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Sen. Ted Cruz wants to weaken a campaign finance law that’s meant to discourage bribes

The gambit by Cruz, a Republican from Texas, would send the nation in the wrong campaign finance direction.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas
Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images

America’s campaign finance laws should be more strict, not looser. An attempt by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to weaken one campaign finance law would send the nation in precisely the wrong direction.

Elections in the United States are burdened by dark money, soft money, “issue” ads, super PACs, gargantuan war chests and other financial legerdemain that hide the influence of wealthy donors on lawmakers.

Now Cruz wants to upend a campaign finance law that puts a $250,000 cap on the repayment of personal loans to campaigns using money donated after an election is over. After the candidate has won, that is to say, and everybody is looking for a favor, for something in return.

To challenge the 2002 law, called the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, Cruz lent $260,000 — $10,000 more than the limit — to his 2018 reelection campaign. The campaign could have repaid Cruz with preelection donations within 20 days of the election. But it didn’t. Now, Cruz is testing the constitutionality of the law in federal court. He contends the law violates the First Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Thursday to hear the case. The Biden administration argues that Cruz made the loan with “the sole and exclusive motivation” to give the court a chance to overrule the law. If the court disagrees with Cruz, the campaign will be unable to repay him $10,000.

According to the Investigative Reporting Workshop, spending by outside groups, rather than candidates’ own committees, grew from more than $200 million in 2010 to $2.9 billion in 2020. Dark money and super PAC spending increased sharply over that time.

Members of Congress, including Cruz, should be looking for ways to strengthen campaign finance laws, not to undercut them.

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