETITIONERS 10–238 v. KEN BENNETT, in his official capacity as ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE, et al. JOHN McCOMISH, et al., PETITIONERS 10–239 v. KEN BENNETT, in his official capacity as ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE, et al. on writs of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit [June 27, 2011] Justice Kagan, with whom Justice Ginsburg, Jus-tice Breyer, and Justice Sotomayor join, dissenting. Imagine two States, each plagued by a corrupt political system. In both States, candidates for public office accept large campaign contributions in exchange for the promise that, after assuming office, they will rank the donors’ interests ahead of all others. As a result of these bargains, politicians ignore the public interest, sound public pol- icy languishes, and the citizens lose confidence in their government. Recognizing the cancerous effect of this corruption, voters of the first State, acting through referendum, enact several campaign finance measures previously approved by this Court. They cap campaign contributions; require disclosure of substantial donations; and create an optional public financing program that gives candidates a fixed public subsidy if they refrain from private fundraising. But these measures do not work. Individuals who “bundle” campaign contributions become indispensable to candidates in need of money. Simple disclosure fails to prevent shady dealing. And candidates choose not to participate in the public financing system because the sums provided do not make them competitive with their privately financed opponents. So the State remains afflicted with corruption. Voters of the second State, having witnessed this failure, take an ever-so-slightly different tack to cleaning up their political system. They too enact contribution limits and disclosure requirements. But they believe that the greatest hope of eliminating corruption lies in creating an effective public financing program, which will break candidates’ dependence on large donors and bundlers. These voters realize, based on the first State’s experience, that such a program will not work unless candidates agree to participate in it. And candidates will participate only if they know that they will receive sufficient funding to run competitive races. So the voters enact a program that carefully adjusts the money given to would-be officeholders, through the use of a matching funds mechanism, in order to provide this assurance. The program does not discriminate against any candidate or point of view, and it does not restrict any person’s ability to speak. In fact, by providing resources to many candidates, the program creates more speech and thereby broadens public debate. And just as the voters had hoped, the program accomplishes its mission of restoring integrity to the political system. The second State rids itself of corruption. A person familiar with our country’s core values—our devotion to democratic self-governance, as well as to “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open” debate, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S. 254, 270 (1964)—might expect this Court to celebrate, or at least not to interfere with, the second State’s success. But today, the majority holds that the second State’s system—the system that produces honest government, working on behalf of all the people—clashes with our Constitution. The First Amendment, the majority insists, requires us all to rely on the measures employed in the first State, even when they have failed to break the stranglehold of special interests on elected officials. I disagree. The First Amendment’s core purpose is to foster a healthy, vibrant political system full of ro- bust discussion and debate. Nothing in Arizona’s anti-corruption statute, the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act, violates this constitutional protection. To the contrary, the Act promotes the values underlying both the First Amendment and our entire Constitution by enhancing the “opportunity for free political discussion to the end that government may be responsive to the will of the people.” Id., at 269 (internal quotation marks omitted). I therefore respectfully dissent. I A Campaign finance reform over the last century has focused on one key question: how to prevent massive pools of private money from corrupting our political system. If an officeholder owes his election to wealthy contributors, he may act for their benefit alone, rather than on behalf of all the people. As we recognized in Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U. S. 1, 26 (1976) (per curiam), our seminal campaign finance case, large private contributions may result in “political quid pro quo[s],” which undermine the integrity of our democracy. And even if these contributions are not converted into corrupt bargains, they still may weaken confidence in our political system because the public perceives “the opportunities for abuse[s].” Id., at 27. To prevent both corruption and the appearance of corruption—and so to protect our democratic system of governance—citizens have implemented reforms designed to curb the power of special interests. Among these measures, public financing of elections has emerged as a potentially potent mechanism to preserve elected officials’ independence. President Theodore Roosevelt proposed the reform as early as 1907 in his State of the Union address. “The need for collecting large campaign funds would vanish,” he said, if the government “pro- vided an appropriation for the proper and legitimate ex-penses” of running a campaign, on the condition that a “party receiving campaign funds from the Treasury” would forgo private fundraising. 