The Supreme Court on Monday sided with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz over a federal law that limits the ability of campaigns to repay loans made by candidates.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a 6-3 majority, said a federal law restricting how the loans are paid back “burdens core political speech without proper justification.”
“The question is whether this restriction violates the First Amendment rights of candidates and their campaigns to engage in political speech,” Roberts wrote. He said there is “no doubt” that the law does burden First Amendment electoral speech.
“Any such law must be at least justified by a permissible interest,” he added, and the government had not been able to identify a single case of so-called “quid pro quo” corruption. Roberts concluded that the “provision burdens core political speech without proper justification.”
Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissenting opinion. She said was meant to combat “a special danger of corruption” aimed at “political contributions that will line a candidate’s own pockets.”
She went onto say; “the Court greenlights all the sordid bargains Congress thought right to stop… In allowing those payments to go forward unrestrained, today’s decision can only bring this country’s political system into further disrepute.”
“Repaying a candidate’s loan after he has won election cannot serve the usual purposes of a contribution: The money comes too late to aid in any of his campaign activities. All the money does is enrich the candidate personally at a time when he can return the favor — by a vote, a contract, an appointment. 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.”
In a statement after the ruling, attorney Charles Cooper, who represented Cruz in the case, praised the decision as a “victory for the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech in the political process.”
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