SCOTUS Decision Voids Federal Limits on Self-Loans to Campaigns

A decision by the United States Supreme Court has voided a federal limit on the amount a candidate may loan to their own campaign – citing first amendment concerns, and at least raising the issue that state-level limits may similarly be stricken.

In the case Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate, the Supreme Court has ruled that free expression right are unfairly impeded by a federal law limiting to $250,000 the amount that an candidate may fund his or her own campaign through a personal loan. Because the centerpiece of the holding is on first amendment grounds, the holding may be broad enough to carry over to lower levels of government that have instituted their own similar limitations.

From coverage on the online site Howe on the Court:

The case, Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate, involved Section 304 of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act, which allows candidates to use up to $250,000 in post-election contributions – but no more – to repay loans that they made to their campaign before the election. A lower court ruled that the $250,000 limit is unconstitutional because the government had not shown either that it serves an interest in preventing politicians from trading favors for contributions or that the limit is sufficiently targeted to serve that interest. The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld that ruling.

More detail on the case, including the text of the decision and dissent, is available on the SCOTUSblog website.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties