Ted Cruz: ‘I’ll Take Free Speech for $10,000’
The Supreme Court ruled in the Texas senator’s favor regarding campaign finance restrictions.
Money in politics is tantamount to speech, and, if anything, the Founders crafted the First Amendment most specifically to protect political speech. That’s why the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (a.k.a. McCain-Feingold) was such an egregious and unconstitutional law. Fortunately, Monday’s 6-3 Supreme Court ruling struck another blow to that law.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) brought the suit against the Federal Election Commission, taking aim at the law’s restriction on post-election campaign financing. National Review explains:
The case, FEC v. Cruz, was brought by Cruz after he attempted to repay his campaign’s considerable debt with political contributions raised in his name. Cruz, whose wife Heidi was a banker with Goldman Sachs, had lent $260,000 of his personal money to his campaign. Section 304 of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 limited the use of contributions in excess of $250,000 to repay debt 20 days after an election, which left Cruz $10,000 due.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, concluding that the law’s financial limit “abridges [the] First Amendment rights” of candidates. “Debt is a ubiquitous tool for financing electoral campaigns, especially for new candidates and challengers,” Roberts explained. “By inhibiting a candidate from using this critical source of campaign funding, Section 304 raises a barrier to entry — thus abridging political speech.”
Though Cruz the incumbent prevailed, Roberts’s explanation is one reason why the law is often called the Incumbent Protection Act. This provision, among many others, creates a barrier to success for challengers.
Roberts also noted that a strange phenomenon has begun to occur now that dollars are worth far less than in 2002: “The percentage of loans by Senate candidates for exactly $250,000 has increased tenfold.” Why, it’s almost as if an arbitrary threshold set 20 years ago was never a good idea.
Justice Elena Kagan frets that a candidate’s increased personal interest in loan repayment could bring about more political favors. “Political contributions that will line a candidate’s own pockets, given after his election to office, pose a special danger of corruption,” she wrote. But Roberts countered that the government “is unable to identify a single case of quid pro quo corruption in this context.”
Joe Biden’s administration argued against Cruz that “these contributions carry a heightened risk of at least the appearance of corruption.”
Paging Joe and Hunter Biden, please.
The younger Biden was hauling in all sorts of cash while his dad, “the Big Guy,” was vice president, and it wasn’t because crack-addict Hunter was an expert in Ukrainian energy or Chinese business. We can only wonder what Justice Kagan might think of that political cash, which far outstripped the $10,000 Cruz was still owed.
As Roberts put it, the First Amendment “has its fullest and most urgent application precisely to the conduct of campaigns for political office.” Democrats prefer the exact opposite — silencing or defunding political speech while then using political office to enrich themselves and their families.
- Elena Kagan
- John Roberts
- First Amendment
- free speech
- campaign finance
- Supreme Court
- Ted Cruz
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