Feds ask Ted Cruz reelection committee to explain illegal donation it received

The letter comes as Cruz faces scrutiny over a podcast deal that'd dumped $786,000 into a super PAC dedicated to his reelection.

click to enlarge U.S. Senator Ted Cruz speaks at the 2021 Young Latino Leadership Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. - Gage Skidmore
Gage Skidmore
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz speaks at the 2021 Young Latino Leadership Summit in Phoenix, Arizona.
Amid scrutiny over his controversial podcast deal, a campaign committee tied to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is now being asked to explain a donation it accepted earlier this year that greatly exceeds the amount allowed under federal law.

In a June 26 letter, the Federal Election Commission asked the Ted Cruz Victory Committee to explain a $16,000 donation from a person identified as Reginald James Brown. Individuals are only allowed to donate $2,000 to a candidate's committee per election, meaning the reported contribution was eight times over the limit.

In federal filings, the committee lists its two biggest 2024 beneficiaries as Cruz and the Cruz-affiliated Jobs, Freedom & Security PAC.

It's not unusual for campaigns to be asked to explain larger-than-allowed donations, and they generally avoid hot water if they return the amount over the allowable limit, according to experts. Even so, the $16,000 donation is considerably larger than many that set off red flags with the FEC.

The FEC's letter comes as Cruz faces a complaint from a pair of watchdog groups — Campaign Legal Center and End Citizens United — who asked the commission to investigate a deal the senator struck with San Antonio-based radio group iHeartMedia to distribute his podcast.

Under that contract, iHeartMedia funnels money related to ad time sold on The Verdict With Ted Cruz podcast into the coffers of Truth and Courage, a super PAC that publicly lists its reason for existence as ensuring Cruz is reelected in 2024.

While Cruz has defended the deal saying he records the podcast for free, Campaign Legal Center and End Citizens United argue that the donations to the super PAC are a way for the politician to skirt limits on corporate campaign donations.

Since striking the distribution deal in late 2022, iHeartMedia has poured a total of $786,000 into the coffers of Truth and Courage, federal records show.

The Ted Cruz Victory Committee has until July 31 to answer the FEC's query about the $16,000 donation.

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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