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U.S. Supreme Court backs Ted Cruz, dumps campaign finance curb

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations to examine U.S.-Russia policy on Capitol Hill, Washington, U.S. December 7, 2021. Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday further undermined campaign finance restrictions and handed a victory to Senator Ted Cruz, striking down as a free speech violation part of a bipartisan 2002 law challenged by the Texas Republican that federal officials had called an anti-corruption provision.

The justices, in a 6-3 ruling, found that a $250,000 cap on the amount of money political candidates can be reimbursed after an election for personal loans to their own campaigns ran afoul of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech by unjustifiably burdening political expression.

In the ruling authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the court’s conservative justices were in the majority and liberal justices in dissent. Roberts wrote that the law in question “burdens core political speech without proper justification.”

Roberts wrote that the government had failed to show that the measure “furthers a permissible anti-corruption goal, rather than the impermissible objective of simply limiting the amount of money in politics.”

In a blistering dissenting opinion, liberal Justice Elena Kagan said the court was effectively aiding and abetting corruption in Washington by allowing donors to contribute to a campaign after an election in a way that benefits the candidate personally.

“In striking down the law today, the court greenlights all the sordid bargains Congress thought right to stop,” Kagan wrote.

Politicians will know that such payments will go directly to them via the campaign, Kagan added, and the donors will hope for something in return.

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

A Cruz spokesperson called the ruling a “resounding victory for the First Amendment.”

Cruz had sued the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the agency that enforces election laws. An agency spokesperson declined to comment.

Trevor Potter, president of Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan group that supports campaign finance laws, expressed disappointment at the ruling.

“Permitting candidates to solicit unlimited post-election contributions to repay their personal campaign loans and put the donor money in their own pockets gives an obvious and lamentable opening for special interests to purchase official favors and rig the political system in their favor,” Potter said.

Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration, acting on behalf of the FEC, had appealed a Washington-based three-judge panel’s 2021 ruling unanimously striking down the provision on free speech grounds. Cruz was backed by some fellow Republicans in the case.

The provision at issue was part of a major campaign finance law that already has been chipped away at by the Supreme Court including in a landmark 2010 ruling https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-politics/landmark-supreme-court-ruling-allows-corporate-political-cash-idUSTRE60K3SK20100121 that allowed unlimited independent spending by corporations and unions during elections as constitutionally protected free speech.

In finding that the limit was not justified to deter corruption, Roberts said restrictions already exist on how much money individuals can donate during an election cycle, currently capped at $2,900. Roberts added that the status quo likely benefited incumbents over challengers because new candidates often have to loan money to their campaigns and can find it more difficult to attract donations.

“This landmark decision will help invigorate our democratic process by making it easier for challengers to take on and defeat career politicians,” Cruz’s spokesperson said.

Cruz, first elected to represent Texas in the Senate in 2012, sued the FEC after his successful 2018 re-election race against Democratic rival Beto O’Rourke. Cruz had lent his campaign organization $260,000 but was limited by the law to a $250,000 reimbursement from his campaign.

The Supreme Court has struck down various provisions of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), often called the McCain-Feingold law in recognition of its main Senate sponsors, John McCain and Russ Feingold.

Cruz unsuccessfully sought his party’s 2016 presidential nomination, later becoming a prominent supporter of former President Donald Trump.

Politics

Factbox-Four key races in Illinois, Colorado midterm primaries

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An American flag flies outside of the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, U.S., January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Voters in Illinois and Colorado will pick candidates for the U.S. Congress and other offices in primaries on Tuesday, in another test of former President Donald Trump’s influence in the Republican Party ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Maryland and Oklahoma also hold nomination contests. Following are four key races to watch:

ILLINOIS’ 15TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Newly drawn district boundaries pit two incumbent Republicans against each other in central Illinois. Trump-endorsed U.S. Representative Mary Miller is an ally of U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a prominent far-right Republican. Miller faces U.S. Representative Rodney Davis, a more traditional conservative, who supported creating a congressional inquiry into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump’s supporters. Davis’ campaign raised more than $2.7 million through March 31, compared with the $1.1 million raised by Miller. The winner is likely to carry the district in November.

ILLINOIS’ 6TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Illinois’ newly drawn districts also pit two Democratic U.S. representatives against each other in the state’s 6th district. Representative Sean Casten raised more than twice as much money through March 31 than Representative Marie Newman, who faces an ethics investigation for allegedly promising a job to a potential political rival.

U.S. SENATE SEAT IN COLORADO

    The Republican nomination contest for the U.S. Senate race in Colorado includes state Representative Ron Hanks, who marched in the Jan. 6 protest at the U.S. Capitol. Hanks has blamed the violence that followed the march on leftists, citing a debunked conspiracy theory. Hanks’ principal opponent is wealthy construction company owner Joe O’Dea, who has self-financed a large portion of his campaign. Hanks has struggled with fund-raising, and his campaign had less than $20,000 in the bank at the end of March. The winner might have a chance against incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet, who is seen struggling to hold onto his seat.

COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE

The Republican primary for the state’s top elections official includes Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who has advocated for Trump’s baseless claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Peters’ main opponent is former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson who has rejected Trump’s claims. The winner will challenge incumbent Democrat Jena Griswold.

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Politics

Factbox-U.S. Supreme Court takes broad view of religious rights in key cases

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Anti-abortion activists hold a cross in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building during the annual “March for Life” in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2022. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday issued another significant ruling broadening religious rights, siding with a Christian former public high school football coach in Washington state who sued after being suspended from his job for refusing to stop leading prayers with players on the field after games.

The court, especially its conservative bloc, has taken a wide view of religious liberty in numerous cases in recent years. Here is a look at some of the cases involving religious rights decided during its current term, which began in October.

KENNEDY V. BREMERTON SCHOOL DISTRICT

In the case decided on Monday, the court ruled 6-3 in favor of Joseph Kennedy, who until 2015 served as a part-time assistant football coach in the city of Bremerton. The justices rejected the local school district’s concerns that in a public school setting Kennedy’s prayers and Christian-infused speeches could be seen as coercive to students or a governmental endorsement of a particular religion in violation of the First Amendment’s so-called establishment clause. The justices overturned a lower court’s ruling siding with the school district.

CARSON V. MAKIN

In a 6-3 decision on June 21, the court endorsed more public funding of religious entities as it sided with two Christian families who challenged a Maine tuition assistance program that excluded private religious schools. The justices overturned a lower court ruling that had rejected the families’ claims of religious discrimination in violation of the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion. Maine’s program provides public funds for tuition at private high schools of a family’s choice in sparsely populated areas lacking public secondary schools. Maine required eligible schools to be “nonsectarian,” excluding those promoting a particular religion and presenting material “through the lens of that faith.”

SHURTLEFF V. BOSTON

The court ruled 9-0 on May 2 that Boston violated the free speech rights of a Christian group by refusing to fly a flag bearing the image of a cross at City Hall as part of a program that let private groups use the flagpole while holding events in the plaza below. The justices decided that the city violated free speech rights protected under the First Amendment of the Christian group Camp Constitution and its director Harold Shurtleff. Boston had argued that raising the cross flag as Camp Constitution requested under a flag-raising program aimed at promoting diversity and tolerance in the city could appear to violate another part of the First Amendment that bars governmental endorsement of a particular religion. The justices overturned a lower court ruling in favor of Boston.

RAMIREZ V. COLLIER

The court ruled 8-1 on March 24 that Texas must grant a convicted murderer on death row his request to have his Christian pastor lay hands on him and audibly pray during his execution, bolstering the religious rights of condemned inmates. The justices overturned a lower court’s decision against John Henry Ramirez, who appealed the state’s rejection of his request for pastoral touch and prayer while he dies from lethal injection. Ramirez was sentenced to death for a fatal 2004 stabbing outside a convenience store.

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Politics

Factbox-Four key races in Illinois, Colorado midterm primaries

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2/2

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An American flag flies outside of the U.S. Capitol dome in Washington, U.S., January 15, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

2/2

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Voters in Illinois and Colorado will pick candidates for the U.S. Congress and other offices in primaries on Tuesday, in another test of former President Donald Trump’s influence in the Republican Party ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Maryland and Oklahoma also hold nomination contests. Following are four key races to watch:

ILLINOIS’ 15TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Newly drawn district boundaries pit two incumbent Republicans against each other in central Illinois. Trump-endorsed U.S. Representative Mary Miller is an ally of U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a prominent far-right Republican. Miller faces U.S. Representative Rodney Davis, a more traditional conservative, who supported creating a congressional inquiry into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump’s supporters. Davis’ campaign raised more than $2.7 million through March 31, compared with the $1.1 million raised by Miller. The winner is likely to carry the district in November.

ILLINOIS’ 6TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Illinois’ newly drawn districts also pit two Democratic U.S. representatives against each other in the state’s 6th district. Representative Sean Casten raised more than twice as much money through March 31 than Representative Marie Newman, who faces an ethics investigation for allegedly promising a job to a potential political rival.

U.S. SENATE SEAT IN COLORADO

    The Republican nomination contest for the U.S. Senate race in Colorado includes state Representative Ron Hanks, who marched in the Jan. 6 protest at the U.S. Capitol. Hanks has blamed the violence that followed the march on leftists, citing a debunked conspiracy theory. Hanks’ principal opponent is wealthy construction company owner Joe O’Dea, who has self-financed a large portion of his campaign. Hanks has struggled with fund-raising, and his campaign had less than $20,000 in the bank at the end of March. The winner might have a chance against incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet, who is seen struggling to hold onto his seat.

COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE

The Republican primary for the state’s top elections official includes Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who has advocated for Trump’s baseless claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Peters’ main opponent is former Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson who has rejected Trump’s claims. The winner will challenge incumbent Democrat Jena Griswold.

Continue Reading

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