Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) seems to be exploiting a loophole in federal law and pouring money into the congressional campaign of a former staffer.
The Republican senator contributed $137,183 to the House campaign for former staffer Cassy Garcia, who made it from the Texas GOP primary to a May 24 runoff, her campaign finance reports show only a $600 website -- and no other expenditures, reported The Daily Beast.
Cruz regularly pushes the limits of campaign finance laws, but his contributions to Garcia are probably lawful as long as the senator and his former deputy state director did not coordinate on the spending, which is a broad term that applies to candidates and super PACs.
Federal rules limit direct contributions from one campaign to another to $2,000 for primaries and another $2,000 for the general election, while individual donors can give a combined $5,800, but the rules don't place limits on the amount of money campaigns can spend on indirect support, or independent expenditures.
That would theoretically allow a campaign committee -- let's call it "Ted Cruz for Senate" -- to spend millions of dollars on advertisements or other marketing to boost a friend's campaign or attack that friend's opponent.
Cruz essentially cut out the middleman with his spending on Garcia's campaign, and the tactic was so novel that the Federal Election Commission didn't even have a way to report the contributions, which were filed as “miscellaneous” forms after the senator's campaign committee started showering his former staffer with cash a week before the primary.
The tactic could be used by fundraising titans like Trump to influence other races, but its legality hinges on just how independent those expenditures are -- and campaign law experts questioned some of Cruz's spending.
"Cruz’s Facebook spending promotes a joint rally organized by his campaign, with an EventBrite link, and a post on Garcia’s official Facebook page links to the same rally and same EventBrite invitation — which lists Ted Cruz for Senate as the organizer," The Daily Beast reported. "Additionally, Cruz and Garcia, who have a close history, also both paid a common vendor for 'design' work — a small Texas company called Birdwell Communications, which only two other federal committees have paid."
The Cruz and Garcia campaigns did not immediately reply to a request for comment, but a legal expert flagged some of the spending activity.
“The use of a common vendor would be seen as a red flag indicating the possibility of coordination between the two campaigns,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance law specialist at Harmon Curran.