Ted Cruz has won a lawsuit against the FEC over a loan to his re-election campaign. A federal court ruled that his freedom of speech rights had been violated.

Senator Ted Cruz speaks to an audience in Jerusalem in May
Sen. Ted Cruz in May.

  • Federal court ruling says FEC violated Sen. Ted Cruz’s First Amendment rights with repayment limit.
  • Cruz loaned $260,000 to his 2018 re-election campaign, which was $10,000 over the repayment limit.
  • The “loan-repayment limit burdens political speech” three federal judges wrote.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A federal court has handed Sen. Ted Cruz a victory, saying a $250,000 limit on post-campaign repayments to candidates violated his First Amendment rights.

On April 1, 2019, Cruz’s campaign filed a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission after contributing $260,000 to his 2018 reelection campaign. He sued as he attempted to repay his personal loan.

“We find that the loan-repayment limit burdens political speech and thus implicates the protection of the First Amendment,” a trio of federal judges wrote on Thursday in a memorandum opinion.

They added: “Because the government has failed to demonstrate that the loan-repayment limit serves an interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption, or that the limit is sufficiently tailored to serve this purpose, the loan repayment limit runs afoul of the First Amendment.”

Thursday’s ruling amounted to another victory for conservative politicians and donors, who have long sought to remove limits on political fundraising. The Supreme Court in 2010 ruled against the FEC in its case against Citizens United, striking limits on corporate election spending, and giving rise to super PACs.

In the back-and-forth between Cruz and the FEC, the commission’s lawyers said last year that Cruz had intentionally broken the rules, forcing his lawsuit.

Cruz’s campaign staffers started discussing taking action against the repayment limit as early as 2012, according to court filings.

“Those discussions continued for several years, concurrently with Senator Cruz’s preparation to run for reelection in 2018,” FEC lawyers wrote as they sought a summary judgement in 2020.

Cruz had raised more than $35 million during the campaign against Beto O’Rourke. But the day before the election, Cruz loaned his campaign $260,000. As polls closed on November 6, 2018, his campaign had $2.38 million in cash on hand, according to court filings.

Campaign finance law allowed campaigns to repay up to $250,000 in personal loans from candidates, but they had to wait 20 days before distributing the funds.

Within that 20-day waiting period, Cruz’s campaign could have repaid the extra $10,000 using cash on hand on election day, according to the FEC.

“The plaintiff repaid no money during that period, however, because they wanted to bring this lawsuit,” the commission said in a court filing.

Cruz’s campaign waited 20 days, then began repaying the funds.

In an email to his campaign 2 days after the deadline, Cruz said, “Since more than 20 days have passed, it would be REALLY good if we could pay back at least some of the $250k now. Our cash is really getting stretched.”

In the lawsuit filed on April Fools Day in 2019, Cruz’s team said the limit on repayments violated the First Amendment rights of candidates. Cruz argued that his campaign should have been able to continue raising funds after the election to repay the $10,000 balance of his personal loan, according to the filing.

The limit on repayment “restricts the political speech of candidates and their campaign committees by limiting the time period in which the candidate may raise money to communicate his or her political message and by effectively limiting the candidate’s ability to lend the campaign necessary funds,” Cruz’s lawyers wrote in their complaint.

Insider has reached out to Cruz’s office for additional comment.

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Creator of a scam PAC that targeted Trump supporters has been charged with defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program

MAGA hats
“Make America Great Again” set of hats await purchase outside the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo, Miss., Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, before a Keep America Great Rally.

  • Prosecutors have charged the creator of a pro-Trump scam PAC with wire fraud.
  • Authorities say James Kyle Bell defrauded the Paycheck Protection Program of over $1 million.
  • The websites for Bell’s Keep America Great PAC were seized and taken down by the FBI in 2020.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Federal prosecutors have charged the creator of a political action committee that scammed donors by purporting to be supporting President Donald Trump’s reelection with wire fraud for defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program.

In a charging document filed in the US District Court for the District of Columba and first reported by the Huffington Post, prosecutors say James Kyle Bell, a Nevada man, created the Keep America Great PAC and registered it with the Federal Election Commission to defraud donors by mimicking the Trump campaign, down to using the exact language in Facebook and Google ads and promising non-existent matching funds.

