Today, the conservative majority of United States Supreme Court struck down a law that prevents potential corruption from arising when politicians make large personal loans to their own campaigns only to repay them with donations received after Election Day. Candidates will now be able to take out millions of dollars in personal loans for their campaigns that can be repaid after the election by special interest donors who are effectively depositing money into a politicians’ personal bank accounts. Common Cause filed an amicus brief in Federal Election Commission (FEC) v. Ted Cruz for Senate with the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and Democracy 21.
The federal law, part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, limited candidates from using more than $250,000 in contributions raised after the date of an election to repay outstanding personal loans candidates make to their campaigns. In 2018, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-T.X.) put $260,000 of his own money into his reelection and sued the FEC the following year, complaining that this law prevented him from paying off the last $10,000 with post-election contributions. Last June, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sided with Sen. Cruz, striking down the limit on the amount candidates can raise post-election to repay personal loans to their campaigns.
Statement of Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn
Today’s ruling is the latest blow struck by the Roberts Court against common sense campaign finance laws designed to curb corruption and potential corruption by our federal officials. The U.S. Supreme Court with its current majority has showed its hostility to effective (and popular) laws enacted to fight political corruption and ensure our elected officials are more responsive to the public, not just the wealthy few. This is the same Court that has severely weakened voting rights laws like the Voting Rights Act, including the Shelby County decision nine years ago and the Brnovich decision just last summer.
With today’s new ruling, donors will now be able to deposit more money into the personal bank accounts of politicians after Election Day. As Justice Kagan wrote in her dissent this morning, “it takes no political genius to see the heightened risk of corruption—the danger of ‘I’ll make you richer and you’ll make me richer’ arrangements between donors and officeholders.”
Today’s decision creates a shell game that will only serve to further undermine public faith in their elected officials. These loans could run into the millions of dollars and voters will now not know who bankrolled a candidate’s campaign until after the election.
To read the amicus brief filed by Common Cause, the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and Democracy 21, click here.