Ted Cruz sues to make it easier for rich people to control elections

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Instead of taking personal responsibility for the loans he made to his campaign, Ted Cruz is suing the government over campaign finance laws.

When Beto O'Rourke was breathing down his neck in last year's Senate race, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had to loan his own Senate campaign $260,000. Now he wants that money back, but there's just one problem: election laws cap the repayment from a campaign to a candidate at $250,000.

Cruz is apparently outraged that he's only getting about 97 percent of his money back — so he's suing to force the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to remove the cap.

Current campaign finance law allows a candidate to loan money to their own campaign, a common move when money is tight and donations aren't coming in as fast as expected. Candidates are free to give as much money to their own campaigns as they like without running afoul of any laws.

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They can even get all of that money back — as long as the campaign has already raised enough cash by Election Day in order to do that. If more fundraising has to be done after that point to pay the candidate back, however, any amount over $250,000 can't be paid back and is considered "a contribution by the candidate."

Laws such as the $250,000 repayment cap are in place to stop millionaires from being the only ones who can run for office. If that cap didn't exist, the very wealthy could keep their campaign afloat with personal dollars and then recoup all those funds after the election. In contrast, their non-millionaire political rivals would be forced to perpetually fundraise to keep up.

It says a lot about the kind of person Ted Cruz is that, instead of accepting the consequences of a law he should have known about, he decided to sue the government body that enforces the law. It's quite a stance coming from someone who is a perpetual moral scold about the behavior of others.

In this instance, Cruz already got $250,000 back — which means he's going to the mat over just $10,000.

It's tough to pin down how much Cruz is actually worth, but it seems to be nearly $4 million, and his wife is an investment manager at Goldman Sachs. They're so out of touch with the economic realities most Americans face that they thought complaining about their lack of a second home would make them relatable.

Cruz has cloaked his lawsuit in noble words about the First Amendment, declaring that the right of rich people to have their campaign donors pay off their debts, no matter how large, is a "bedrock liberty" ensuring the "full and free political debate that is the hallmark of our democratic form of government."

Only in a world where Citizens United is already the law of the land, ensuring that politics are awash in dark money, does such a willfully perverse interpretation of political speech make sense. People like Ted Cruz want to make sure that wealthy conservative donors control elections, and they will do that by ensuring there are no barriers to the rich simply buying elections.

At root, that's what this lawsuit is really about. Ted Cruz can likely afford to eat the $10,000. But with a Supreme Court even more conservative than the court that decided Citizens United, it's a savvy move for Cruz to tee up a lawsuit that, should it reach the highest court, would likely result in a ruling wiping out the cap.

It's just another way to make sure that the very wealthy can continue to prop up candidates like Cruz.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.