Ted Cruz launches a (probably illegal) direct mail fundraising scam

Ted Cruz’s campaign appears to have utter disdain for voters. First, it was cynically craven voter shaming mailers and lies about an opponent dropping out in Iowa. Now, it appears that Cruz’s campaign has launched a direct mail fundraising scam — one that’s probably illegal.

From the Huffington Post:

Ted Cruz's mailer, via  the Huffington Post

Ted Cruz’s mailer, via the Huffington Post

A New Jersey resident sent The Huffington Post the latest piece of mail he received from Cruz’s campaign. The envelope appears to have come from Cruz’s Senate office and has his name printed the same way it often is for Senate business. In small type the mailer clarifies that it is for “personal” matters and was not sent at taxpayers’ expense. It also promises a check.

But the check inside — which is made out to the Cruz campaign, not to the voter — is fake. The accompanying letter promises that a “group of generous supporters” have promised to match donations received in response to the mailer.

The New Jersey voter who received the mailer and asked not to be named said the letter would be enough to “fool my mother-in-law.”

Readers from Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas, Maine, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Hampshire and other states wrote in after this story was published to say they received the same mailer. It appears to have been sent out widely, to registered Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

According to the terms set in the mailer, any donation of at least $45 will be matched by this group of anonymous and generous donors. That the mailer was sent to a wide audience suggests that Cruz’s campaign expects quite a few donations. It also suggests that Cruz’s solicitation is very likely illegal.

To be clear, what calls the legality of this mailer into question isn’t its appearance as a maybe-official document, nor is its implication that the Cruz campaign is sending people money with “Check Enclosed” emblazoned on the envelope. As Cruz’s campaign notes, the enclosed mailing does make it clear that contributions are going to Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign; they’ve got that base covered. Instead, what makes this mailer legally suspect is the claim that there is a “group of generous supporters” who have promised to match funds raised through the mailer.

This isn’t the first time Cruz has made this claim. As Dan Froomkin and Zaid Jilani wrote for The Intercept last week, Cruz made the same pitch to supporters in a fundraising email last week. The problem, as they note, is it’s really hard to credibly claiming matching funds from a group of donors whose contributions are limited:

Campaign finance experts, however, say there’s no way Cruz could be doing exactly what he promised without violating the law. That’s because there’s no way “a few very generous supporters” could legally be matching a large number of contributions to the campaign.

The operative rule is that individual donations to campaigns are legally capped. “If this money is going to his campaign, any one of those donors can only give a maximum of $2,700 [per cycle] including any money they have given before,” said Fred Wertheimer, a campaign finance expert at Democracy 21.

Many of Cruz’s most “generous donors” have presumably already hit that limit, which is called “maxing out.”

“I don’t know what he’s doing or how he’s doing it, but the only way that I could imagine he could be doing it that’s legal is if he’s got a bunch of not maxed-out donors who are willing to match the contributions of others until they themselves max out at $2,700,” said Paul Seamus Ryan, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center.

Richard Skinner, a policy analyst at the Sunlight Foundation, speculated that the Cruz campaign could perhaps have lined up a conference call with “like a hundred contributors who have not maxed out.” In that scenario, if each one could still give $1,000 and remain below the cap, they could match $100,000 in donations — but that would be all, and Cruz didn’t say there was a limit beyond which donations would no longer be matched.

Of course, those “generous supporters” could also shift their donations to the super PAC supporting Cruz if they max out to Cruz’s official campaign committee, but if they did, it would constitute Cruz’s campaign fundraising for the super PAC, which is super illegal.

All this is to say, if Cruz is pitching a matching funds campaign online and through the mail on large scales, and if he’s using deceptive tactics to boost the number of donations he receives, then there’s almost no way that his matching funds claim can be both true and legal. What few campaign finance rules we still have left have made sure of it.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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11 Responses to “Ted Cruz launches a (probably illegal) direct mail fundraising scam”

  1. gretchen says:

    Looks like Cruz’s lying and waving the Bible didn’t fool anyone! “A Bloomberg Politics poll shows the billionaire dominating the field across virtually all demographic groups, and doing even better than Cruz among those who say they are either very conservative or evangelical Christian. On nearly every question about challenges faced by the next president, Trump
    scores the highest.”

  2. gretchen says:

    There is so much proof that Cruz is a total liar: His latest is that Trump will nominate liberal judges: FACT: Trump named two SCOTUS nominees at the debate (no one else mentioned any). They were praised by Senator Sessions “Trump really hit a home run with me when he mentioned [Pryor].” http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/02/16/jeff-sessions-praises-donald-trumps-answers-sessions-test/
    So it’s just another lie from Cruz.

    And more outright lies he has been telling.


    Then you have what Cruz did to Carson in Iowa and the fraudulent mailers. And the dirty trick pointed out by Rep. Gowdy http://dailycaller.com/2016/02/16/trey-gowdy-upset-after-fake-facebook-page-claims-he-switched-endorsement/

    And the list goes on – unbelievable

  3. Pipers14 says:

    Thanks, was just wondering.

  4. New York. Not sure about other states.

  5. Pipers14 says:

    Which State are these being sent?

  6. For those of you that received it, PLEASE take out the pre-addressed envelope, stick a stamp on it and send back a note to Ted “the weasel” Cruz. I wrote “Ted Cruz is a Jack ___” Hope his campaign appreciates it.

  7. I got this today. What a weasel. He certainly is proud in his thought that he’s smarter’n anyone else! I saw this, told my wife when I opened if, if it was, IN FACT a check from Ted Cruz, then he would have my vote, knowing full well it was some sort of trickery. This guy is a weasel but .. “praise God!”

  8. BeccaM says:

    It says a lot about one’s general lack of appeal that you have to pretend to bribe people so they’ll open your campaign’s begging-for-money letters.

    And even more about one’s ethics or lack thereof.

  9. DoverBill says:

    This sleazebag is the ‘pink slime’ of politics.

  10. Quilla says:

    Fry him for mail fraud.


  11. Ol' Hippy says:

    Ted Cruz represents the most despicable type of underhanded candidate imaginable. The dishonesty of conniving manipulation of his voting base only goes to show what a horrendous president he’d be. I’m truly afraid of what he would do with his dominionist on the nuclear trigger. We could conceivably be launched into an exchange with another nuclear power. He already said he’d tear up the Iranian deal which would allow them to proceed to make a nuke. Then Ted would have no qualms to launch an attack. And to think he’s “pro life”, he’s as anti-life as anyone in a long time.

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