A federal court struck down a Connecticut campaign finance provision providing public funds to candidates facing deep-pocketed, free-spending opponents on Tuesday.

The court held that the “trigger provision,” similar to a Florida election law Rick Scott is challenging, “imposes a substantial burden on the exercise of the First Amendment right to use personal funds for campaign speech” without serving “a compelling state interest,” and is therefore unconstitutional. (The full text of the decision, which upheld other aspects of Connecticut’s public finance laws, can be read in full after the jump.)

Scott filed a lawsuit last week to prevent McCollum from receiving millions of taxpayer dollars if Scott exceeds Florida’s $24.9 million spending limit. He has already spent nearly $21 million. The suit claims this burdens Scott’s First Amendment rights by discouraging political speech.

McCollum does stand to receive nearly $2 million under a separate public financing provision that matches contributions of less than $250.

Tuesday’s ruling was based in large part on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2008 decision that struck down the federal “millionaire’s amendment,” which allowed candidates whose opponents exceeded a spending threshold to collect larger donations.

In an editorial today, The New York Times calls that decision “deeply unfair,” and goes on to argue:

Campaign finance systems may soon be left with only one tool to keep nonwealthy candidates competitive: matching small donations at high rates. That, of course, will keep such candidates desperately busy raising money, while their rich opponents saturate the airwaves with commercials explaining how passionately they understand the needs of the ordinary American.

The Supreme Court also intervened recently in the Arizona governor’s race to cut off that state’s public matching funds program for candidates outspent by wealthy opponents.

Here’s a copy of Tuesday’s decision:

2nd Circuit Ruling

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