Protect Democracy Authors Explain How ‘Politics or Patronage’ in Coronavirus Aid Is Unconstitutional

Protect Democracy’s Christine Kwon, Erica Newland, and Kristy Parker have published “Trump Can’t Play Politics With Aid to States,” a plain-English legal analysis in Lawfare. They argue that the Trump administration would violate the Constitution in multiple ways by inserting politics or personal favor into the allocation of vital federal resources to states.
As the authors explain, the Take Care Clause requires the president to act for the benefit of all Americans, not just political allies; the Tenth Amendment prevents the president from conditioning states’ receipt of federal aid on their governors’ fealty to his administration; the Fifth Amendment prohibits the president from depriving states’ constituents of lifesaving medical resources in ways that shock the conscience and violate the decencies of civilized conduct; and the First Amendment prohibits the president from withholding assistance to states to punish either their governors for criticizing the president or residents of politically disfavored states for associating with an opposing political party.
“While it is not yet clear whether the president has in fact withheld aid for the purpose of punishing political enemies or disbursed aid to cater to political allies, he has certainly threatened to do so. And there is growing evidence that he has carried out those threats to at least some extent,” the authors write. It’s worth examining the constitutional issues that the President’s behavior toward governors and states could pose, so that individuals and states are prepared to respond once the public learns about the criteria and process that the relevant government agencies are using to allocate aid.
Read the full piece here.