The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a federal restriction relevant to candidates who loan large sums of money to their own political campaigns, marking a win for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who challenged the Federal Election Commission's campaign finance rules.

In a 6-3 ruling delivered by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court argued that a portion of the 2002 law known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act violated a political candidate's free expression. The justices applied lower court rulings that said financial expenditures effectively buy the ability to spread a political message, and, therefore, the limits on such payments compromise the First Amendment of the Constitution.

“This provision burdens core political speech without proper justification,” Roberts wrote. In effect, the court's ruling will do away with the BCRA rule, which imposes a $250,000 limit on the number of donations collected after an election that campaigns can use to repay a candidate's loans.


The high court's 6-3 Republican-appointed majority effectively voted to allow candidates to loan themselves money during a campaign and collect donations following an election to repay the loans when donors are aware of the election's outcome.

The three Democratic-appointed justices, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, dissented in a lengthy response authored by Kagan.

"When they give money to repay the victor’s loan, they know — not merely hope — he will be in a position to perform official favors," Kagan wrote, underscoring that any contributor will have surefire knowledge that funds they are donating are heading directly to the candidate's pocketbook.

“The politician is happy; the donors are happy. The only loser is the public. It inevitably suffers from government corruption,” Kagan wrote.

The case stems from a 2018 incident in which Cruz loaned his campaign $260,000, which is $10,000 more than the amount candidates can legally be repaid from post-election funds, according to the Justice Department. Cruz's legal team argued the loan-repayment limit “burdens the core First Amendment rights of candidates, committees, and contributors" and should be subject to scrutiny, according to previous court filings.


The DOJ urged the high court to throw out the case because Cruz's actions were an intentional way to trigger a violation of the law, thus prompting litigation to ensue over the matter.

Cruz's case was backed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who argued, "The BCRA of today is a lopsided legislative regime that would not have passed Congress in 2002."