Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) broke campaign finance law in using donations to fund promotions for his book, a government watchdog alleged Wednesday.
The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Senate Ethics Committee alleging that Cruz spent up to nearly $18,000 in campaign money on Facebook advertisements exclusively promoting his book last year. It urged viewers to “order your copy today” or “buy my new book” CLC says, and included a link to buy the book from third-party sellers like Amazon.
The ads all included a disclaimer saying “Paid for by Ted Cruz for Senate,” both complaints say. The book was released in September, and the campaign ran ads between September 24 and October 5, 2020, CLC said.
According to a financial disclosure report, Cruz gets 15 percent in royalties on sales of hardcover copies of his book and received a $400,000 advance from his publisher. The CLC says that because Cruz benefits financially from sales of the book the advertisements were a “blatant disregard” of campaign finance laws and violated the rules of the Senate.
“Because Cruz receives royalties from book sales, his campaign crossed a legal line by spending donor funds on Facebook ads promoting sales of that book,” said Brendan Fischer, CLC director of federal reform, in a statement. The FEC prohibits the use of campaign funds for personal gain. In some cases, campaigns may use campaign funds to buy books as a donor gift, as long as royalties are withheld, CLC says.
Fischer adds that it’s possible that Cruz spent campaign money on advertising the book on platforms other than Google and Facebook that aren’t publicly viewable.
The Senate’s rules against using donations for personal reasons are “crystal clear,” said Delaney Marsco, senior legal counsel for ethics at CLC, in a statement. “Voters must be able to trust that when they are donating to political campaigns, they are doing so to help their favored candidate win or retain their office, not financing their personal endeavors,” Marsco said.
“In light of these facts, Campaign Legal Center respectfully requests that you investigate whether Senator Cruz has violated FECA, FEC regulations, and Senate rules,” said CLC in its letter to Ethics Committee Chairman Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware).
Cruz also came under scrutiny for a similar issue regarding book purchases in February. Earlier this year, a leadership PAC connected with Cruz paid $1.2 million to a company that appeared to have spent the money on buying Cruz’s book. Cruz, then, could have collected royalties on the book sales. An adviser to Cruz has denied the story.
An attorney for Cruz has also denied the CLC’s allegations, saying in a statement that Cruz “has not received any royalties whatsoever for these book sales.”
But Fischer said that that was not possible for Cruz or his attorneys to ascertain. “There seems to be no legitimate way for Cruz to know how many books were purchased as a result of these Facebook ads,” Fischer told CNBC, “and therefore it’s impossible to say that Cruz is not receiving royalties on the books sold as a result of the ads.”
The FEC, CLC notes, allows candidates to use a trivially small amount of money to promote their book on their campaign website. But, they write, “Ted Cruz for Senate did not post a single sentence of promotional material on a campaign website at little to no cost; rather, the committee spent thousands of dollars of campaign funds on standalone ads that were entirely focused on promoting the sale of Cruz’s book.”
Earlier this year, Cruz also had a Senate ethics complaint filed against him for his role in inciting the attack on the Capitol on January 6. Senate Democrats had filed a complaint against Cruz and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) in January in order to “fully understand their role” in the attack. Hawley has also allegedly used campaign funds improperly, apparently using donor funds to pay for a family vacation.