Supreme Court rules for Ted Cruz in campaign finance case

The Chief Justice wrote that loans played a special role for candidates challenging incumbents.

“In practice, personal loans will sometimes be the only avenue for an unknown challenger with limited ties to initial campaign expenses,” he wrote. “And early spending – and therefore early expression – is critical to a newcomer’s success. A large personal loan can also be a useful tool to signal that the political underdog is confident enough in their campaign to have their skin in the game, catching the attention of donors and voters.

Chief Justice Roberts added that the usual $2,900 cap on contributions continued to apply under the law, meaning 86 donations are allowed before the $250,000 limit is reached, undermining the argument that the law fights corruption.

He said there was no evidence that the law gave rise to corruption, as candidates whose loans are repaid are simply cured. “If the candidate didn’t have the money to buy a car before giving their campaign a loan,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “paying back the loan wouldn’t change that.”

This argument, Judge Kagan wrote in his dissent, “completely misses the point.”

“Whatever amount of money the candidate had before taking out a campaign loan,” she wrote, “there is less afterwards: the amount of the loan is the size of the hole in their bank account. . So anything he could buy with, say, $250,000 – probably a car, but that’s beside the point – he can’t buy anymore. Until the donors pay it back.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett joined the majority opinion, and Justice Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined in dissent.

The case, Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for the Senate, No. 21-12, stems from a lawsuit Mr. Cruz filed against the commission in a three-judge special district court in Washington, arguing that the reimbursement cap violated the First Amendment.

Judge Neomi Rao, who ordinarily sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, wrote for a unanimous panel that the cap amounted to an unconstitutional burden on the free speech rights of candidates.

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