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Supreme Court hears Ted Cruz challenge campaign donation law


Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to reporters outside the Capitol building in Washington after the roll call vote in the Senate, U.S. April 19, 2021.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

The Supreme Court on Wednesday will enter a new campaign finance debate hearing of a challenge brought by Senator Ted Cruz to legislation that limits the amount that can be refunded to candidates. members lend large sums of money to their own campaigns.

The case may illustrate how the current court, with a 6-3 conservative majority, weighs the government’s effort to limit potential political corruption when its remedies conflict with its claims. statement on freedom of speech.

The dispute revolves around a portion of the 20-year-old bipartisan Campaign Reform Act that barred a campaign from using more than $250,000 in post-election funds to repay candidate loans to campaign finance. their.

Cruz, a Republican in Texas, loaned $260,000 for his successful 2018 campaign against Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.

After the election – the most expensive Senate race in US history at the time – Cruz’s campaign had more than $2 million in cash, but deliberately failed to reimburse Cruz. the full amount borrowed within 20 days. As a result, Cruz’s $10,000 loan exceeded the one-quarter million dollar repayment limit thus being redeployed as a donation to his campaign.

Cruz has argued that the provision violates the First Amendment’s right to protect free speech. A federal district court sided with Cruz, ruling that the law discourages “personal sponsorship of campaign speech.” The senator wants the Supreme Court to confirm the lower court’s decision.

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The Federal Election Commission appealed, Arguing before the Supreme Court that the post-election limit on loan repayments “places at least a modest burden on First Amendment rights.” The FEC also argued that Cruz did not show he was qualified to challenge the law because “the wound was self-inflicted.”

The agency considers this limit necessary to avoid the emergence of political corruption that could erode trust in the government. That goal is “in the best interest of the order,” the FEC said.

“The use of post-election donations to pay off personal loans creates a high risk of actual and apparent corruption,” the agency argued, because “the payments a personal loan after an election will effectively go into the candidate’s pocket.”

It also notes that “a donor contributing money before an election does not yet know whether the recipient of the donation will prevail, but a donor contributing after an election does.”

The court is likely to issue a ruling in the case by the end of June or earlier.

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