Axios reports that a campaign finance watchdog on Wednesday filed two ethics complaints against Sen. Ted Cruz, accusing the Texas Republican of “illegally using campaign funds to promote his book.”
Using campaign funds to ask supporters to buy Cruz’s book, as the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) alleges, would break the Federal Election Commission’s rule barring candidates from using political contributions for personal gain.
The CLC alleges Cruz spent up to $18,000 in Facebook ads to ask supporters to buy a copy of his latest book on the Supreme Court, for which he received a $400,000 advance from the publisher. Cruz receives 15% royalties on each hardcover sold, the watchdog said, citing his financial disclosure report.
The watchdog notes that although the FEC has previously allowed campaigns to offer a candidate’s book as a gift to supporters after purchasing it directly from the publisher — if royalties are withheld — that would not apply to Cruz.
The CLC alleges that “Cruz instead used campaign funds for online ads that exclusively promoted his book and directed supporters to purchase it from third-party booksellers,” Axios reported.
Brendan Fischer, CLC director of federal reform, said in a statement: “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.”
“We don’t know how extensive these violations might be because any similar ads that Cruz may have run on platforms other than Facebook or Google are not publicly available,” Fischer added.
Axios noted that “Cruz’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.”
Last month, The Daily Beast reported on Cruz’s alleged misuse of campaign funds to promote his book, writing:
In September and October of last year, Cruz’s campaign, Ted Cruz for Senate, paid for 17 ads on his official Facebook candidate page promoting retail sales of his book, One Vote Away: How A Single Supreme Court Seat Can Change History. The sponsored posts, which Facebook catalogued in its political ads library, feature a video of Cruz telling viewers to purchase his book from third parties, and include links to landing pages on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million. The copy on the Amazon links reads, “Buy my book.”
The Federal Election Commission bars candidates from using contributions to line their own pockets, such as by promoting items that generate private income, including publishing royalties. Experts in election law say that while both Republican and Democratic political committees frequently, and legally, offer books as “donor mementos” in exchange for donations, Cruz appears to have crossed the line by selling the books outright.
Image credit: Screengrab / Senator Ted Cruz / YouTube