Politics Magazine

Cruz Wins Court Battle To Legalize "Quid Pro Quo" Corruption

Posted on the 10 June 2021 by Jobsanger
Cruz Wins Court Battle Legalize
Did you think it's illegal to give a congressional candidate an expensive gift to get him/her to listen to your point of view on bills before Congress? It is supposed to be, but members of Congress (and their rich donors) are very good at finding ways around that. Ted Cruz recently went to court (and won) to allow donors to send him money after he won an election -- money that goes directly into his personal bank account. It's a devious way to legalize quid pro quo corruption!

The following is part of an article about this by Richard W. Painter at MSNBC.com:

Thanks to a win for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in a lawsuit last week against the Federal Election Commission, campaign contributors now have a foolproof way to make sure the money they donate goes right into a winning congressional candidate's personal bank account.

Post election contributions are included in the $2900 maximum per donor contribution per election cycle and can be made to a candidate who wins or loses. But post-election contributions are particularly appealing to donors who prefer to know that a candidate has won before they contribute.

Contributors may want their money to go to the winning candidate's personal funds, ensuring maximum gratitude and maximum probability of reciprocity (the Latin phrase for this is "quid pro quo," but we're not supposed to talk about that).

Thanks to Cruz's successful lawsuit, candidates now can make unlimited use of a mechanism that gives these contributors a bigger voice in Washington.

In the suit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that candidates for federal office and their campaign contributors have a constitutional right to deploy a scheme that works around both campaign finance laws and restrictions on personal gifts to members of Congress. . . .

Here's how it works:

A member of Congress is running for re-election. He raises $6 million for his campaign by Election Day, but he wants to spend more. So he lends his campaign $1 million more from his personal funds. After he wins the election, he continues to raise money for the same campaign from donors who contribute money not for the purpose of winning that election or the next one but solely for the purpose of paying back the congressman. Their contributions go into his campaign bank account and out again into his personal bank account. Dollar for dollar, every post-election contribution these donors make goes directly to the congressman.

The potential for corruption in this scenario is obvious. The economic reality of the transaction is that the post-election campaign contribution is a gift to the congressman. The congressman was willing to spend $1 million of his own money on his campaign, which is permissible under current campaign finance laws. But then, after he won the election, he solicited more contributions so he could get paid back by people willing to donate for the sole purpose of paying him back.

If we want to allow unlimited gifts to members of Congress, this post-election contribution and loan repayment should be allowed. But that's not the rule. Both the Senate and the House have strict rules about gifts. Gifts to members from registered lobbyists are flatly prohibited, members may not solicit gifts as they do campaign contributions, and gifts from people other than members' families and a few other sources are generally limited to no more than $50. . . .

Post-election political fundraising and candidate loan repayment are potentially massive workarounds for the gift rules. This is one more way politicians and their campaign contributors, like some businesspeople, come up with clever ways to avoid the law. . . .

Explicitly saying there is a quid pro quo is a great way to book an extended stay in federal prison. So, as with a great many campaign contributions, it's "wink-wink, nod-nod." But in these situations, the usual professed motive for campaign contributions — the donor's desire to help a good candidate win — is absent. The candidate has already won.

Another difference is that this campaign contribution goes directly into the candidate's pocket and benefits him personally. Yes, there is a dollar limit on individual contributions to campaigns, but corporations and other entities can establish political action committees that raise massive amounts of individual contributions from their employees, customers, suppliers and others for political campaigns, including, now, a campaign war chest that can be used for an unlimited dollar amount of post-election payoffs of loans from the candidates themselves. . . .

Either this line of cases will be reversed, whether by a less activist federal judiciary or by constitutional amendment, or we will cease to live in a representative democracy. We will have the best elected officials that money can buy. And now the money need not be given solely for the purpose of electing a candidate, but simply to pay off the candidate after he has already won and is ready to do what is expected in return.

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