Read more: Washington moves of the week: Hoosiers in DC landed big jobs this week, a sign of the sprawling networks of Mike Pence and Pete Buttigieg

The Daily Beast reported in October 2020 that the FBI had seized and taken down the “keepamericagreatagain.com” website and domain, which authorities say improperly lifted copyrighted material and source code from the Trump campaign itself, including its logo, and another PAC.

The Beast said that even as scam PACs go, Keep America Great was “brazen” in its efforts to swindle people who thought they were giving money to the Trump campaign or a PAC, with even Google and Facebook cracking down on their digital ads. In all, prosecutors found, Keep America Great brought in over $246,000 from donors over the course of 2020.

Prosecutors further say that Bell then applied for business loans through the Paycheck Protection Program on behalf of five separate companies, an effort that involved submitting falsified information and even “fictitious tax forms” to defraud the program.

“For example, Bell claimed that three of the companies each had an annual payroll over $2 million with more than 200 employees, when in fact those companies combined had at most six employees with far less in payroll expenses.

Bell ultimately ended up receiving a total of $1,139,836 in PPP loans for four of his companies, which prosecutors then say he diverted to put towards personal expenses and padding Keep America Great’s coffers, where he “co-mingled the PPP loan proceeds with donations to KAGC,” the charging document said.

On top of Keep America Great, prosecutors say Bell also created a less lucrative pro-Biden scam PAC, the Best Days Lie Ahead Committee, which ended up bringing around $100,000 from online donors.

In addition to the charges, authorities have also ordered Bell to forfeit over $524,000 in funds from his bank accounts and an over $862,000 money judgement.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The Trump campaign reportedly cheated donors who thought they were making a one-time contribution, collecting recurring donations

trump impeached
Former President Donald Trump.

  • The Trump 2020 campaign reportedly duped supporters into making recurring donations without their consent.
  • Donors, including cancer patients, who intended to make a one-time contribution ended up making more.
  • According to the New York Times, donations were automatically set to repeat when supporters got to the final stages of contributing.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In what seemed to be an effort to bolster political contributions in the heat of the 2020 election against now President Joe Biden, the Trump 2020 campaign reportedly duped supporters into making recurring donations without their explicit or known consent.

An investigation of Federal Election Commission records done by the New York Times found that the Trump campaign, in the last two months of 2020, was forced to give hundreds of thousands of refunds in the amount of about $64 million. In total the campaign refunded $122 million, the newspaper said.

Many of these accidental repeat donors believed they were signing up to give a one-time contribution, the New York Times reported. Some of the victims of this scheme, like 63-year-old Stacy Blatt, were cancer patients who found themselves unable to pay bills and rent because of the repeated donations to the Trump campaign, the newspaper reported.

It started with an unusual and “aggressive” move: the addition of a small, bright yellow box on Trump’s campaign donation portal in March 2020.

“Make this a monthly recurring donation,” the text in the box read. The box had automatically been checked off as soon as donors landed on the page, the Times reported.

In order to avoid this recurring donation, donors had to manually opt out, the Times said.

Months later, the donation portal added a second pre-checked box. This time, the box automatically directed an additional contribution from the donor in honor of Trump’s birthday in June, according to the Times.

Between June and September, contributions were pouring into the Biden campaign. So the Trump campaign ramped up its approach.

By September, the text in the initial pre-checked box silently changed from “monthly” to “weekly” donation, according to the newspaper.

At this point, the Biden campaign had outraised Trump’s by about $150 million, the Times reported. At the same time, Trump’s own campaign finances were depleting.

Unrealizing Trump supporters began to make several repeated donations to the campaign over the course of a month.

Critics who spoke to the Times blasted the move.

“It’s unfair, it’s unethical and it’s inappropriate,” Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, said.

“It should be in textbooks of what you shouldn’t do,” London-based Harry Brignull, a user-experience designer familiar with manipulative digital marketing practices, told the paper.

Jason Miller, a spokesperson for Trump, told the Times: “The fact we had a dispute rate of less than 1 percent of total donations despite raising more grass-roots money than any campaign in history is remarkable.”

The repeat donations became particularly rampant in the months between September and October, after the campaign employed the series of aggressive moves, the Times reported.

In total, the Trump campaign returned a staggering 10.7% of money secured through WinRed, the Republican Party’s contribution portal. In contrast, the Biden campaign returned just 2.2% of the money raised through ActBlue, the Democratic Party’s counterpart.

Trump supporters who had unwittingly donated their money to the campaign filed fraud complaints upon noticing unauthorized withdrawals, the Times reported.

