May 16, 2022 – Trevor Potter, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and president of Campaign Legal Center, issued the following statement:
Today’s decision from the Supreme Court of the United States in FEC v. Ted Cruz for Senate is a disappointing one. American campaign finance laws are designed to limit political giving that overly indebts officeholders to donors and results in political favors. Permitting candidates to solicit unlimited post-election contributions to repay their personal campaign loans and put the donor money in their own pockets gives an obvious and lamentable opening for special interests to purchase official favors and rig the political system in their favor.
At stake in this case was a provision in the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) that set a modest $250,000 limit on post-election fundraising to retire candidate loans and had largely operated without controversy since its adoption as part of the McCain-Feingold Act in 2002. Campaign Legal Center, joined by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause and Democracy 21, had filed an amicus brief in this case, defending the law.
In holding the limit unconstitutional, the Court’s majority dismissed widely shared and self-evident concerns regarding the corruptive potential of post-election candidate loan repayments – which function like gifts that line the pockets of candidates after Election Day. The reasons for these concerns are documented in the record before the court. Voters are also unable to properly take into consideration this fundraising as these “gifts” come after votes have already been cast.
This decision conflicts not only with the Supreme Court’s longstanding recognition that putting money into candidates’ pockets creates an inherent risk of corruption but also with common sense and historical experience. As CLC’s amicus brief made clear – in a section Justice Kagan cited in her dissent – there is abundant evidence from across the country that post-election contributions can give rise to actual and apparent corruption.
While the direct effects of this decision are limited to the narrow federal provision at issue in the case, it reveals a Supreme Court increasingly out of step with the American people – who overwhelmingly recognize that unchecked campaign giving poses profound risks to the integrity of our democracy. More immediately, the ruling could imperil an array of similar restrictions on post-election loan repayments adopted at the state and local level out of legitimate concerns over corruption.
The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center advances democracy through law at the federal, state and local levels, fighting for every American’s rights to responsive government and a fair opportunity to participate in and affect the democratic process. www.campaignlegal.org