42 Cong. Rec. 78 (1907). The idea was—and remains—straightforward. Candidates who rely on public, rather than private, moneys are “beholden [to] no person and, if elected, should feel no post-election obligation toward any contributor.” Republican Nat. Comm. v. FEC, 487 F. Supp. 280, 284 (SDNY), aff’d 445 U. S. 955 (1980). By supplanting private cash in elections, public financing eliminates the source of political corruption. For this reason, public financing systems today dot the national landscape. Almost one-third of the States have adopted some form of public financing, and so too has the Federal Government for presidential elections. See R. Garrett, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, Public Financing of Congressional Campaigns: Overview and Analysis 2, 32 (2009). The federal program—which offers presidential candidates a fixed public subsidy if they abstain from private fundraising—originated in the campaign finance law that Congress enacted in 1974 on the heels of the Watergate scandal. Congress explained at the time that the “potentia[l] for abuse” inherent in privately funded elections was “all too clear.” S. Rep. No. 93–689, p. 4 (1974). In Congress’s view, public financing represented the “only way … [to] eliminate reliance on large private contributions” and its attendant danger of corruption, while still ensuring that a wide range of candidates had access to the ballot. Id., at 5 (emphasis deleted). We declared the presidential public financing system con-stitutional in Buckley v. Valeo. Congress, we stated, had created the program “for the ‘general welfare’—to re- duce the deleterious influence of large contributions on our political process,” as well as to “facilitate communication by candidates with the electorate, and to free candidates from the rigors of fundraising.” 424 U. S., at 91. We reiterated “that public financing as a means of eliminat-ing the improper influence of large private contributions furthers a significant governmental interest.” Id., at 96. And finally, in rejecting a challenge based on the First Amendment, we held that the program did not “restrict or censor speech, but rather … use[d] public money to facilitate and enlarge public discussion and participation in the electoral process.” Id., at 92–93. We declared this result “vital to a self-governing people,” and so concluded that the program “further[ed], not abridge[d], pertinent First Amendment values.” Id., at 93. We thus gave state and municipal governments the green light to adopt public financing systems along the presidential model. But this model, which distributes a lump-sum grant at the beginning of an election cycle, has a significant weakness: It lacks a mechanism for setting the subsidy at a level that will give candidates sufficient incentive to participate, while also conserving public resources. Public financing can achieve its goals only if a meaningful number of candidates receive the state subsidy, rather than raise private funds. See 611 F. 3d 510, 527 (CA9 2010) (“A public financing system with no participants does nothing to reduce the existence or appearance of quid pro quo corruption”). But a public funding program must be voluntary to pass constitutional muster, because of its restrictions on contributions and expenditures. See Buckley, 424 U. S., at 57, n. 65, 95. And candidates will choose to sign up only if the subsidy provided enables them to run competitive races. If the grant is pegged too low, it puts the participating candidate at a disadvantage: Because he has agreed to spend no more than the amount of the subsidy, he will lack the means to respond if his privately funded opponent spends over that threshold. So when lump-sum grants do not keep up with campaign expenditures, more and more candidates will choose not to participate.[Footnote 1] But if the subsidy is set too high, it may impose an unsustainable burden on the public fisc. See 611 F. 3d, at 527 (noting that large subsidies would make public funding “prohibitively expensive and spell its doom”). At the least, hefty grants will waste public resources in the many state races where lack of competition makes such funding unnecessary. The difficulty, then, is in finding the Goldilocks solution—not too large, not too small, but just right. And this in a world of countless variables—where the amount of money needed to run a viable campaign against a privately funded candidate depends on, among other things, the district, the office, and the election cycle. A state may set lump-sum grants district-by-district, based on spending in past elections; but even that approach leaves out many factors—including the resources of the privately funded candidate—that alter the competitiveness of a seat from one election to the next. See App. 714–716 (record evidence chronicling the history of variation in campaign spending levels in Arizona’s legislative districts). In short, the dynamic nature of our electoral system makes ex ante predictions about campaign expenditures almost impossible. And that creates a chronic problem for lump-sum public financing programs, because inaccurate estimates produce subsidies that either dissuade candidates from participating or waste taxpayer money. And so States have made adjustments to the lump-sum scheme that we approved in Buckley, in attempts to more effectively reduce corruption. B The people of Arizona had every reason to try to develop effective anti-corruption measures. Before turning to pub-lic financing, Arizonans voted by referendum to estab- lish campaign contribution limits. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §16–905 (West Supp. 2010). But that effort to abate corruption, standing alone, proved unsuccessful. Five years after the enactment of these limits, the State suffered “the worst public corruption scandal in its history.” Brief for State Respondents 1. In that scandal, known as “AzScam,” nearly 10% of the State’s legislators were caught accepting campaign contributions or bribes in ex-change for supporting a piece of legislation. Following that incident, the voters of Arizona decided that further reform was necessary. Acting once again by referendum, they adopted the public funding system at issue here. The hallmark of Arizona’s program is its inventive approach to the challenge that bedevils all public financing schemes: fixing the amount of the subsidy. For each electoral contest, the system calibrates the size of the grant automatically to provide sufficient—but no more than sufficient—funds to induce voluntary participation. In effect, the program’s designers found the Goldilocks solution, which produces the “just right” grant to ensure that a participant in the system has the funds needed to run a competitive race. As the Court explains, Arizona’s matching funds arrangement responds to the shortcoming of the lump-sum model by adjusting the public subsidy in each race to re-flect the expenditures of a privately financed candidate and the independent groups that support him. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §16–940 et seq. (West 2006 and West Supp. 2010). A publicly financed candidate in Arizona receives an initial lump-sum to get his campaign off the ground. See §16–951 (West 2006). But for every dollar his privately funded opponent (or the opponent’s supporters) spends over the initial subsidy, the publicly funded candidate will—to a point—get an additional 94 cents. See §16–952 (West Supp. 2010). Once the publicly financed candidate has received three times the amount of the initial disbursement, he gets no further public funding, see ibid., and remains barred from receiving private contributions, no matter how much more his privately funded opponent spends, see §16–941(A). This arrangement, like the lump-sum model, makes use of a pre-set amount to provide financial support to participants. For example, all publicly funded legislative candidates collect an initial grant of $21,479 for a general election race. And they can in no circumstances receive more than three times that amount ($64,437); after that, their privately funded competitors hold a marked advantage. But the Arizona system improves on the lump-sum model in a crucial respect. By tying public funding to private spending, the State can afford to set a more generous upper limit—because it knows that in each campaign it will only have to disburse what is necessary to keep a par-ticipating candidate reasonably competitive. Arizona can therefore assure candidates that, if they accept public funds, they will have the resources to run a viable race against those who rely on private money. And at the same time, Arizona avoids wasting taxpayers’ dollars. In this way, the Clean Elections Act creates an effective and sustainable public financing system. The question here is whether this modest adjustment to the public financing program that we approved in Buckley makes the Arizona law unconstitutional. The majority contends that the matching funds provision “substantially burdens protected political speech” and does not “serv[e] a compelling state interest.” Ante, at 2. But the Court is wrong on both counts. II Arizona’s statute does not impose a “restriction,” ante, at 15, or “substantia[l] burde[n],” ante, at 2, on expression. The law has quite the opposite effect: It subsidizes and so produces more political speech. We recognized in Buckley that, for this reason, public financing of elections “facilitate[s] and enlarge[s] public discussion,” in support of First Amendment values. 424 U. S., at 92–93. And what we said then is just as true today. Except in a world gone topsy-turvy, additional campaign speech and electoral competition is not a First Amendment injury. A At every turn, the majority tries to convey the im-pression that Arizona’s matching fund statute is of a piece with laws prohibiting electoral speech. The majority invokes the language of “limits,” “bar[s],” and “restraints.” Ante, at 8–9. It equates the law to a “restrictio[n] on the amount of money a person or group can spend on political communication during a campaign.” Ante, at 15 (internal quotation marks omitted). It insists that the statute “re-strict[s] the speech of some elements of our society” to enhance the speech of others. Ibid. (internal quotation marks omitted). And it concludes by reminding us that the point of the First Amendment is to protect “against unjustified government restrictions on speech.” Ante, at 29. There is just one problem. Arizona’s matching funds provision does not restrict, but instead subsidizes, speech. The law “impose[s] no ceiling on [speech] and do[es] not prevent anyone from speaking.” Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm’n, 558 U. S. ___, ___ (2010) (slip op., at 51) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see Buckley, 424 U. S., at 92 (holding that a public financing law does not “abridge, restrict, or censor” expression). The statute does not tell candidates or their supporters how much money they can spend to convey their message, when they can spend it, or what they can spend it on. Rather, the Arizona law, like the public financing statute in Buckley, provides funding for political speech, thus “facilitat[ing] communication by candidates with the elec-torate.” Id., at 91. By enabling participating candidates to respond to their opponents’ expression, the statute expands public debate, in adherence to “our tradition that more speech, not less, is the governing rule.” Citizens United, 558 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 45). What the law does—all the law does—is fund more speech.[Footnote 2] And under the First Amendment, that makes all the difference. In case after case, year upon year, we have distinguished between speech restrictions and speech subsidies. “ ‘There is a basic difference,’ ” we have held, “ ‘between direct state interference with [First Amendment] protected activity and state encouragement’ ” of other expression. Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U. S. 173, 193 (1991) (quoting Maher v. Roe, 432 U. S. 464, 475 (1977)); see also, e.g., Federal Election Comm’n v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Inc., 479 U. S. 238, 256, n. 9 (1986); Regan v. Taxation With Representation of Wash., 461 U. S. 540, 550 (1983); National Endowment for Arts v. Finley, 524 U. S. 569, 587–588 (1998); id., at 599 (Scalia, J., concurring in judgment) (noting the “fundamental divide” between “ ‘abridging’ speech and funding it”). Government subsidies of speech, designed “to stimulate … expression[,] … [are] consistent with the First Amendment,” so long as they do not discriminate on the basis of viewpoint. Board of Regents of Univ. of Wis. System v. Southworth, 529 U. S. 217, 234 (2000); see, e.g., Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U. S. 819, 834 (1995); Finley, 524 U. S., at 587–588. That is because subsidies, by definition and contra the majority, do not restrict any speech. No one can claim that Arizona’s law discriminates against particular ideas, and so violates the First Amendment’s sole limitation on speech subsidies. The State throws open the doors of its public financing program to all candidates who meet minimal eligibility requirements and agree not to raise private funds. Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals may participate; so too, the law applies equally to independent expenditure groups across the political spectrum. Arizona disburses funds based not on a candidate’s (or supporter’s) ideas, but on the candidate’s decision to sign up for public funding. So under our precedent, Arizona’s subsidy statute should easily survive First Amendment scrutiny.