Campaign funds are to be used for campaign purposes — not for personal expenses. Now Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is facing multiple complaints for reportedly using campaign funds to promote a project that will enrich him personally.
According to Raw Story, Cruz is being accused of violating campaign finance rules by using $18k worth of campaign funds to buy ads for his new book. In fact, the amount could be higher, since full records are not available for additional advertising that may have also been purchased. Two complaints have been formally filed by the Campaign Legal Center, one with the Federal Election Committee and one with the Senate Ethics Committee.
The $18k or more in advertising profits Cruz directly, as he receives a $400k advance on the book, and 15% of sales, which advertising is, by definition, intended to boost.
What, exactly, defines personal use and personal expenses? The Federal Election Commission has a full list of guidelines, with a single-line summary.
More simply, if the expense would exist even in the absence of the candidacy or even if the officeholder were not in office, then the personal use ban applies.
However, if there’s any question whether book advertising falls into that category, the FEC clears it up in a later section:
Generally, the expense of marketing a book would exist irrespective of a candidate’s campaign, and thus a campaign cannot ordinarily use its funds to pay such an expense. In limited situations, however, the Commission has permitted the use of campaign funds to promote a candidate’s book, as follows:
A campaign could incur de minimis costs to post on its website material promoting the book’s release and linking to an online bookseller.
A campaign could incur costs for planning book-related events and handling press and public inquiries where the candidate donates royalties to charitable organizations and thus does not personally gain from the use of campaign assets to promote the book.
Since Cruz has not expressed an intent to donate the royalties, and ads purchased on social media don’t amount to a “de minimus” (tiny, trivial) cost, as a line of text on a campaign site might, these exceptions don’t appear to apply — though ultimately, it will be up to Senate and Elections Ethics Committees to make that determination.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com