The United States Supreme Court is likely to create a loophole to allow legal bribery of federal lawmakers, according to a new analysis by Vox legal correspondent Ian Millhiser.
Next Wednesday, the high court will hear arguments in the case of Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate, a case that originated with the Texas Republican.
"The case concerns federal campaign finance laws, and, specifically, candidates’ ability to loan money to their campaigns. Candidates can do so — but in 2001, Congress enacted a provision that helps prevent such loans from becoming a vehicle to bribe candidates who go on to be elected officials. Under this provision, a campaign that receives such a loan may not repay more than $250,000 worth of the loan using funds raised after the election," Millhiser explained. "When a campaign receives a pre-election donation, that donation is typically subject to strict rules preventing it from being spent to enrich the candidate. After the election has occurred, however, donors who give money to help pay off a loan from the candidate effectively funnel that money straight to the candidate — who by that point could be a powerful elected official.
He noted that Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) reportedly made $158,000 in interest from a $150,000 loan to her campaign, but that Cruz is seeking to have the court strike down the loan repayment limit.
"And even if lawmakers do not enrich themselves by making high-interest loans to their campaign, the fact remains that every dollar a campaign donor gives to help a campaign pay back a loan from the candidate goes straight into that candidate’s pocket," he wrote. "While a decision in Cruz’s favor could effectively make it legal for wealthy donors to bribe lawmakers, Cruz has a very good chance of prevailing in a Supreme Court where Republicans control six of the Court’s nine seats."
Cruz loaned his campaign $260,000 one day before his successful 2018 re-election to bring the case.
"There is a very real chance, in other words, that a Supreme Court hostile to campaign finance regulation will join Cruz’s crusade. And if the Court does so, that could effectively make it legal to bribe many members of Congress," Millhiser wrote.
Read the full analysis.