[Footnote 3] This suit, in fact, may merit less attention than any challenge to a speech subsidy ever seen in this Court. In the usual First Amendment subsidy case, a person complains that the government declined to finance his speech, while bankrolling someone else’s; we must then decide whether the government differentiated between these speakers on a prohibited basis—because it preferred one speaker’s ideas to another’s. See, e.g., id., at 577–578; Regan, 461 U. S., at 543–545. But the candidates bringing this challenge do not make that claim—because they were never denied a subsidy. Arizona, remember, offers to support any person running for state office. Petitioners here refused that assistance. So they are making a novel argument: that Arizona violated their First Amendment rights by disbursing funds to other speakers even though they could have received (but chose to spurn) the same financial assistance. Some people might call that chutzpah. Indeed, what petitioners demand is essentially a right to quash others’ speech through the prohibition of a (universally available) subsidy program. Petitioners are able to convey their ideas without public financing—and they would prefer the field to themselves, so that they can speak free from response. To attain that goal, they ask this Court to prevent Arizona from funding electoral speech—even though that assistance is offered to every state candidate, on the same (entirely unobjectionable) basis. And this Court gladly obliges. If an ordinary citizen, without the hindrance of a law degree, thought this result an upending of First Amendment values, he would be correct. That Amendment protects no person’s, nor any candidate’s, “right to be free from vigorous debate.” Pacific Gas & Elec. Co. v. Public Util. Comm’n of Cal., 475 U. S. 1, 14 (1986) (plurality opinion). Indeed, the Amendment exists so that this de-bate can occur—robust, forceful, and contested. It is the theory of the Free Speech Clause that “falsehood and fallacies” are exposed through “discussion,” “education,” and “more speech.” Whitney v. California, 274 U. S. 357, 377 (1927) (Brandeis, J., concurring). Or once again from Citizens United: “[M]ore speech, not less, is the governing rule.” 558 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 45). And this is no place more true than in elections, where voters’ ability to choose the best representatives depends on debate—on charge and countercharge, call and response. So to invalidate a statute that restricts no one’s speech and dis-criminates against no idea—that only provides more voices, wider discussion, and greater competition in elections—is to undermine, rather than to enforce, the First Amendment.[Footnote 4] We said all this in Buckley, when we upheld the presidential public financing system—a ruling this Court has never since questioned. The principal challenge to that system came from minor-party candidates not eligible for benefits—surely more compelling plaintiffs than petitioners, who could have received funding but refused it. Yet we rejected that attack in part because we understood the federal program as supporting, rather than interfering with, expression. See 424 U. S., at 90–108; see also Regan, 461 U. S., at 549 (relying on Buckley to hold that selective subsidies of expression comport with the First Amendment if they are viewpoint neutral). Buckley rejected any idea, along the lines the majority proposes, that a subsidy of electoral speech was in truth a restraint. And more: Buckley recognized that public financing of elections fosters First Amendment principles. “[T]he central purpose of the Speech and Press Clauses,” we explained, “was to assure a society in which ‘uninhibited, robust, and wide-open’ public debate concerning matters of public interest would thrive, for only in such a society can a healthy representative democracy flourish.” 424 U. S., at 93, n. 127 (quoting New York Times, 376 U. S., at 270). And we continued: “[L]aws providing financial assistance to the exercise of free speech”—including the campaign finance statute at issue—“enhance these First Amendment values.” 424 U. S., at 93, n. 127. We should be saying the same today. B The majority has one, and only one, way of separating this case from Buckley and our other, many precedents involving speech subsidies. According to the Court, the special problem here lies in Arizona’s matching funds mechanism, which the majority claims imposes a “substantia[l] burde[n]” on a privately funded candidate’s speech. Ante, at 2. Sometimes, the majority suggests that this “burden” lies in the way the mechanism “ ‘diminish[es] the effectiveness’ ” of the privately funded candidate’s expression by enabling his opponent to respond. Ante, at 10 (quoting Davis v. Federal Election Comm’n, 554 U. S. 724, 736 (2008)); see ante, at 21–22. At other times, the majority indicates that the “burden” resides in the deterrent effect of the mechanism: The privately funded candidate “might not spend money” because doing so will trigger matching funds. Ante, at 20. Either way, the majority is wrong to see a substantial burden on expression.[Footnote 5] Most important, and as just suggested, the very notion that additional speech constitutes a “burden” is odd and unsettling. Here is a simple fact: Arizona imposes nothing remotely resembling a coercive penalty on privately funded candidates. The State does not jail them, fine them, or subject them to any kind of lesser disability. (So the majority’s analogies to a fine on speech, ante, at 19, 28, are inapposite.) The only “burden” in this case comes from the grant of a subsidy to another person, and the opportunity that subsidy allows for responsive speech. But that means the majority cannot get out from under our subsidy precedents. Once again: We have never, not once, understood a viewpoint-neutral subsidy given to one speaker to constitute a First Amendment burden on another. (And that is so even when the subsidy is not open to all, as it is here.) Yet in this case, the majority says that the prospect of more speech—responsive speech, competitive speech, the kind of speech that drives public debate—counts as a constitutional injury. That concept, for all the reasons previously given, is “wholly foreign to the First Amendment.” Buckley, 424 U. S., at 49. But put to one side this most fundamental objection to the majority’s argument; even then, has the majority shown that the burden resulting from the Arizona statute is “substantial”? See Clingman v. Beaver, 544 U. S. 581, 592 (2005) (holding that stringent judicial review is “appropriate only if the burden is severe”). I will not quarrel with the majority’s assertion that responsive speech by one candidate may make another candidate’s speech less effective, see ante, at 21–22; that, after all, is the whole idea of the First Amendment, and a benefit of having more responsive speech. See Abrams v. United States, 250 U. S. 616, 630 (1919) (Holmes., J., dissenting) (“[T]he best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market”). And I will assume that the operation of this statute may on occasion deter a privately funded candidate from spending money, and conveying ideas by that means.[Footnote 6] My guess is that this does not happen often: Most political candidates, I suspect, have enough faith in the power of their ideas to prefer speech on both sides of an issue to speech on neither. But I will take on faith that the matching funds provision may lead one or another privately funded candidate to stop spending at one or another moment in an election. Still, does that effect count as a severe burden on expression? By the measure of our prior decisions—which have upheld campaign reforms with an equal or greater impact on speech—the answer is no. Number one: Any system of public financing, including the lump-sum model upheld in Buckley, imposes a similar burden on privately funded candidates. Suppose Arizona were to do what all parties agree it could under Buckley—provide a single upfront payment (say, $150,000) to a participating candidate, rather than an initial payment (of $50,000) plus 94% of whatever his privately funded opponent spent, up to a ceiling (the same $150,000). That system would “diminis[h] the effectiveness” of a privately funded candidate’s speech at least as much, and in the same way: It would give his opponent, who presumably would not be able to raise that sum on his own, more money to spend. And so too, a lump-sum system may deter speech. A person relying on private resources might well choose not to enter a race at all, because he knows he will face an adequately funded opponent. And even if he decides to run, he likely will choose to speak in different ways—for example, by eschewing dubious, easy-to-answer charges—because his opponent has the ability to respond. Indeed, privately funded candidates may well find the lump-sum system more burdensome than Arizona’s (assuming the lump is big enough). Pretend you are financing your campaign through private donations. Would you prefer that your opponent receive a guaranteed, upfront payment of $150,000, or that he receive only $50,000, with the possibility—a possibility that you mostly get to control—of collecting another $100,000 somewhere down the road? Me too. That’s the first reason the burden on speech cannot command a different result in this case than in Buckley. Number two: Our decisions about disclosure and disclaimer requirements show the Court is wrong. Starting in Buckley and continuing through last Term, the Court has repeatedly declined to view these requirements as a sub-stantial First Amendment burden, even though they dis-courage some campaign speech. “It is undoubtedly true,” we stated in Buckley, that public disclosure obliga- tions “will deter some individuals” from engaging in expressive activity. 424 U. S., at 68; see Davis, 554 U. S., at 744. Yet we had no difficulty upholding these requirements there. And much more recently, in Citizens United and Doe v. Reed, 561 U. S. ___ (2010), we followed that precedent. “ ‘Disclosure requirements may burden the ability to speak,” we reasoned, but they “do not prevent anyone from speaking.’ ” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 7) (quoting Citizens United, 558 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 51)). So too here. Like a disclosure rule, the matching funds provision may occasionally deter, but “impose[s] no ceiling” on electoral expression. Id., at ___ (slip op., at 51). The majority breezily dismisses this comparison, labeling the analogy “not even close” because disclosure requirements result in no payment of money to a speaker’s opponent. Ante, at 18. That is indeed the factual distinction: A matching fund provision, we can all agree, is not a disclosure rule. But the majority does not tell us why this difference matters. Nor could it. The majority strikes down the matching funds provision because of its ostensible effect—most notably, that it may deter a person from spending money in an election. But this Court has acknowledged time and again that disclosure obligations have the selfsame effect. If that consequence does not trigger the most stringent judicial review in the one case, it should not do so in the other. Number three: Any burden that the Arizona law imposes does not exceed the burden associated with contri-bution limits, which we have also repeatedly upheld. Con-tribution limits, we have stated, “impose direct quantity restrictions on political communication and association,” Buckley, 424 U. S., at 18 (emphasis added), thus “ ‘significant[ly] interfer[ing]’ ” with First Amendment interests, Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC, 528 U. S. 377, 387 (2000) (quoting Buckley, 424 U. S., at 25). Rather than potentially deterring or “ ‘diminish[ing] the effectiveness’ ” of expressive activity, ante, at 10 (quoting Davis, 554 U. S., at 736), these limits stop it cold. Yet we have never subjected these restrictions to the most stringent review. See Buckley, 424 U. S., at 29–38. I doubt I have to reiterate that the Arizona statute imposes no restraints on any expressive activity. So the majority once again has no reason here to reach a different result. In this way, our campaign finance cases join our speech subsidy cases in supporting the constitutionality of Arizona’s law. Both sets of precedents are in accord that a statute funding electoral speech in the way Arizona’s does imposes no First Amendment injury. C The majority thinks it has one case on its side—Davis v. Federal Election Comm’n, 554 U. S. 724—and it pegs everything on that decision. See ante, at 9–12. But Davis relies on principles that fit securely within our First Amendment law and tradition—most unlike today’s opinion. As the majority recounts, Davis addressed the constitutionality of federal legislation known as the Millionaire’s Amendment. Under that provision (which applied in elec-tions not involving public financing), a candidate’s expenditure of more than $350,000 of his own money activated a change in applicable contribution limits. Before, each candidate in the race could accept $2,300 from any donor; but now, the opponent of the self-financing candidate could accept three times that much, or up to $6,900 per contributor. So one candidate’s expenditure of personal funds on campaign speech triggered discriminatory contribution restrictions favoring that candidate’s opponent. Under the First Amendment, the similarity between