- Ted Cruz’s campaign paid him $555,000 to cover old personal loans to his Senate committee.
- It comes after Cruz successfully challenged a law that capped the amount candidates could repay themselves.
- Ethics advocates and some Supreme Court justices warned that the decision could lead to corruption.
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas received $555,000 from his campaign account two months ago, according to new documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.
And the one-time presidential candidate and two-term senator has the US Supreme Court to thank for it.
When Cruz first ran for the United States Senate in 2012, he loaned his campaign over $1 million of his own money amid a heated primary campaign against then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst of Texas. Cruz would go on to win a run-off against Dewhurst.
However, the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act — championed by the late Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona — set a $250,000 limit on the amount of money that candidates could raise after the election for the purpose of paying off personal loans to their campaign committee.
Thus, Cruz essentially lost $545,000 of his own money after the campaign, with the outstanding portion of the loans converted to an in-kind contribution.
Six years later, facing an unexpectedly competitive re-election campaign against then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke in 2018, Cruz opted to challenge the law. He lent his campaign $260,000 — just $10,000 more than the limit — on November 5, just one day before the election.
That allowed Cruz to initiate a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission, which eventually made its way up to the Supreme Court.
In a 6-3 decision issued in May, the Supreme Court ruled in Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate that the limit was unconstitutional, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing that the limit “inhibits candidates from loaning money to their campaigns in the first place, burdening core speech.”
That’s despite concerns not just from the three liberal justices who dissented, but from outside good-government groups — including Campaign Legal Center, the Brennan Center for Justice, Public Citizen, and Common Cause — that argued lifting the cap could fuel corruption by allowing campaign donors to essentially pay candidates directly by contributing to the repayment of their personal loans.
Trevor Potter, a former Republican FEC chairman and today president of the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement that lifting the limit “gives an obvious and lamentable opening for special interests to purchase official favors and rig the political system in their favor.”
Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan echoed that same argument in her dissenting opinion.
“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,” she wrote. “In discarding the statute, the Court fuels non-public-serving, self-interested governance.”
But for Cruz and other conservatives, the issue was a matter of free speech.
A Cruz spokesman confirmed to Insider that the payments came as the result of the May ruling, declaring in a statement that the court “delivered a decisive 6-3 victory for the First Amendment when it ruled that these restrictions unconstitutionally limited free speech, benefitted incumbents, and discouraged challengers.”
And on August 5, Ted Cruz for Senate paid the senator $545,000 — the original amount that he’d been unable to recover after his 2012 primary campaign — along with the extra $10,000 he loaned his campaign in 2018.