Watchdog groups are concerned about another rollback of campaign finance regulations after the Supreme Court next month hears arguments in Sen. Ted Cruz’s challenge to a law that places a $250,000 limit on the repayment of personal loans to campaigns using money from postelection donations, The Texas Tribune reported on Wednesday.
Congress passed the law in 2002 to help prevent the appearance of quid pro quo corruption.
But lawyers for Cruz, R-Texas, are expected to argue before the Supreme Court that the law is unconstitutional because it arbitrarily limits political speech and deters candidates from loaning money to their own campaigns.
“The federal government’s restrictions on a candidate’s ability to loan his own money to his own campaign violate the First Amendment,” a Cruz spokesperson told The Texas Tribune. “Sen. Cruz seeks to vindicate his rights under the First Amendment and the rights of all those who would seek election to federal office.”
But Seth Nesin, the FEC’s former lead attorney on the case who left the agency over the summer after 13 years, argued that “the money they contribute is literally going into Ted Cruz’s bank account. That’s what really makes it seem, to at least me and some other people, quite sketchy.”
Cruz’s legal battle is a new chapter in a long-running attempt by conservatives to do away with federal campaign finance rules they say violate free speech.
In 2010, the Supreme Court effectively permitted unions and corporations to spend as much as they like on independent political broadcasts in candidate elections in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, according to the Tribune.
Four years later the Supreme Court ruled that the government is also not allowed to cap the amount of money people donate to federal candidates in the aggregate every two years in the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decision.
Watchdog groups warn that Cruz’s lawsuit brings this trend a step further, because the money raised after the election would replenish the personal funds of politicians, not their campaigns.
“It’s just common sense that when an election is over, a contributor is not giving money to fund election speech anymore,” Tara Malloy, senior director for appellate litigation and strategy at the Campaign Legal Center, told the Tribune. “At most, they are trying to associate themselves to the candidate. That money that’s being raised will directly enrich the candidate in a way that almost no other campaign contribution will.”