2018 was the year. Ariana Grande’s SweetenerThe chart’s top spot was occupied by. Avengers: Infinity War Records were broken. With Republicans holding the Senate, and Democrats poised for control of the House, the U.S. midterm election was in full swing. The day before Senator Ted Cruz was elected, he borrowed his campaign $260,000 from his own pockets.
The Texas Republican’s loan now sits at the center of a Supreme CourtThis could have a significant impact on the power of money in politics You will also find out how the candidates can recoup funds that they have spent on their races. Federal law dictates that if candidates loan money to their campaign, they can’t pay themselves back more than $250,000 using funds raised after Election Day—meaning funds from donors who know the outcome of the race. (Candidates can pay themselves back as much money as they’d like using funds raised before the election, as long as they do so within 20 days after the election.)
Cruz’s campaign paid him back $250,000, but he didn’t get that last $10,000. The Federal Election Commission was sued by him and his campaign, alleging that the FEC’s loan repayment cap disincentivizes candidates from lending money to campaigns and restricts political speech. This is a violation of the First Amendment. The U.S. Solicitor General argues that the cap is meant to prevent quid pro quo corruption, and that post-election donations that reimburse candidates are inherently more corrupting than other donations because they go directly into a candidate’s pocket. In June 2021, a district court agreed with Cruz. On Jan. 19, the Supreme Court will hear the case and decide if the cap is legal.
It’s unclear if Cruz will get his $10,000 back even if he wins the case. However, the lawsuit could impact more than just the Texas Senator. Progressive advocates argue that if the law is overturned, deep-pocketed donors could buy favor with elected officials by paying the candidates back for large personal campaign loans after they’re assured of the candidate’s victory. Cruz is not.&rYou can find it herequo;s Allies contend that the law financially restricts speech, prevents candidates supporting themselves from running for office and favors rich candidates who have the money to spend it without having it repaid.
Donald Trump’s winning 2016 presidential campaign cost him millions. Senate and House candidates spent record amounts of money on 2018 campaigns. CNN. As more of America’s one percent seem poised to run for office—and spend big on their campaigns in the process—the future of the loan repayment ceiling could determine how much money they can take from people who might be hoping to curry favor with the newly elected officials.
A Cruz spokesperson tells TIME that the Senator is “confident that the Supreme Court will agree with the unanimous decision made by the three-judge District Court that this law is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech that serves merely to benefit incumbent politicians and the super wealthy.” FEC did not provide comment about pending litigation. Similarly, U.S. Department of Justice(DOJ) instructed TIME to review its case filings when it was asked for comments.
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Cruz admitted that his real goal wasn’t $10,000. He stated in court documents that he made the loan to be able to bring the case and change the law he claims is unconstitutional. Before the district court, Cruz’s team stipulated that the “sole and exclusive motivation” behind Cruz’s actions in making the loan was to “establish a factual basis for this challenge.” The FEC says that confession should disqualify him, arguing the case represents a “self-inflicted” injury that the Court shouldn’t remedy.
Like many other cases involving campaign finance, this suit may have more implications than just the outcome of the challenged law. Supreme Court has long held that campaign finance regulation generally doesn’t violate the First Amendment as long as it prevents quid pro quo corruption or the appearance of corruption. It is still a hotly debated issue as to which of these two categories falls. If the high court’s 6-3 conservative supermajority chooses to opine on the definition of corruption or the appearance of corruption in its ruling, or How the Court should decide these questionsThis could impact all aspects of campaign finance regulation.
Miriam Becker-Cohen, appellate counsel at the progressive Constitutional Accountability Center, which filed a brief in support of the FEC, argues that giving money to a candidate after they’ve won so they can reimburse themselves “plainly gives rise to the appearance of quid pro quo corruption.” Tara Malloy, the senior director of appellate litigation and strategy at the Campaign Legal Center, which also filed a brief in support of the FEC, worries that institutional political players, including political operatives, lobbyists, and the heads of PACs, would benefit if the ceiling is struck down because “they know how valuable these post-election contributions can be.” “We know that winning candidates are much more successful raising money post-election,” she says.
Other parties disagree with the assertion that post-election donations are more corruptive than pre-election donation. FEC draws “analogy between repaying a loan and giving a politician a gift,” says Don Daugherty, a senior litigator at the Institute for Free Speech, which advocates against restricting political speech and filed a brief in support of Cruz. “But it’s not the same.”
Cruz and his supporters say that the cap is not corrupting elections. They argue that it would open up the political process to a wider range of candidates. Daugherty states that self-financing campaigns is common in challengers without the same name recognition and network of donors as incumbents. Therefore, the $250,000 loan repayment limit not only restricts political speech but discourages others from participating in campaigns.
“We think political activity and political speech is protected by the First Amendment, and in a democracy is inherently a good thing,” he says. “And if you’re going to restrict it, you better have a doggone good reason for doing so.”