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US justices side with senator in campaign finance law case

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 5/16/2022
Senator Ted Cruz speaks at a news conference in Washington on April 7, 2022. © SARAHBETH MANEY Senator Ted Cruz speaks at a news conference in Washington on April 7, 2022.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Monday sided with Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas in his challenge to a provision of federal campaign finance law, in a ruling that a dissenting justice said runs the risk of causing “further disrepute” to American politics.

The justices, in a 6-3 decision that divided the court along ideological lines, agreed that the somewhat obscure section of the law violates the Constitution. The decision comes just as campaigning for the 2022 midterm elections is intensifying.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority that the provision “burdens core political speech without proper justification.”

The Biden administration had defended the provision as an anticorruption measure, and in a dissent Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the majority, in striking it down, ‘’greenlights all the sordid bargains Congress thought right to stop.” She said the decision “can only bring this country’s political system into further disrepute.”

The case may be important for some candidates for federal office who want to make large loans to their campaigns. But the administration has also said the great majority of such loans are for less than $250,000 and therefore the provision Cruz challenged does not apply.

The case involves a section of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The provision says that if a candidate lends his or her campaign money before an election, the campaign cannot repay the candidate more than $250,000 using money raised after Election Day. The loans can still be repaid with money raised before the election.

Cruz argued that makes candidates think twice about lending money because it substantially increases the risk that any candidate loan will never be fully repaid. A lower court had agreed the provision was unconstitutional.

Cruz, who has served in the Senate since 2013 and ran unsuccessfully for president in 2016, lent his campaign $260,000 the day before the 2018 general election for the purpose of challenging the law.

The government has said that in the five election cycles before 2020, candidates for Senate made 588 loans to their campaigns, about 80 percent of them under $250,000. Candidates for the House of Representatives made 3,444 loans, nearly 90 percent under $250,000.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Trump could be paid to post on his platform

Former president Donald Trump could be paid to post for his own startup company and it remains unclear if securities regulators would allow its merger with a cash-rich shell corporation to go forward, according to a securities filing Monday.

The long-anticipated registration statement filed by Digital World Acquisition Corp. said it anticipated completing the merger with Trump Media & Technology Group in the second half of the year. But the document, known as an S4, said the Securities and Exchange Commission, which began investigating the proposed merger last year, could “disapprove this transaction and issue a stop order” that would block it.

Digital World said that Trump could be paid to post streaming videos on Trump Media’s video-on-demand service in certain circumstances. The licensing deal also does not require him to exclusively use Truth Social, Trump Media’s Twitter-like social media platform, and permits him to “post from a personal account related to political messaging, political fund-raising or get-out-the-vote efforts on any social media site at any time.”

If the former president does anything “illegal, immoral, or unethical” it is not considered a breach of his agreement with the company, according to the filing.

The unusual licensing deal is unlikely to quiet concern that Trump will return to Twitter if Elon Musk completes his deal to acquire the much bigger social media platform. Musk, the world’s richest man, has said he would lift Twitter’s ban on Trump if he acquires the company; Trump has said he “probably wouldn’t rejoin Twitter if he could.”


Video: Ted Cruz wins campaign law case before Supreme Court (FOX News)

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Twitter suspended Trump and kicked him off the platform after the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of Capitol Hill by his supporters and Trump’s repeated claims the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.

Trump had nearly 90 million followers on Twitter when he was kicked off the platform. He currently has about 2 million followers on Truth Social, where he only began to post in earnest this month.

The more imminent concern to Trump Media is whether securities regulators will allow the deal to proceed, which would enable Trump’s company to access up to $1.3 billion in investor cash.

Trump could own 73 million shares, or just under 50 percent of the voting power over Trump Media common stock, if the merger is completed. Digital World said in the filing that Trump would have significant influence over the postmerger company and might be able to determine who sits on board and to “block matters requiring stockholder approval.”

If the deal were to be completed at Digital World’s current $44 share price, Trump’s equity stake would be initially valued at more than $3 billion.

Digital World said the SEC had served it with a subpoena seeking various documents concerning its board meetings, trading procedures, and “communications with and the evaluation of potential targets.”

The SEC has been investigating whether Digital World, a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, went public in September as a deal with Trump Media was already under discussion.

Digital World’s filing said that the SPAC had been looking at more than a dozen companies to acquire at the time it went public. But it confirmed previous reporting by The New York Times that another SPAC controlled by Digital World’s chief executive, Patrick Orlando, was in serious merger talks with Trump Media right up until a few days before Digital World’s initial public offering of stock.

NEW YORK TIMES

Maryland senator says he suffered a “minor stroke”

Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said late Sunday he was recovering from “a minor stroke,” the second Democratic lawmaker to fall ill from the ailment this year.

Van Hollen, 63, said in a statement posted on Twitter that he had been admitted to George Washington University Hospital, which is in the District of Columbia, “after experiencing lightheadedness and acute neck pain” while delivering a speech. An angiogram showed that he had had a “minor stroke in the form of a small venous tear” at the back of his head.

But he said that there would be “no long-term effects or damage.”

Van Hollen said he would cut back on his schedule and remain under observation for the next few days out of an abundance of caution. He planned to return to the Senate later this week, the statement said.

The news highlighted the delicate balance of power in a chamber where Democrats hold a 50-50 majority and the loss of even a single vote could have momentous impact, and impede President Biden’s agenda.

In February, Senator Ben Ray Luján, Democrat from New Mexico, also said that he had had a stroke, checking himself into the hospital after experiencing dizziness and fatigue.

Carlos Sanchez, his chief of staff, said in a statement that Luján, 49, had “suffered a stroke in the cerebellum, affecting his balance.” The statement added, “As part of his treatment plan, he subsequently underwent decompressive surgery to ease swelling.”

A lawyer and progressive Democrat, Van Hollen previously served in the Maryland state Legislature before being elected to Congress in 2002. He has been a member of the Democratic House leadership, and from 2007-11, he led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which tries to help the party win and keep House seats. After his election to the Senate in 2016, he served a similar role in organizing efforts to win Senate races.

Van Hollen’s announcement about a stroke came amid the hotly contested midterm elections. Democrats have begun a fierce battle to hold onto their majority in the House and cannot afford to lose Senate seats.

Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who is running for the state’s Democratic Senate nomination, said Sunday he had suffered a stroke Friday.

“The good news is I’m feeling much better, and the doctors tell me I didn’t suffer any cognitive damage,” he said on Twitter. “I’m well on my way to a full recovery.”

His rivals on the Republican side include Kathy Barnette, a hard-right conservative commentator; Dr. Mehmet Oz, a television personality and retired physician who has been backed by former president Donald Trump; and David McCormick, a former hedge fund manager.

NEW YORK TIMES

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