U.S. Supreme Court backs Ted Cruz, dumps campaign finance curb
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[May 17, 2022] By
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme
Court on Monday further undermined campaign finance restrictions,
striking down as a free speech violation part of a bipartisan 2002 law
challenged by Republican Senator Ted Cruz that federal officials had
touted as an anti-corruption safeguard.
The justices, in a 6-3 ruling, found that a $250,000 cap on the amount
of money political candidates can be reimbursed after an election for
personal loans to their own campaigns ran afoul of the U.S.
Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech by
unjustifiably burdening political expression.
In the ruling authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court's
conservative justices were in the majority and liberal justices in
dissent. Roberts wrote that the law in question "burdens core political
speech without proper justification."
It was the latest in a series of rulings in which the
conservative-majority court has rolled back campaign finance
restrictions, citing free speech concerns.
Roberts wrote that the government had failed to show that the measure
"furthers a permissible anti-corruption goal, rather than the
impermissible objective of simply limiting the amount of money in
In a blistering dissenting opinion, liberal Justice Elena Kagan said the
court was effectively aiding and abetting corruption in Washington by
allowing donors to contribute to a campaign after an election in a way
that benefits the candidate personally.
"In striking down the law today, the court greenlights all the sordid
bargains Congress thought right to stop," Kagan wrote.
Politicians will know that such payments will go directly to them via
the campaign, Kagan added, and the donors will hope for something in
"The politician is happy; the donors are happy. The only loser is the
public. It inevitably suffers from government corruption," Kagan said.
Cruz, first elected to represent Texas in the Senate in 2012, sued the
Federal Election Commission (FEC), the agency that enforces election
laws, after his successful 2018 re-election race against Democratic
rival Beto O'Rourke. Cruz had lent his campaign organization $260,000
but was limited by the law to a $250,000 reimbursement from his
A Cruz spokesperson called the ruling a "resounding victory for the
First Amendment." An FEC spokesperson declined to comment.
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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a hearing of the Senate Foreign
Relations to examine U.S.-Russia policy on Capitol Hill, Washington,
U.S. December 7, 2021. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS
Trevor Potter, president of Campaign Legal Center, a
nonpartisan group that supports campaign finance laws, expressed
disappointment at the ruling.
"Permitting candidates to solicit unlimited post-election
contributions to repay their personal campaign loans and put the
donor money in their own pockets gives an obvious and lamentable
opening for special interests to purchase official favors and rig
the political system in their favor," Potter said.
Democratic President Joe Biden's administration,
acting on behalf of the FEC, had appealed a Washington-based
three-judge panel's 2021 ruling unanimously striking down the
provision on free speech grounds.
The provision at issue was part of a major campaign finance law that
already has been chipped away at by the Supreme Court including in a
landmark 2010 ruling that allowed unlimited independent spending by
corporations and unions during elections as constitutionally
protected free speech.
The Supreme Court has struck down various provisions of the 2002
Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, often called the McCain-Feingold law
in recognition of its main Senate sponsors, John McCain and Russ
In finding that the limit was not justified to deter corruption,
Roberts endorsed the arguments made by Cruz, saying that
restrictions already exist on how much money individuals can donate
during an election cycle, currently capped at $2,900. Roberts added
that the status quo likely benefited incumbents over challengers
because new candidates often have to loan money to their campaigns
and can find it more difficult to attract donations.
"This landmark decision will help invigorate our democratic process
by making it easier for challengers to take on and defeat career
politicians," Cruz's spokesperson said.
Cruz unsuccessfully sought his party's 2016 presidential nomination,
later becoming a prominent supporter of former President Donald
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)
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