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WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear a lawsuit brought by Sen. Ted Cruz challenging federal campaign finance rules that restrict a campaign's ability to raise money after an election to repay a candidate's personal loan.
Cruz, a Texas Republican, won the lawsuit in a lower court over the summer, which found that the limits were a violation of his First Amendment rights. The Federal Election Commission appealed the lower court's ruling to the Supreme Court in July.
The Cruz case was one of five the Supreme Court announced Thursday that it would hear. The justices will return to the courtroom Monday to start a new term.
On the day before the 2018 election, Cruz lent his campaign $260,000, which is $10,000 more than the maximum amount federal law allows to be repaid with post-election fundraising. Groups that favor tougher campaign finance limits say that allowing campaigns to raise money to repay candidate loans after the election is like putting donor money directly into a candidate's hands.
"The use of post-election contributions to repay personal loans creates a heightened risk of actual and apparent quid pro quo corruption," the FEC told the Supreme Court in explaining the limits. "Money that repays a personal loan after an election effectively goes into the candidate’s pocket."
But Cruz countered that the restriction increases "the risk that any candidate loan will never be fully repaid" and "forces a candidate to think twice before making those loans in the first place," an outcome he argued that amounts to a restriction of free speech.
A spokesman for Cruz called the court's decision to hear the case "great news" and asserted that the existing FEC rules benefit incumbent politicians by making it harder for challengers to run for office.
The high court also agreed to hear a lawsuit challenging the City of Boston's decision to deny a Christian group the ability to raise a flag at City Hall alongside non-religious groups. Camp Constitution, which frames its mission as teaching about "the country’s Judeo-Christian heritage," asserted the denial violated its First Amendment rights.
"To force any American city to erect new religious displays would not only undermine the foundational principle of church-state separation, it would play right into the hands of Christian nationalists who want the government to force everyone to live by their beliefs," said Rachel Laser, president of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court to hear Ted Cruz suit challenging campaign finance rules