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AT&T and Cigna are funding Republican groups led by election objectors they had promised to stop supporting

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (center) and Josh Hawley (top) led the GOP effort to challenge Electoral College votes on January 6, which was interrupted as Trump supporters attempted to violently overturn Biden's victory.
  • AT&T and Cigna gave money to groups run by the GOP election objectors they pledged to stop supporting, Popular Information reported.
  • Some companies paused certain PAC contributions after GOP efforts to overturn Biden’s victory led to violence.
  • Here’s how much each S&P 500 corporate PAC had given – and if they’ve paused or resumed contributions.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

AT&T and Cigna both gave money last month to groups overseen by Republican lawmakers who sought to overturn the US presidential election results in January, despite earlier promises to pause support for those lawmakers, Popular Information’s Jedd Legum reported Friday.

After violent pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, interrupting the GOP’s last-ditch effort to invalidate states’ Electoral College results, companies faced intense public criticism over their financial support of the 147 Republican members of Congress who backed the effort.

Amid the backlash, dozens of major corporations said they would pause contributions and reevaluate how they determine which lawmakers to support.

Yet barely a month later, AT&T and Cigna gave contributions to Republican groups led by – and benefitting – those same lawmakers.

AT&T’s Political Action Committee (PAC), just 35 days after pausing contributions to the 147 election objectors, gave $5,000 to the House Conservative Fund in February, according to Legum. Rep. Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana who voted against certifying Electoral College results, sits on the fund’s executive committee – while other objectors are among its membership.

“Our employee PACs continue to adhere to their policy adopted on January 11 of suspending contributions to campaign committees of members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes. Our employee PACs did not adopt a policy to halt contributions to Democratic and Republican multi-candidate PACs, however,” an AT&T spokesperson told Insider in a statement.

They added that while the contribution “was not intended to circumvent the current suspension policy regarding individual campaigns,” the PAC “is requesting that none of its contribution to the House Conservative Fund or to any other multi-candidate PAC go to any member of congress who objected to the Electoral College votes.”

“Going forward, our employee PACs will begin reviewing all multi-candidate PAC contributions for consistency with the policy on individual campaign contributions,” the spokesperson said.

Insider could not immediately confirm whether AT&T’s PAC was aware of Rep. Johnson’s connection to the House Conservative Fund when it made the contribution or when the PAC requested that the funds not benefit him or other objectors.

Cigna, which had said it would “discontinue support of any elected official who encouraged or supported violence, or otherwise hindered a peaceful transition of power,” continued that support just 22 days later by giving $15,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Legum reported. The NRSC is chaired by GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, another election objector.

Cigna did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Political Action Committees backed by S&P 500 companies gave more than $23 million to the 147 GOP election objectors during the most recent campaign cycles (2020 for House members; 2016 and 2018 for senators), according to an Insider analysis of Federal Election Commission data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Critics, from activists to shareholders to other executives, have argued the contributions helped those lawmakers get elected and stay in power, giving them the platform they used to undermine voters’ faith in the election (which Trump’s former top cybersecurity official called “the most secure in American history“).

Read more: Democrats are plotting the death – and rebirth – of a hamstrung Federal Election Commission now that they’ll control the White House and both chambers of Congress

Following reporting from Popular Information and other media outlets, many companies began rethinking their political contributions.

Companies’ commitments varied widely, however.

Few have permanently blacklisted election objectors, and as Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, the largest contributions typically happen right before, not after elections, leaving the door open for companies to resume their support once the public’s attention has turned elsewhere – an argument bolstered by AT&T and Cigna’s recent contributions.

Other companies paused all PAC contributions, potentially allowing them to benefit from the positive PR without having to explicitly condemn – or risk alienating – more than half of the Republicans in Congress.

Still, dozens issued public statements or internal memos announcing they would pause contributions while reevaluating how they use their money to influence politics.

Here’s a list of the S&P 500 companies – some of the largest and most influential businesses in the US – how much they gave to the 147 election objectors in the latest election cycles through their corporate PACs, and whether they’ve pulled (or resumed) their support.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that AT&T’s employee PAC had violated its policy, announced January 11, that it would “suspend contributions to members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes,” by giving to a multi-candidate fund that includes such members. AT&T’s PAC did not adopt a policy to suspend contributions to multi-candidate groups, a spokesperson said.

