Supreme Court Hands Ted Cruz A Massive Legal Victory

( In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court this week invalidated a provision of federal campaign finance law that limits the amount of money a candidate can be repaid for personal loans made to his campaign

In Federal Election Commission v. Cruz, Texas Senator Ted Cruz challenged Section 304 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (AKA the McCain/Feingold Act) and the Federal Elections Commission’s (FEC) implementation of the statute which limits the dollar amount from campaign donations a candidate can use to pay back loans to $250,000.

During his 2018 reelection campaign for the Senate, Cruz had loaned his campaign committee $260,000 or $10,000 more than Section 304 permits him to be repaid using post-election donations. In short, Cruz loaned $260,000, but could only recoup $250,000, leaving him with a $10,000 loss.

The FEC argued that the $10,000 loss is “fairly traceable” only to the FEC regulation and not to the enabling statute, therefore Cruz and his campaign lacked Article III standing to challenge Section 304. The commission claimed that Cruz’s situation was “self-inflicted” because he chose to exceed the $250,000 cap.

But the Supreme Court rejected the FEC’s argument.

In his majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the Court has “never recognized a rule of this kind under Article III.” Instead, the Court makes it clear “that an injury resulting from the application or threatened application of an unlawful enactment remains fairly traceable to such application, even if the injury could be described in some sense as willingly incurred.”

Roberts wrote that the FEC failed to show that Section 304 “furthers a permissible anticorruption goal rather than the impermissible” goal of “simply limiting the amount of money in politics.”

Roberts wrote that while such proposals may have good intentions, the First Amendment “prohibits such attempts to tamper with the ‘right of citizens to choose who shall govern them.’”

The Court clarified that Section 304 “abridges First Amendment rights” and “burdens political speech.” The Court also protected a plaintiff’s ability to challenge unlawful actions by the federal government.

In the dissent, written by Justice Elena Kagan, the three opposing Justices (Kagan, Breyer, and Sotomayor) argued that allowing candidates to use post-election donations to pay back loans to campaigns heightens the “risk of corruption” opening the door for candidates to offer an “I’ll make you richer and you’ll make me richer” arrangement with donors.