Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, broke campaign funding rules by using donation funds on his book, a watchdog alleged in two ethics complaints Wednesday.
The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) accused Cruz’s campaign committee of spending up to $ 18,000 on Facebook ads in late 2020 that “only” encouraged viewers to purchase copies of the Senator’s book. Those ads included links to buy the book from third-party online booksellers, said the CLC, a nonprofit that seeks transparency in the government.
“Because Cruz receives royalties on book sales, his campaign has crossed a legal limit by spending donation money on Facebook ads to promote the sale of this book,” Brendan Fischer, CLC director for federal reform, said in a press release in which the complaints were announced.
But Chris Gober, an attorney for Cruz’s campaign committee, said later Wednesday that the senator’s campaign “closely followed the laws and guidelines of the federal electoral commission in promoting his book.”
Cruz “did not receive any royalties on these book sales,” Gober said in a statement sent to CNBC by Cruz’s communications director Erin Perrine.
Fischer questioned this answer. “There doesn’t seem to be a legitimate way for Cruz to know how many books were bought as a result of those Facebook ads,” he said on a phone call with CNBC, “and therefore it’s impossible to say that Cruz didn’t pay royalties for that Internet receives. ” Books that were sold due to advertising. “
Cruz’s book deal with Regnery Publishing earned him an advance of $ 400,000 and a 15% royalty on net hardcover sales, the CLC press release said, citing the Senator’s financial report.
The CLC filed a complaint against the Cruz’s campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The watchdog also sent a letter to the Senate Ethics Committee requesting an investigation into whether Cruz violated federal law and the chamber’s ethics rules.
FEC spokesman Christian Hilland told CNBC that the commission has not commented on any pending litigation. The Senate Ethics Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Senate’s rules are “crystal clear that all current and former members are prohibited from converting federal campaign funds into personal use,” said Delaney Marsco, CLC’s chief ethics counsel, in the press release.
“Voters need to be confident that when they donate to political campaigns they are helping their preferred candidates win or keep their office without funding their personal endeavors,” Marsco said.
The CLC said in its complaints that Cruz may have used campaign money to market or purchase his book “without breaking the law”. He could have put a small amount of information on an existing campaign website, the CLC said, or his campaign could have bought copies of the book directly from the publisher to use as gifts to supporters if the publisher withheld royalties on those copies.
“But Senator Cruz didn’t do any of those things,” the CLC said in its letter to the Senate Ethics Committee. “Instead, Senator Cruz used campaign money on online ads promoting his book only and directed supporters to buy it from third-party booksellers.”
The book “One Vote Away: How One Seat on the Supreme Court Can Change History” was published in September.
This month, Cruz’s Facebook page ran ads promoting the book and encouraging supporters to buy – in a language like “Order your copy today” and “Buy a copy now” – like that FEC complaint alleged.
The ads ran between September 24th and October 5th, the CLC said, citing Facebook’s political ad archive. They all contained a disclaimer, “Paid by Ted Cruz for the Senate,” according to the CLC.
Fischer noted in the press release: “We do not know how extensive these violations could be, as similar ads that Cruz may have displayed on platforms other than Facebook or Google are not publicly available.”
The letter to the Senate Ethics Committee states: “When elected officials use campaign contributions to improve their personal bottom line, they are jeopardizing the integrity of the political process and undermining public confidence that their political contributions will be used legally – for campaign purposes or.” in connection with the officer’s duties not to fill the officer’s pockets. “
“Senator Cruz has violated fundamental principles of accountable government by using campaign funds to promote sales of his book,” the CLC said in a letter. “As such, the ethics committee should reassure the public that the Senate is enforcing its well-established anti-corruption rules and laws by conducting a swift investigation to identify and hold Senator Cruz accountable for violations of ethics.”
The CLC filed a separate FEC complaint last week accusing the Republican Party of Georgia of illegally accepting in-kind contributions from another election-related nonprofit called True the Vote.