SCOTUS decision for Ted Cruz will end tighter RI campaign loan limits

A United States Supreme Court decision in favor of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas could benefit Rhode Island political candidates who lend large sums of money to their campaigns.

In a 6-3 decision, the High Court said Cruz, a Republican, can repay personal loans he made to his campaign with political donations that exceed the federal repayment limit of $250,000.

The $250,000 limit on personal loan repayments, part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, is the latest campaign finance law the court struck down as an unreasonable invasion of speech Politics.

And in addition to the impact it will have on the federal election, the ruling will mean the end of an even tighter limit on campaign loan repayments in Rhode Island’s elections.

State law allows candidates to use up to $200,000 in donor cash to reimburse themselves each election cycle. Unlike the federal limit, which only applies to donations collected after each election, the Rhode Island limit applies to contributions made before and after the vote.

John Marion Jr., executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, said the “extreme view” allowing unlimited loan repayments to office holders “is a recipe for corruption.”

“The purpose of the limit struck down by the Supreme Court, which will also strike down portions of a Rhode Island law, is to prevent campaign donors from bribing elected officials by using donations to please themselves,” Marion wrote. in an email.

“When a donor gives money to a campaign, it is usually used to pay for legitimate campaign expenses, such as advertising. When a donor gives money to pay off a debt, it increases personal wealth of the nominee who may very well be a tenured office, as loans over the $1,000 contribution limit in Rhode Island must come from the nominee’s personal wealth.”

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How the judges voted

The court was divided along ideological lines, with the six conservative justices voting for Cruz and the three liberal justices dissenting.

“The politician is soliciting donations from wealthy individuals and corporate lobbyists, stating that the money they donate will go directly from the campaign to him, in repayment of his loan,” Judge Elena Kagan wrote in the statement. dissent from a hypothetical campaign without the post-election reimbursement limit. “He is deeply grateful to those who help him, because they know he will be – more grateful than for ordinary campaign contributions (which do not increase his personal wealth). And as they paid him, he will pay them.”

But in his opinion for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “we here meet the assertion of an anti-corruption interest with a measure of skepticism.”

The government “is unable to identify a single case of quid pro quo corruption in this context – even though most states do not impose limits on the use of post-election contributions to repay government loans. candidates”.

Rhode Island U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who for years has spoken out against the Supreme Court’s overturning of campaign finance laws, called the Cruz decision “another victory for right-wing donors in their assault on our campaign finance system.

White House

“The biggest Republican donor booster, Mitch McConnell, revealed the game in his brief in this case,” Whitehouse said in a press release. “He didn’t claim it was limited to campaign loan repayments; he called for completely gutting our campaign finance system.”

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In this year’s race for governor of Rhode Island, two candidates, Democrat Helena Buonanno Foulkes and Republican Ashley Kalus, have each loaned $500,000 to their campaigns. Since 2002, Democrat Matt Brown has loaned $552,883 to his campaigns and had $174,900 repaid.

Treasurer General Seth Magaziner, currently a candidate for Congress, has loaned $801,500 to his state campaigns since 2013 and has been repaid $100,000.

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