Book Marketing Puts Senator Cruz in Campaign Finance Pickle

Reporting the Texas senator to the Federal Election Commission, a watchdog says he used campaign funds to promote a book on Facebook that in turn brought in royalties.

Exhibit A in a pair of complaints against Senator Ted Cruz, one with the Federal Election Commission and another with the Senate. (Image via Courthouse News)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Saying that Senator Ted Cruz illegally used campaign donor funds to promote his book and then received royalties on the book sales, the Campaign Legal Center brought two complaints Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission and Senate Select Committee on Ethics. 

The complaints say that Regnery Publishing paid the Texas senator a $400,000 advance, and that every hardcover sale of his book, “One Vote Away: How a Single Supreme Court Seat Can Change History,” earned him 15% royalties. Cruz spent up to $18,000 advertising the book on Facebook in September and October 2020.

Facebook is the only platform that keeps public archives of political advertisements, but the watchdog says it’s possible that Ted Cruz for Senate also financed similar ads on other platforms.

The ads, which said “order your copy today” and “buy a copy, right now,” included links to buy the books from online booksellers. They also included the disclosure, “Paid for Ted Cruz for Senate.” 

In an email to Courthouse News Service, Cruz’s attorney Chris Gober denied that Cruz has received any royalties. 

“Senator Cruz’s campaign has closely followed Federal Election Commission laws and guidelines when promoting his book, and he has not received any royalties whatsoever for these book sales,” Gober said. 

This past August, however, Cruz listed his royalty agreement on the annual financial disclosure report that he files with the Senate. That report clearly lays out the agreement with Regnery Publishing. 

“It was a pretty clear violation of campaign finance laws,” said Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform for the Campaign Legal Center. “I don’t know what their justification would be. It’s possible they just figured they wouldn’t get caught.”

Gober did not respond to an email inquiring about the disclosure report. 

Plenty of other candidates have written books, but they avoid using campaign funds for personal gain by leaving it up to the publisher to market and promote the book. If a candidate is using campaign funds to market a book, the FEC allows candidates to donate the royalties to charity, or donate the books directly to supporters. 

“Personal use prohibition is very well established, and there’s a lot of FEC precedent on this precise issue,” Fischer said. “It’s rare that we see a campaign so explicitly violating such clearly established FEC precedent.”

The Campaign Legal Center has asked the Senate Ethics Committee and the FEC to investigate the alleged violations. 

“When elected officials use campaign contributions to advance their personal bottom lines, they compromise the integrity of the political process and undermine the public’s trust that their political contributions are being used legally — for campaign purposes or in connection with the officeholder’s duties, not to line the officeholder’s pockets,” the center’s letter to the Ethics Committee states. 

FEC spokeswoman Judith Ingram said that the commission does not comment on pending or potential enforcement matters. 

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