Do you work for one of these companies and have information about how they’re responding to recent events? We’d love to hear how they’re navigating the current political landscape. Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal ( +1 503-319-3213 ), email (tsonnemaker@insider.com), or Twitter (@TylerSonnemaker ). We can keep sources anonymous. PR pitches by email only, please.

Read the original article on Business Insider

AT&T, Cigna abandon promises to stop financing Republicans who voted to overturn the election

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (center) and Josh Hawley (top) led the GOP effort to challenge Electoral College votes on January 6, which was interrupted as Trump supporters attempted to violently overturn Biden's victory.
  • AT&T and Cigna have resumed funding GOP election objectors, Popular Information reported Friday.
  • Some companies paused PAC contributions after GOP efforts to overturn Biden’s victory led to violence.
  • Here’s how much each S&P 500 corporate PAC had given – and if they’ve paused or resumed contributions.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

AT&T and Cigna both gave money last month to groups overseen by Republican lawmakers who sought to overturn the US presidential election results in January, contradicting the companies’ earlier promises, Popular Information’s Jedd Legum reported Friday.

After violent pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol, interrupting the GOP’s last-ditch effort to invalidate states’ Electoral College results, companies faced intense public criticism over their financial support of the 147 Republican members of Congress who backed the effort.

Amid the backlash, dozens of major corporations said they would pause contributions and reevaluate how they determine which lawmakers to support.

Yet barely a month later, AT&T and Cigna have apparently determined that some of those lawmakers are once again deserving of support.

AT&T and Cigna did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

AT&T’s Political Action Committee (PAC), just 35 days after pausing contibutions to the 147 election objectors, gave $5,000 to the Republican Study Committee in February, according to Legum. Rep. Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana who voted against certifying Electoral College results, sits on the RSC’s executive committee.

Cigna, which had said it would “discontinue support of any elected official who encouraged or supported violence, or otherwise hindered a peaceful transition of power,” continued that support just 22 days later by giving $15,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Legum reported. The NRSC is chaired by GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, another election objector.

Political Action Committees backed by S&P 500 companies gave more than $23 million to the 147 GOP election objectors during the most recent campaign cycles (2020 for House members; 2016 and 2018 for senators), according to an Insider analysis of Federal Election Commission data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Critics, from activists to shareholders to other executives, have argued the contributions helped those lawmakers get elected and stay in power, giving them the platform they used to undermine voters’ faith in the election (which Trump’s former top cybersecurity official called “the most secure in American history“).

Read more: Democrats are plotting the death – and rebirth – of a hamstrung Federal Election Commission now that they’ll control the White House and both chambers of Congress

Following reporting from Popular Information and other media outlets, many companies began rethinking their political contributions.

Companies’ commitments varied widely, however.

Few have permanently blacklisted election objectors, and as Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, the largest contributions typically happen right before, not after elections, leaving the door open for companies to resume their support once the public’s attention has turned elsewhere – an argument bolstered by AT&T and Cigna’s recent contributions.

Other companies paused all PAC contributions, potentially allowing them to benefit from the positive PR without having to explicitly condemn – or risk alienating – more than half of the Republicans in Congress.

Still, dozens issued public statements or internal memos announcing they would pause contributions while reevaluating how they use their money to influence politics.

Here’s a list of the S&P 500 companies – some of the largest and most influential businesses in the US – how much they gave to the 147 election objectors in the latest election cycles through their corporate PACs, and whether they’ve pulled (or resumed) their support.

Do you work for one of these companies and have information about how they’re responding to recent events? We’d love to hear how they’re navigating the current political landscape. Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal ( +1 503-319-3213 ), email (tsonnemaker@insider.com), or Twitter (@TylerSonnemaker ). We can keep sources anonymous. PR pitches by email only, please.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Trump shifted campaign donor funds into his heavily indebted private business after his election loss, report says

trump organization campaign money
Former President Donald Trump has shifted money from campaign donors into his personal businesses, Forbes reported.

  • Former President Donald Trump has shifted money raised from campaign donors into the Trump Organization.
  • The organization is heavily indebted, reportedly owing around $400 million.
  • Campaign donor money was moved both before and after Trump’s election loss, reported Forbes.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Former President Donald Trump has shifted money raised from campaign donors into the Trump Organization, according to documents from the Federal Election Committee (FEC) seen by Forbes.

He moved around $2.8 million into his private businesses throughout the duration of his presidency, Forbes’s Dan Alexander reported.

