Three Supreme Court justices made remarks Wednesday in response to an NPR investigation regarding the justices’ relationships. Justice Sonia Sotomayor a chronic diabetic told Chief Justice John Roberts, that she did not feel secure being in a room with unmasked individuals because of the omicron surge, and that the top justice “in some way persuaded the other justices to cover up.”
Sotomayor and Gorsuch published a statement on Wednesday stating that she did not request that he wear a mask. According to NPR’s story, she did not. The chief justice then published a statement in which he stated that he “did not require Justice Gorsuch or any other justice to wear a mask on the bench.” According to the NPR story, the chief justice’s request to the justices arrived “in some form.”
What is undeniable is that, with the exception of Gorsuch, all of the justices have begun wearing masks. Meanwhile, Sotomayor has remained absent from the courtroom. Instead, she has sat in on the court’s arguments and the justices’ weekly conference, where they consider and vote on the cases.
The court heard arguments in a campaign financing dispute brought by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Wednesday.
The clause at issue was a section of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act that prohibits election victors from raising more than $250,000 after an election to reimburse loans made to their own campaign by the candidate.
Cruz has admitted that he purposefully set up the facts of this case in order to put the provision to the test. He gave his campaign $260,000 the day before the general election, which is $10,000 more than the law permits him to be reimbursed with post-election donations. He had moreover $2.4 million in campaign funds on hand at the time, which he could have used to pay off the debt.
Instead, he filed a lawsuit, alleging that the $250,000 limit on post-election donations for debt payback is illegal. Cruz claims that the cap infringes on his First Amendment free speech rights by limiting his opportunity to be compensated after the election. According to the Federal Election Commission, money supplied after an election has a potentially corrupt aim.
The debate followed predictable ideological lines, with the court’s six conservatives supporting Cruz and the three liberals deferring to Congress’ decision — specifically, that using post-election donations to pay off debt might lead to quid pro quo corruption.
According to Justice Elena Kagan, if a donor wishes to assist with debt repayment, “I received a $10,000 loan one day. I’ve made a $10,000 profit. Someone has just given me a $10,000 present.”
Justice Amy Coney Barrett, on the other hand, had a different opinion. She stated that this does not benefit him personally because he is no better off than he was before. “It’s to pay off a loan, not to pad his bank account.”
The limit, according to Justice Brett Kavanaugh, would stifle Cruz’s speech. He said that the options are to spend it with no chance of regaining it or not spending it at all.
Lawyer Charles Cooper, who represented Cruz, argued that Congress did not consider post-election gifts to be inherently corrupt. He maintained that there are “reasons sufficient for a donor to come after an election and make a gift to the winner.”
“You’ve just uttered the magic words,” Sotomayor interrupted. “To give to the winner — not to the campaign, but to the winner’s coffers — that has a very different corrupting impact.”
Whatever the outcome of the Cruz case is, it does not appear that the court will use it to overturn the whole Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, or what remains of it. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, a longstanding opponent of campaign finance reform, submitted an amicus brief in the case, asking the court to overturn the whole legislation, including campaign contribution limitations. The act, he claims, is a “constitutional train crash.”