The majority of the Supreme Court’s conservatives have been fighting the laws governing
campaign finance over the past a number of times, going up to its ruling in Citizens United v.
FEC (2010). On Monday the Supreme Court’s six Republican appointees intensified the conflict.
The Supreme Court’s verdict on FEC v. Ted Cruz for Senate is a blessing for wealthy
candidates. It shatters an anti-bribery law that restricted the amount that candidates could solicit
after an election to pay back loans they had made to their own campaigns.
Federal law allows candidates to lend money to their campaigns. In 2001, however, Congress
prevented candidates from paying more than $250,000 in the loans by using the funds they
received after the election. They are able to pay back the amount they wish from donations
made prior to the election (although the federal law required them to repay “within 20 days of
The idea is that when elected officials already have the ability to solicit donations in order to
repay what amounts to their personal debts, lobbyists and other people who want to influence
legislators can pour cash directly into a politician’s pocket. Campaign contributions that benefit a
personal lawmaker are most likely to be the cause of fraudulent bargains. Senator. Ted Cruz
(R-TX) made a legal case in an attempt to change the $250,000 threshold, but today the Court
has agreed with the senator.
Actually, now that this restriction on loan repayments has been lowered, legislators with
competent accountants might be able to utilize these loans to generate an income stream that is
steady from campaign contributors.
As reported by The Los Angeles Times, for instance, Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) was able to
secure a loan of $150,000 for her political campaign with an interest rate of 18 percent in 1998,
prior to the law of 2001 is adopted. While Napolitano was able to reduce the rate of interest on
the loan, it was this high-interest loan that enabled her to earn an impressive profit from
In 2009. Napolitano reported that she raised $221,780 to pay back the loan which included
$158,000 which was categorized in the form of “interest.” Because the 6-3 decision of Ted Cruz
neutralizes the law of 2001 and allows lawmakers to apply a similar strategy to channel legal
payments to their personal accounts at banks.
Others lawmakers may not be as bold in attempting to fill up their pockets. But they might be
inclined to give back to donors who aid in recouping the costs of a personal loan. According to
Justice Elena Kagan writes in the dissent, a candidate who gets money directly into their pocket
could have “more grateful than for ordinary campaign contributions (which do not increase his
The case is based on past election finance decisions and expands on the
The gist of Chief Justice Roberts’s major opinion on behalf of Ted Cruz is that protecting the
rights of candidates to spread their message for the election – and to spend as much money as
they would like to communicate their message is extremely important, to the point that it
outweighs the interest of society in preventing corruption, or in making certain that the elections
aren’t heavily influenced by wealthy. According to Roberts states, “the First Amendment ‘has its
fullest and most urgent application precisely to the conduct of campaigns for political office.'”
To be precise, candidates could spend whatever they wanted to influence their vote under the
law that was later revealed they could lend their campaigns whatever amount they liked, and
make use of donations to repay the whole amount in the event that they received their
donations prior to the election and paid back their personal loans within 20 days.
However, that wasn’t enough to satisfy the Court’s current conservative majority.
Roberts’ Ted Cruz opinion fully accepts the value system that was implicit in the past rulings,
such as Citizens United, which permitted corporations to spend unlimitable amounts of cash to
influence the outcome of elections, so they didn’t give directly to candidates
The First Amendment, Roberts writes, “safeguards the ability of a candidate to use personal
funds to finance campaign speech,” which “reflects our profound national commitment to the
principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.”
Of course, this “profound national commitment” only encourages an unhindered, vigorous, and
free-flowing debate by a select group of people. It’s a given that the majority of Americans can’t
afford to invest the sum of $250,000 or more for any political campaign even if they anticipate
the money to be paid back at some time in the near future.
However, Roberts dismisses any concern about whether the policy announced by Ted Cruz
unfairly favors wealthy people who wish to be elected. In quoting the case of the Court
regarding Davis v. FEC (2008), Roberts writes that “level[ing] electoral opportunities for
candidates of different personal wealth” is an “impermissible goal.”
In the same way, Roberts’s decision places an enormous amount of importance on the
distinction between various types of corruption which also played a major part in Citizens
United. The Court’s decisions appear to allow Congress to regulate “quid pro quo” corruption
(that is, an explicit agreement in which lawmakers agree to vote or perform an official action in
exchange for a donation to a campaign the Court’s decisions such as Citizens United do not
allow laws on campaign finance that attempt to block donors from purchasing access to
Similar to Citizens United, Roberts’ Ted Cruz opinion describes this kind of influence-seeking as
a positive good. “Influence and access ’embody a central feature of democracy,'” Roberts writes,
“that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who
are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns.”
In terms of this Ted’s Cruz Opinion suggests that it’s good for democracy when the Texas oil
executive can issue cheques to those who be looking out for the interests of the oil industry.
Furthermore, if the candidate acknowledges this executive’s efforts by attending to him and
hearing the specific concerns of his boss, it’s a “central feature of democracy” in itself.
But, even though the ruling in the case of Ted Cruz won’t surprise anyone who is familiar with
their conservative justices’ prior remarks on campaign finance laws but it’s an upswing from
previous decisions. In the dissent, Justice Kagan writes in dissent in the dissent, previous Court
rulings made a distinction between the laws “restricting expenditures” and those “restricting
This means that the government’s authority to limit the activities that campaigns can conduct
with the money they’ve legally raised is somewhat limited. However it is, as the Court has ruled
it did in Buckley V. Valeo (1976), “a limitation upon the amount that any one person or group
may contribute to a candidate or political committee entails only a marginal restriction upon the
contributor’s ability to engage in free communication.”
This is the reason such as the Court has ignored an act of the federal government that limits the
amount that a person can contribute to a specific federal cause to $2,900.
However, the ruling of Ted Cruz strikes down a limitation on how much money campaigns could
raise from donors, but it does not limit the ways in which campaigns can spend their funds. Prior
to Ted Cruz, campaigns could only raise $250,000 for post-election funds to pay back loans
from candidates. Now, they can raise the amount they like.
It’s a major shift in the court’s approach toward campaign finance. Although decisions such as
Citizens United permit unlimited contributions to political groups which aren’t associated with a
political party (like the super PAC The Court has always recognized that direct donations to a
person’s candidate or campaign are distinct as they tend to result in corruption behavior.
Based on the theories formulated by cases such as Citizens United, the lawmaker is more likely
not to get corrupted through an enormous contribution towards one of the “independent”
organizations that support their reelection in contrast to being affected by a similar contribution
to their campaign insofar as the activities of the independent organization is “not coordinated”
with the candidate.
In fairness, Roberts’s decision does contain a few words that suggest it is likely that the Court
will keep the $2,900 limit on individual contributions to campaigns unaffected. In fact, Roberts
argues that the protections against bribery provided by the limit on loan repayments are not
necessary since lobbyists and other contributors can only make donations of the maximum
amount of $2,900 per election period to elected officials -regardless of whether the money goes
directly into the pocket of the official.
It seems like brides aren’t an issue, as in the case that it’s not more than $2,000 (and in the
event that the payment isn’t to a super PAC or another organization that is not actually
independent of that candidate.)
In any case, the Court’s election financial decisions have been an ever-growing trend towards
the elimination of regulations. There’s no way to guarantee that any efforts to ensure that
elections are less corrupt can be deemed safe.