Davis and this case matters far less than the differences. Here is the similarity: In both cases, one candidate’s campaign expenditure triggered … something. Now here are the differences: In Davis, the candidate’s expenditure triggered a discriminatory speech restriction, which Congress could not otherwise have imposed consistent with the First Amendment; by contrast, in this case, the candidate’s expenditure triggers a non-discriminatory speech subsidy, which all parties agree Arizona could have provided in the first instance. In First Amendment law, that difference makes a difference—indeed, it makes all the difference. As I have indicated before, two great fault lines run through our First Amendment doctrine: one, between speech restrictions and speech subsidies, and the other, between discriminatory and neutral government action. See supra, at 10–11. The Millionaire’s Amendment fell on the disfavored side of both divides: To reiterate, it imposed a discriminatory speech restriction. The Arizona Clean Elections Act lands on the opposite side of both: It grants a non-discriminatory speech subsidy.[Footnote 7] So to say that Davis “largely controls” this case, ante, at 10, is to decline to take our First Amendment doctrine seriously. And let me be clear: This is not my own idiosyncratic or post hoc view of Davis; it is the Davis Court’s self-expressed, contemporaneous view. That decision began, continued, and ended by focusing on the Millionaire Amendment’s “discriminatory contribution limits.” 554 U. S., at 740. We made that clear in the very first sentence of the opinion, where we summarized the question presented. Id., at 728 (“In this appeal, we consider the constitutionality of federal election law provisions that … impose different campaign contribution limits on candidates”). And our focus on the law’s discriminatory restrictions was evident again when we examined how the Court’s prior holdings informed the case. Id., at 738 (“We have never upheld the constitutionality of a law that imposes different contribution limits for candidates”). And then again, when we concluded that the Millionaire’s Amendment could not stand. Id., at 740 (explaining that the “the activation of a scheme of discriminatory contribution limits” burdens speech). Our decision left no doubt (because we repeated the point many times over, see also id., at 729, 730, 739, 740, n. 7, 741, 744): The constitutional problem with the Millionaire’s Amendment lay in its use of discriminatory speech restrictions. But what of the trigger mechanism—in Davis, as here, a candidate’s campaign expenditures? That, after all, is the only thing that this case and Davis share. If Davis had held that the trigger mechanism itself violated the First Amendment, then the case would support today’s holding. But Davis said nothing of the kind. It made clear that the trigger mechanism could not rescue the discriminatory contribution limits from constitutional invalidity; that the limits went into effect only after a candidate spent substantial personal resources rendered them no more permissible under the First Amendment. See id., at 739. But Davis did not call into question the trigger mechanism itself. Indeed, Davis explained that Congress could have used that mechanism to activate a non-discriminatory (i.e., across-the-board) increase in contribution limits; in that case, the Court stated, “Davis’ argument would plainly fail.” Id., at 737.[Footnote 8] The constitutional infirmity in Davis was not the trigger mechanism, but rather what lay on the other side of it—a discriminatory speech restriction. The Court’s response to these points is difficult to fathom. The majority concedes that “our decision in Davis focused on the asymmetrical contribution limits imposed by the Millionaire’s Amendment.” Ante, at 14. That was because, the majority explains, Davis presented only that issue. See ante, at 14. And yet, the majority insists (without explaining how this can be true), the reach of Davis is not so limited. And in any event, the majority claims, the burden on speech is “greater in this case than in Davis.” Ante, at 14. But for reasons already stated, that is not so. The burden on speech in Davis—the penalty that cam-paign spending triggered—was the discriminatory contribution restriction, which Congress could not otherwise have imposed. By contrast, the thing triggered here is a non-discriminatory subsidy, of a kind this Court has approved for almost four decades. Maybe the majority is saying today that it had something like this case in mind all the time. But nothing in the logic of Davis controls this decision.[Footnote 9] III For all these reasons, the Court errs in holding that the government action in this case substantially burdens speech and so requires the State to offer a compelling in-terest. But in any event, Arizona has come forward with just such an interest, explaining that the Clean Elections Act attacks corruption and the appearance of corruption in the State’s political system. The majority’s denigration of this interest—the suggestion that it either is not real or does not matter—wrongly prevents Arizona from protecting the strength and integrity of its democracy. A Our campaign finance precedents leave no doubt: Preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption is a compelling government interest. See, e.g., Davis, 554 U. S., at 741; Federal Election Comm’n v. National Conservative Political Action Comm., 470 U. S. 480, 496–497 (1985) (NCPAC). And so too, these precedents are clear: Public financing of elections serves this interest. See supra, at 4–5. As Buckley recognized, and as I earlier described, public financing “reduce[s] the deleterious influence of large contributions on our political process.” 