US Supreme Court upholds Ted Cruz, gets rid of campaign finance restrictions

WASHINGTON, May 16 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday undermined campaign finance restrictions and struck down as a free speech violation part of a 2002 bipartisan law challenged by Republican Senator Ted Cruz, which federal officials called an anticorruption precaution. .

The justices, in ruling 6-3, found that a maximum amount of $250,000 in funds that political candidates could be compensated after an election for personal loans for their own campaigns conflict with the United States Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of free speech by unjustifiably burdening political expression.

In the ruling by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court’s conservative justices were in the majority and the liberal justices in opposition. Roberts wrote that the law in question “overburdens basic political discourse without proper justification.”

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It was the latest in a series of rulings in which the conservative-majority court has overturned campaign finance restrictions, citing free speech concerns.

Roberts wrote that the government failed to show that the measure “enhances a permissible anti-corruption objective, rather than the impermissible objective of limiting the amount of money in politics.”

In a scathing dissenting opinion, liberal Justice Elena Kagan said the court is effectively aiding and abetting corruption in Washington by allowing donors to contribute to a campaign after the election in a way that personally benefits the candidate.

“By repealing the law today, the Court is giving the green light to all the vile bargains that Congress thought right to stop,” Kagan wrote.

Kagan added that politicians would know that such payments would go directly to them via the campaign, and that donors hoped to get something in return.

“The politician is happy and the donors are happy. The only loser is the public. It inevitably suffers from government corruption,” Kagan said.

Cruz, who was first elected to represent Texas in the Senate in 2012, sued the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the agency that enforces election laws, after winning re-election in 2018 against Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. Cruz had loaned his campaign organization $260,000, but was limited by law to $250,000 in campaign compensation.

A spokesperson for Cruz called the ruling “a resounding victory for the First Amendment.” An FEC spokesperson declined to comment.

Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group that supports campaign finance laws, expressed disappointment with the ruling.

“Allowing candidates to solicit unlimited contributions after the election to pay off their personal campaign loans and put donor money into their own pockets gives a clear and unfortunate opportunity for private interests to buy official services and manipulate the political system in their favour,” Potter said. .

The administration of Democratic President Joe Biden, on behalf of the Federal Election Commission, has appealed a 2021 ruling by a Washington-based three-judge panel to overturn the ruling unanimously on the grounds of free speech.

The ruling at hand was part of a major campaign finance law that has already been undermined by the Supreme Court including in a 2010 ruling that allowed unlimited independent spending by businesses and unions during elections as a constitutionally protected freedom of expression.

The Supreme Court struck down various provisions of the Partisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which is often called the McCain-Fingold Act in honor of the two main Senate sponsors, John McCain and Ross Feingold.

By finding that the cap was not justified to deter corruption, Roberts backed Cruz’s arguments, saying that limits already exist on the amount of money individuals can donate during the election cycle, which currently has a cap of $2,900. Roberts added that the status quo could benefit incumbents at the expense of competitors because new candidates often have to lend money to their campaigns and can find it more difficult to attract donations.

“This historic decision will help revitalize our democratic process by making it easier for competitors to confront and defeat professional politicians,” a Cruz spokesman said.

Cruz unsuccessfully sought his party’s 2016 presidential nomination, and later became a prominent supporter of former President Donald Trump.

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(Lawrence Hurley Reporting) Editing by Will Dunham

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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