Trump funneled an additional $81,000 into the Trump Organization after his election loss, the magazine said.

The payments were made public in the filings the campaign submitted to the FEC and were liest to cover costs including rent, airfare, lodging, and other expenses.

One of the campaign’s joint-fundraising committees, associated with the Republican Party, also moved an estimated $4.3 million of donor money into his private business during his presidential term, according to Forbes.

Read more: 10 huge hits to Trump’s business from the pandemic that may be permanent.

The joint-fundraising committee also paid around $300,000 towards Trump’s hotel chain in the week following the former president’s election loss, the Independent reported.

Around $40,000 was handed over from the campaign to Trump Tower Commercial LLC, a company which the former president owns a stake in, in December, the paper said.

This isn’t the first time it has been reported that Trump transferred campaign money to his private businesses.

In July, The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold reported that Trump’s campaign sent nearly $400,000 to the Trump Organization in just two days.

Documents showed that the campaign channeled $380,000 to the president’s personal business in 43 transactions, Fahrenthold said.

This comes when the former president is said to be looking for ways to cash in on his post-presidency to address potentially huge debt.

The Trump Organization owes $400 million, according to Forbes.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Corporate America is pausing its financial support for the 147 GOP lawmakers who challenged Biden’s victory. Here are all the S&P 500 companies who gave them money – and then stopped.

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (center) and Josh Hawley (top) led the GOP effort to challenge Electoral College votes on January 6, which was interrupted as Trump supporters attempted to violently overturn Biden's victory.
  • S&P 500 companies gave $23 million to the 147 GOP lawmakers who contested Electoral College results.
  • After GOP efforts to overturn Biden’s victory led to violence, some companies paused their support.
  • Here’s a list of how much each corporate PAC had given and whether they’ve paused contributions.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

On January 6, Congress convened a joint session to formally certify President Joseph Biden’s Electoral College victory, but it was quickly interrupted by a group of Republican objectors who argued, based on little more than conspiracy theories, that Congress shouldn’t proceed because there had been widespread election fraud.

In total, 147 Republicans – roughly 55% of the GOP lawmakers in Congress – objected to certifying the results of at least one state’s Electoral College vote.

But that long-shot effort to overturn democratic election results was itself interrupted by pro-Trump rioters who – citing the same election fraud conspiracies – stormed the US Capitol building in an attempt to violently keep Trump in power, forcing members of Congress to evacuate, leaving five dead and dozens injured.

In the wake of the failed insurrection, corporate America found itself facing backlash for its extensive financial support of Trump and the lawmakers whose repeated amplification of election fraud conspiracies helped fuel the violence.

Political Action Committees backed by S&P 500 companies gave more than $23 million to the 147 GOP election objectors during the most recent campaign cycles (2020 for House members; 2016 and 2018 for senators), according to an Insider analysis of Federal Election Commission data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Critics, from activists to shareholders to other executives, have argued the contributions helped those lawmakers get elected and stay in power, giving them the platform they used to undermine voters’ faith in the election (which Trump’s former top cybersecurity official called “the most secure in American history“).

Read more: Democrats are plotting the death – and rebirth – of a hamstrung Federal Election Commission now that they’ll control the White House and both chambers of Congress

But following reporting from Popular Information and other media outlets, many companies began rethinking their political contributions.

Companies’ commitments have varied widely, however.

Few have permanently blacklisted election objectors, and as Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, the largest contributions typically happen right before, not after elections, leaving the door open for companies to resume their support once the public’s attention has turned elsewhere. Others have paused all PAC contributions, potentially allowing them to benefit from the positive PR without having to explicitly condemn – or risk alienating – more than half of the Republicans in Congress.

Still, dozens have issued public statements or internal memos announcing they will at least pause contributions while they reevaluate how they use their money to influence politics.

Here’s a list of the S&P 500 companies – some of the largest and most influential businesses in the US – how much they gave to the 147 election objectors in the latest election cycles through their corporate PACs, and whether they’ve pulled their support.

Do you work for one of these companies and have information about how they’re responding to recent events? We’d love to hear how they’re navigating the current political landscape. Contact this reporter using a non-work device via encrypted messaging app Signal ( +1 503-319-3213 ), email (tsonnemaker@insider.com), or Twitter (@TylerSonnemaker ). We can keep sources anonymous. PR pitches by email only, please. 

 

Read the original article on Business Insider