424 U. S., at 91; see id., at 96. When private contributions fuel the political system, candidates may make corrupt bargains to gain the money needed to win election. See NCPAC, 470 U. S., at 497. And voters, seeing the dependence of candidates on large contributors (or on bundlers of smaller contributions), may lose faith that their representatives will serve the public’s interest. See Shrink Missouri, 528 U. S., at 390 (the “assumption that large donors call the tune [may] jeopardize the willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance”). Public financing addresses these dangers by minimizing the importance of private donors in elections. Even the majority appears to agree with this premise. See ante, at 27 (“We have said that … ‘public financing as a means of eliminating the improper influence of large private contributions furthers a significant governmental interest’ ”). This compelling interest appears on the very face of Arizona’s public financing statute. Start with the title: The Citizens Clean Elections Act. Then proceed to the statute’s formal findings. The public financing program, the findings state, was “inten[ded] to create a clean elections system that will improve the integrity of Arizona state government by diminishing the influence of special-interest money.” §16–940(A) (West 2006). That measure was needed because the prior system of private fundraising had “[u]ndermine[d] public confidence in the integrity of public officials;” allowed those officials “to accept large campaign contributions from private interests over which they [had] governmental jurisdiction;” favored “a small number of wealthy special interests” over “the vast majority of Arizona citizens;” and “[c]os[t] average taxpayers millions of dollars in the form of subsidies and special privileges for campaign contributors.” §16–940(B).[Footnote 10] The State, appearing before us, has reiterated its important anti-corruption interest. The Clean Elections Act, the State avers, “deters quid pro quo corruption and the appearance of corruption by providing Arizona candidates with an option to run for office without depending on outside contributions.” Brief for State Respondents 19. And so Arizona, like many state and local governments, has implemented public financing on the theory (which this Court has previously approved, see supra, at 5), that the way to reduce political corruption is to diminish the role of private donors in campaigns.[Footnote 11] And that interest justifies the matching funds provision at issue because it is a critical facet of Arizona’s public financing program. The provision is no more than a disbursement mechanism; but it is also the thing that makes the whole Clean Elections Act work. As described earlier, see supra, at 5–6, public financing has an Achilles heel—the difficulty of setting the subsidy at the right amount. Too small, and the grant will not attract candidates to the program; and with no participating candidates, the program can hardly decrease corruption. Too large, and the system becomes unsustainable, or at the least an unnecessary drain on public resources. But finding the sweet-spot is near impossible because of variation, across districts and over time, in the political system. Enter the matching funds provision, which takes an ordinary lump-sum amount, divides it into thirds, and disburses the last two of these (to the extent necessary) via a self-calibrating mechanism. That provision is just a fine-tuning of the lump-sum program approved in Buckley—a fine-tuning, it bears repeating, that prevents no one from speaking and discriminates against no message. But that fine-tuning can make the difference between a wholly ineffectual program and one that removes corruption from the political system.[Footnote 12] If public financing furthers a compelling interest—and according to this Court, it does—then so too does the disbursement formula that Arizona uses to make public financing effective. The one conclusion follows directly from the other. Except in this Court, where the inescapable logic of the State’s position is … virtually ignored. The Court, to be sure, repeatedly asserts that the State’s interest in preventing corruption does not “sufficiently justif[y]” the mechanism it has chosen to disburse public moneys. Ante, at 28; see ante, at 27. Only one thing is missing from the Court’s response: any reasoning to support this conclusion. Nowhere does the majority dispute the State’s view that the success of its public financing system depends on the matching funds mechanism; and nowhere does the majority contest that, if this mechanism indeed spells the difference between success and failure, the State’s interest in preventing corruption justifies its use. And so the majority dismisses, but does not actually answer the State’s contention—even though that contention is the linchpin of the entire case. Assuming (against reason and precedent) that the matching funds provision substantially burdens speech, the question becomes whether the State has offered a sufficient justification for imposing that burden. Arizona has made a forceful argument on this score, based on the need to establish an effective public fi-nancing system. The majority does not even engage that reasoning. B The majority instead devotes most of its energy to trying to show that “level[ing] the playing field,” not fighting corruption, was the State’s real goal. Ante, at 22–23 (internal quotation marks omitted); see ante, at 22–24. But the majority’s distaste for “leveling” provides no excuse for striking down Arizona’s law. 1 For starters, the Court has no basis to question the sincerity of the State’s interest in rooting out political corruption. As I have just explained, that is the interest the State has asserted in this Court; it is the interest predominantly expressed in the “findings and declarations” section of the statute; and it is the interest universally understood (stretching back to Teddy Roosevelt’s time) to support public financing of elections. See supra, at 4, 23–24. As against all this, the majority claims to have found three smoking guns that reveal the State’s true (and nefarious) intention to level the playing field. But the only smoke here is the majority’s, and it is the kind that goes with mirrors. The majority first observes that the matching funds provision is titled “ ‘Equal funding of candidates’ ” and that it refers to matching grants as “ ‘equalizing funds.’ ” Ante, at 23 (quoting §16–952). Well, yes. The statute provides for matching funds (above and below certain thresholds); a synonym for “match” is “equal”; and so the statute uses that term. In sum, the statute describes what the statute does. But the relevant question here (according to the majority’s own analysis) is why the statute does that thing—otherwise said, what interest the statute serves. The State explains that its goal is to prevent corruption, and nothing in the Act’s descriptive terms suggests any other objective. Next, the majority notes that the Act allows participating candidates to accept private contributions if (but only if) the State cannot provide the funds it has promised (for example, because of a budget crisis). Ante, at 23 (citing §16–954(F)). That provision, the majority argues, shows that when push comes to shove, the State cares more about “leveling” than about fighting corruption. Ante, at 23. But this is a plain misreading of the law. All the statute does is assure participating candidates that they will not be left in the lurch if public funds suddenly become unavailable. That guarantee helps persuade candidates to enter the program by removing the risk of a state default. And so the provision directly advances the Act’s goal of combating corruption. Finally, the Court remarks in a footnote that the Clean Elections Commission’s website once stated that the “ ‘Act was passed by the people of Arizona … to level the playing field.’ ” Ante, at 24, n. 10. I can understand why the majority does not place much emphasis on this point. Some members of the majority have ridiculed the practice of relying on subsequent statements by legislators to demonstrate an earlier Congress’s intent in enacting a statute. See, e.g., Sullivan v. Finkelstein, 496 U. S. 617, 631–632 (1990) (Scalia, J., concurring in part); United States v. Hayes, 555 U. S. 415, 434–435 (2009) (Roberts, C. J., dissenting). Yet here the majority makes a much stranger claim: that a statement appearing on a government website in 2011 (written by who-knows-whom?) reveals what hundreds of thousands of Arizona’s voters sought to do in 1998 when they enacted the Clean Elections Act by referendum. Just to state that proposition is to know it is wrong. So the majority has no evidence—zero, none—that the objective of the Act is anything other than the interest that the State asserts, the Act proclaims, and the history of public financing supports: fighting corruption. 2 But suppose the majority had come up with some evidence showing that Arizona had sought to “equalize electoral opportunities.” Ante, at 24. Would that discovery matter? Our precedent says no, so long as Arizona had a compelling interest in eliminating political corruption (which it clearly did). In these circumstances, any interest of the State in “leveling” should be irrelevant. That interest could not support Arizona’s law (assuming the law burdened speech), but neither would the interest invalidate the legislation. To see the point, consider how the matter might arise. Assume a State has two reasons to pass a statute affecting speech. It wants to reduce corruption. But in addition, it wishes to “level the playing field.” Under our First Amendment law, the interest in preventing corruption is compelling and may justify restraints on speech. But the interest in “leveling the playing field,” according to well-established precedent, cannot support such legislation.[Footnote 13] So would this statute (assuming it met all other constitutional standards) violate the First Amendment? The answer must be no. This Court, after all, has never said that a law restricting speech (or any other constitutional right) demands two compelling interests. One is enough. And this statute has one: preventing corruption. So it does not matter that equalizing campaign speech is an insufficient interest. The statute could violate the First Amendment only if “equalizing” qualified as a forbidden motive—a motive that itself could annul an otherwise constitutional law. But we have never held that to be so. And that should not be surprising: It is a “fundamental principle of constitutional adjudication,” from which we have deviated only in exceptional cases, “that this Court will not strike down an otherwise constitutional statute on the basis of an alleged illicit legislative motive.” United States v. O’Brien, 391 U. S. 367, 383 (1968); see id., at 384 (declining to invalidate a statute when “Congress had the undoubted power to enact” it without the suspect motive); accord, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. FCC, 512 U. S. 622, 652 (1994); Renton v. Playtime Theatres, Inc., 475 U. S. 41, 47–48 (1986). When a law is otherwise constitutional—when it either does not restrict speech or rests on an interest sufficient to justify any such restriction—that is the end of the story. That proposition disposes of this case, even if Arizona had an adjunct interest here in equalizing electoral opportunities. No special rule of automatic invalidation applies to statutes having some connection to equality; like any other laws, they pass muster when supported by an im-portant enough government interest. Here, Arizona has demonstrated in detail how the matching funds provision is necessary to serve a compelling interest in combating corruption. So the hunt for evidence of “leveling” is a waste of time; Arizona’s law survives constitutional scrutiny no matter what that search would uncover. IV This case arose because Arizonans wanted their government to work on behalf of all the State’s people. On the heels of a political scandal involving the near-routine purchase of legislators’ votes, Arizonans passed a law de-signed to sever political candidates’ dependence on large contributors. They wished, as many of their fellow Americans wish, to stop corrupt dealing—to ensure that their representatives serve the public, and not just the wealthy donors who helped put them in office. The legislation that Arizona’s voters enacted was the product of deep thought and care. It put into effect a public financing system that attracted large numbers of candidates at a sustainable cost to the State’s taxpayers. The system discriminated against no ideas and prevented no speech. Indeed, by increasing electoral competition and enabling a wide range of candidates to express their views, the system “further[ed] … First Amendment values.” Buckley, 424 U. S., at 93 (citing New York Times, 376 U. S., at 270). 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. Today, they do not get it. The Court invalidates Arizonans’ efforts to ensure that in their State, “ ‘[t]he people … possess the absolute sovereignty.’ ” Id., at 274 (quoting James Madison in 4 Elliot’s Debates on the Federal Constitution 569–570 (1876)). No precedent compels the Court to take this step; to the contrary, today’s decision is in tension with broad swaths of our First Amendment doctrine. No fundamental principle of our Constitution backs the Court’s ruling; to the contrary, it is the law struck down today that fostered both the vigorous competition of ideas and its ultimate object—a government responsive to the will of the people. Arizonans deserve better. Like citizens across this country, Arizonans deserve a government that represents and serves them all. And no less, Arizonans deserve the chance to reform their electoral system so as to attain that most American of goals. Truly, democracy is not a game. See ante, at 25. I respectfully dissent.