Bribing members of Congress is generally considered a bad thing. This is why there was widespread support for the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act 2002, which contained a provision specifically designed to crack down on corruption. The law put a cap on the amount of money a member of Congress can raise from special interest donors to pay for personal debates that accrued while running for office.
But in a shocking 6-3 decision handed down on Monday in the case of Federal Election Commission vs. Ted Cruz for Senatethe United States Supreme Court removed the cap and ushered in a new era of voter corruption.
Promoted by Senators Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and John McCain (R-Arizona), the 2002 law set a $250,000 limit on loan repayments candidates could get from donors after they were elected. Unfortunately, the law did not prevent wealthy individuals from financing their own campaigns. But he said candidates could not take on large debts to fund their candidacies and then turn to big donors to replenish their personal funds.
It makes sense, right? Because a candidate who went into heavy debt to get elected might feel indebted to the billionaires and political action committees who, through their contributions, effectively eliminated that debt.
But sensible strategies for tackling elected official corruption have been under attack for decades by an increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court since 1976. Buckley vs. Valeo decision that overturned campaign spending limits. More recently, the 2010 United Citizens v. Federal Election Commission reversed restrictions on corporate spending to influence elections and 2014 elections McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decision removed limits on the number of campaigns a wealthy donor could fund. The latter of these decisions summed up the philosophy of the court’s conservative majority by stating that “proper emphasis is placed on an individual’s right to engage in political discourse, not on a collective conception of the public good. “.
What the Court has done now can and should be seen as the clearest example of how far it will go to overthrow democracy.
The ruling represents “another victory for right-wing donors in their assault on our campaign finance system, and another step toward unlimited special interest spending in our elections,” declared Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.).
It also rewards the kind of politician who should never approach a US Senate seat. Faiz Shakirthe former political director of the American Civil Liberties Union who led Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign for president, succinctly explained the scenario when he said:
SCOTUS decided today that if you want to run for office, do this:
1) find a really rich person to support you,
2) take out a giant loan to pay for the campaign
3) make that wealthy person pay you back later.
I wonder what kind of candidates this might generate
Meet Ted Cruz.
The scandal-ridden Republican senator from Texas, who is on a mission to overturn campaign and ethics laws, fabricated the latest case. In 2018, when he nearly lost his seat to Democrat Beto O’Rourke, Cruz loaned his re-election campaign $260,000 the day before the election. The campaign reimbursed him up to the $250,000 cap, but $10,000 was missing. So he sued to get it back.
Just like the United Citizens the case was handled by haters of corporate influence over politics to give a sympathetic conservative majority a chance to weigh in, the Cross case was a configuration. And it worked.
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., a driving force behind the United Citizens and McCutcheon decisions, wrote for the majority in the Cross decision that the provision of the 2002 law that placed limits on the repayment of campaign loans “burdens grassroots political discourse without proper justification”. As in the past, Roberts and the conservative justices who sided with him — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett — embraced the idea that the Constitution is primarily a rich man’s document. which “preserves a candidate’s ability to use personal funds to finance a campaign speech.”
Never mind that this decision, like so many others before it, favors applicants who have the ability to lend themselves more than $250,000. And never mind the obvious openings this creates for interested donors, who pool contributions and run political action committees, to buy influence from candidates who win elections and then declare themselves open for business.
Arguing that the Chief Justice and his allies have worked for many years to “destroy fundamental anti-corruption laws in our country,” Zephyr Teachout, a law professor and longtime anti-corruption activist, said Monday: “Roberts is still on its reckless course, untying the knot between the public and elected officials, legalizing corruption.
Judge Elena Kagan made much the same point in a scathing dissent that began:
A candidate for public office gives a $500,000 loan to his campaign organization, hoping to recoup the amount through post-election contributions from benefactors. Once elected, he devoted himself assiduously to recovering the money; his personal bank account, after all, now has a gaping half-million dollar hole. The politician is soliciting donations from wealthy individuals and corporate lobbyists, saying the money they donate will go directly from the campaign to him, in repayment of his loan. 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, so he will pay them. In the months and years to come, they will receive government perks – maybe favorable legislation, maybe prized appointments, maybe lucrative contracts. The politician is happy; donors are happy. The only loser is the public. It inevitably suffers from government corruption.
The latest tearing down of the anti-corruption safeguards in our politics and governance creates a new roadmap for how campaigns will be conducted. Over the past five election cycles, Senate candidates have granted 588 campaign loans, while House candidates have granted 3,444 campaign loans. You can bet those numbers will rise in 2020, and loans over $250,000 — historically only a small percentage of total loans — will increase dramatically, as candidates and their fundraising managers chart a new way. to fill campaign chests with special money.
Kagan’s dissent, in which she was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, explains where things are headed: “You don’t have to be a political genius to see the heightened risk of corruption – the danger of “I will make you richer and you” I will make the agreements between donors and office holders richer. »