All of a sudden, Ted Cruz really doesn’t want to talk about his podcast

All of a sudden, Ted Cruz really doesn’t want to talk about his podcast
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Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at an event in New York in November 2023.
Sen. Ted Cruz has been accused of violating campaign finance laws with his podcast. He has yet to address the issue substantively.

  • Ted Cruz is in some hot water over his thrice-weekly “Verdict” podcast.
  • He’s been accused of violating the law by directing the podcast’s ad revenue to a super PAC.
  • In a break from his usual approach, he’s declined to substantively address questions about it.

When I approached Sen. Ted Cruz at the Capitol this week, he appeared upbeat, quipping that he was “living the dream” when I opened our conversation.

The Texas Republican quickly turned combative, however, when I told him I had questions about a strange story that began bubbling up in recent weeks about his thrice-weekly “Verdict” podcast and a super PAC set up for the sole purpose of supporting his reelection.

“Of course you do,” Cruz replied. “I understand you have a mission to write an attack piece.”

It was similar to the approach he took when asked about the controversy by a local TV station in Houston, where he declined to substantively address the issue and instead accused a reporter of trying to “parrot left-wing Democrat attacks.”

All of this began in late March when the Houston Chronicle reported that iHeartMedia — the company that hosts Cruz’s podcast — had since the beginning of 2023 deposited more than $630,000 into “Truth and Courage,” a super PAC set up to support Cruz’s reelection.

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iHeartMedia, which signed on as a corporate partner to the podcast in late 2022, has confirmed that the payments to the super PAC were derived from advertising revenue generated by podcast.

However, campaign finance laws forbid direct coordination between candidates and the super PACs that support them, and the payments raise the possibility that Cruz struck some sort of agreement with iHeartMedia to direct the ad revenue to the super PAC — an apparent violation of those laws.

When I asked Cruz if that was the case, he said his team had already put out a statement on the matter — though the only such statement I could find was the statement given to the Houston Chronicle, which accused the media of wanting to “stop” his podcast while noting that he makes the appearances “for free.”

Cruz is usually eager to talk about both his podcast and campaign finance laws

On some level, it’s not hard to see why Cruz is agitated — the brewing scandal is creating negative press as he faces a competitive reelection race against Democratic Rep. Colin Allred this November.

The Campaign Legal Center and End Citizens United have also filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing Cruz of violating campaign finance laws.

BP America, an oil company, asked iHeartMedia to yank their ads from the podcast, saying that they “were never informed” that their advertising dollars were “going directly to a super PAC.”

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Yet Cruz’s refusal to answer questions about the arrangement is a departure from his typical approach.

When Allred first tried to make an issue out of Cruz’s podcast possibly distracting the senator from his responsibilities, the Texas senator confidently told me that his podcast was actually “integral to doing the job,” even if it “takes quite a bit of time.” Cruz has also been known to tell Capitol Hill reporters to listen to his podcast in order to get a fuller sense of his views on various topics.

He’s also engaged with me before on campaign finance matters, explaining his opposition to a bill to disclose dark money spending in federal elections and speaking with me at length about his eponymous Supreme Court case.

In that case, Ted Cruz vs. FEC, the Texas senator deliberately challenged existing campaign finance laws, suing the FEC with the goal of getting the conservative Supreme Court to eliminate an existing $250,000 cap on the amount of money that a candidate can raise after their election to repay personal loans to their campaign.

That cap had been designed as an anti-corruption measure, limiting donors’ ability to line the personal pockets of lawmakers.

Cruz made a relatively straightforward argument to me in May 2023 about why he disagreed with that, arguing that the cap was really an effort to “disincentivize any challenger from taking the risk and loaning their own money to their campaign.”

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I’ve since written about some of the fallout from that June 2022 Supreme Court decision, including both Cruz and Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin repaying themselves for years-old campaign loans and Sens. JD Vance of Ohio and Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma doing the same as they accepted corporate PAC contributions.

So when I approached Cruz this week, I asked if he might be doing something similar here to what he did before: challenging existing campaign finance law with the intention of changing it. And I hoped he might be willing to explain his intentions, as he’s done in the past.

“When you write a positive story on something I’ve accomplished here, on legislation I’ve passed, then I’ll answer your questions,” Cruz replied. “In the meantime, if you’re just gonna do attack pieces, knock yourself out.”

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