WASHINGTON — A political campaign watchdog says U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz violated federal elections law by using campaign cash to pay for Facebook ads last year hawking his book about the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Campaign Legal Center on Wednesday filed complaints with the Federal Elections Commission and Senate Ethics Committee urging an investigation into the Texas Republican’s use of at least $14,400 in campaign funds to pay for ads exclusively promoting the book, “One Vote Away: How a Single Supreme Court Seat Can Change History.” The ads urged viewers to buy the book, with a link to online booksellers such as Amazon, which now lists it at $13.99 for the hardcover edition.
Cruz receives 15 percent royalties on every hardcover copy of the book — a New York Times bestseller — and received a $400,000 advance from the publisher, his financial disclosures show. But an attorney for Cruz said the senator “has not received any royalties whatsoever” for books sold through the ads.
Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the watchdog group, said the FEC has been clear through past rulings and advisory opinions that campaign funds cannot be used to purchase or promote a book for which the candidate is receiving royalties.
“It’s very rare to see a campaign so explicitly violating federal campaign finance law,” Fischer said.
The group’s complaint targets ads Cruz ran on Facebook from Sept. 24 through Oct. 5 as the Senate prepared to approve the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the high court. While some of the ads link to booksellers directly, others offer signed copies in exchange for campaign donations.
Chris Gober, an attorney for Cruz’s campaign said it “closely followed Federal Election Commission laws and guidelines when promoting his book, and he has not received any royalties whatsoever for these book sales.”
The complaint says Cruz spent between $14,400 and $17,697 on the ads, according to Facebook’s political ad archive.
“I have a new book coming out that explains how this seat could fundamentally change American History,” Cruz said in one ad. “Please order your copy today.”