OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion
In 2018, Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, 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 before an election could only be used within 20 days of the election.
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 reported.
Cruz, first elected to represent Texas in the Senate in 2012, sued the Federal Election Commission (FEC) after his successful 2018 re-election race for the Senate seat.
The Supreme Court has been on a roll lately, finding for citizens’ rights pertaining to the First Amendment, and Cruz’s case proved no exception.
Cruz scored a Supreme Court victory on Monday, with a 6-3 ruling that a law limiting how much money raised after an election a campaign can use to repay loans from the candidate was unconstitutional, Fox News reported.
“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. Roberts noted that at the time, that had been the most expensive Senate race ever.
*The SCOTUS ruled that the law is in conflict with the First Amendment right to free electoral speech.
“[T]here 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,” Fox News reported.
Ultimately, Roberts determined that the government failed to show that it had “a legitimate objective” for its repayment limit.
“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,” Roberts observed in the opinion.
Fox News reached out to Cruz’s office for comment but they did not immediately respond.
Roberts wrote that the government had failed to show that the measure,” furthers a permissible anti-corruption goal, rather than the impermissible objective of simply limiting the amount of money in politics,” Reuters reported.
A Cruz spokesperson called the ruling a “resounding victory for the First Amendment.”
An FEC spokesperson declined to comment, Reuters reported.
NBC News reported that the Supreme Court found against the 2002 law was a violation of political candidates’ free expression, applying long-standing rulings that said that because money buys the ability to spread political messages, limits on expenditures implicate the First Amendment.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayer, and Elana Kagan dissented.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Elena Kagan argued that eliminating this restriction increases the risk of corruption, Fox News reported. .
“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.
The Justice Department had urged the court to throw the case out because Cruz intentionally triggered a violation of the law, NBC News reported.
When the case was argued, government lawyer Malcolm Stewart said he couldn’t sue McDonald’s after hearing it serves very hot coffee and intentionally poured it in his lap to injure himself.
The Supreme Court rejected that view, saying,” the appellees’ injuries are directly inflicted by the FEC’s threatened enforcement of the provisions they now challenge.”
“That appellees chose to subject themselves to those provisions does not change the fact that they are subject to them, and will face genuine legal penalties if they do not comply,’ the SCOTUS said.
This is the latest in a series of rulings in which the conservative majority court has rolled back campaign finance restrictions, citing free speech concerns, Reuters reported.
On May 2, The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the city of Boston violated a Christian group’s freedom of speech.
A 9-0 decision overturned a lower court ruling in a case concerning Boston’s flag-raising program that granted requests from private groups to fly a flag outside Boston’s City Hall, US News, and World Report stated.
The New York Times reported that in a case of censure of a politician, the unanimous court found that a verbal reprimand is itself a form of free speech.
In the highly publicized ” wedding cake” case, 303 Creative LLC vs. Elenis, the Supreme Court made it clear that they would be considering only the free speech issues presented in the case.
NBC reported in January that Justice Stephen Breyer will be stepping down at the end of his term after 27 years, which will allow President Biden to appoint another liberal justice to take his place.
Breyer, 83, is the court’s oldest justice and Democrats are reportedly favoring his retirement while Biden is in office, rather than an unexpected replacement takes place, as in the case of Justice Ginsburg, if A Republican president takes office.