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Supreme Court Hands Cruz Victory Regarding Federal Campaign Law

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has secured a major victory from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The nation’s highest court ruled 6-3 on Monday that a law limiting how much money raised after an election a campaign can use to repay loans from the candidate was unconstitutional.

“Cruz had loaned his 2018 Senate campaign $260,000, but federal election law only allowed campaigns to repay a maximum of $250,000 from post-election funds, and even money raised preelection could only be used within 20 days of the election,” Fox News reported.

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“The law in question is the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, and it says that any amount above $250,000 that is unpaid shall be considered a campaign contribution. Cruz openly admitted that the express purpose of his loan was to challenge restrictions in the law,” Fox News added.

“This limit on the use of post-election funds increases the risk that candidate loans over $250,000 will not be repaid in full, inhibiting candidates from making such loans in the first place,” Chief Justice John Roberts observed in the court’s opinion.

“There is no doubt,” Roberts wrote, “that the law does burden First Amendment electoral speech, and any such law must at least be justified by a permissible interest.”

Roberts determined the government failed to show that it had “a legitimate objective” for its repayment limit.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Elena Kagan argued that eliminating this restriction increases the risk of corruption.

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“In discarding the statute, the Court fuels non-public-serving, self-interested governance. It injures the integrity, both actual and apparent, of the political process,” she wrote.

Back in January, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued that he thought Cruz’s case could pave the way for the entire law to be thrown out.

“This Court’s decisions over the past decade have rendered BCRA the Humpty Dumpty of campaign-finance law, a patchwork of provisions that Congress never would have approved standing alone and that can never be put back together again,” he said in his brief to the court.

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“There is no reason to let BCRA limp along, no need for further piecemeal surgery by this Court: the Court should strike the entire statute. This case presents the ideal opportunity to do so. If this Court holds the loan-repayment limit unconstitutional, the key provision that made BCRA politically viable (the ‘Millionaire’s Amendment’) will be completely scuttled,” he said.

“The absence of that amendment would have doomed BCRA at a roll call vote in 2002; it should certainly doom what is left of BCRA twenty years later. It is time to put BCRA out to pasture,” the leader said.

He argued that “Constitutional doubts have plagued BCRA since its inception. In turn, those doubts have required this Court again and again to adjudicate BCRA’s provisions. Although in McConnell the Court initially upheld much of BCRA on its face (though even then inflicting some flesh wounds to the law), Senator McConnell’s original critique has proven prescient. And the Court’s subsequent decisions have inflicted fatal blows to BCRA, resulting in a legislative regime that looks nothing like the one Congress passed.”

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Cruz argued Section 304 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act unconstitutionally infringes on the free speech rights of candidates because it does not allow federal candidates who made personal loans to their campaign before the election from paying themselves back with more than $250,000 in post-election contributions.

“Even a child knows the difference between lending a toy to a playmate and gifting the toy, and when the loaned toy is returned, the child knows that he has not received a gift and that his ‘personal assets’ have not increased,” the brief to the court from the senator said.

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