QAnon sympathizer elected to Congress failed to disclose fundraising ties to Sen. Ted Cruz, FEC says

Cruz gave Lauren Boebert $70,500 on the same day that he asked the DOJ to probe Netflix for alleged child porn

Published November 30, 2020 10:28PM (EST)

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (Getty Images/ Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool)
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (Getty Images/ Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool)

The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) sent a letter last week to Representative-elect Lauren Boebert, R-Co., asking the QAnon sympathizer to disclose her campaign's fundraising ties to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tx.

Cruz's first donation came on the same day the senator asked the Department of Justice to investigate Netflix for alleged child pornography, a cause célèbre for QAnon adherents.

The FEC's letter says Boebert failed to report the Cruz 20 for 20 Victory Fund PAC as a fundraising partner, even though two reported transfers appear to have come through joint fundraising efforts. Boebert and Cruz both reported the mid-September transfers, which dropped $136,250 in Boebert's campaign account.

Federal rules require joint fundraising committees to disclose their partners. While Cruz's PAC listed the Boebert campaign in its initial filing this July, the gun-rights restaurateur and political novice apparently did not reciprocate despite updating her own campaign's registration in September.

"It is generally not a good excuse to say, 'I forgot' to accurately designate contributions," Brett Kappel, campaign finance expert at Harmon Curran, told Salon. "But the FEC is lenient with first-time candidates, so she may not be sanctioned unless there are other violations."

However, this marks the Boebert campaign's third FEC letter. In June, Boebert received a notice after accepting contributions in excess of the maximum amount, a rule which she allegedly "just plain forgot."

"There was no intent to try to report contributions illegally as I just plain forgot to watch for large donations as I was preparing the report," the Boebert campaign's FEC compliance liaison wrote in reply.

The campaign was sent a similar notice on Nov. 23, the same day as the letter about Cruz. This second notice detailed a number of contributors who gave more than the legal amount, as well as contributions from three "possible unregistered organizations" with names affiliated with the Republican Party.

Boebert told Salon in a statement that the campaign would update its reports accordingly.

"The donations in question were reported and the filing will be amended by my compliance team to complete the FEC request," Boebert said. "The FEC has been very helpful and we will make sure everything is reported as they requested."

The newcomer announced her bid late last year after a confrontation over assault weapons with then-presidential contender Democrat Beto O'Rourke catapulted her to headlines. An outspoken gun-rights  advocate, Boebert and her husband co-own a barbecue restaurant in Rifle, Co. Shooters Grill requires wait staff to wear a holstered, loaded sidearm, but for years it did not require training.

Three years ago, Boebert's food apparently posed a greater risk to customers than her untrained staff. Her pork sliders allegedly poisoned dozens of people when she catered a local rodeo, making them nauseous and sending some home with bloody diarrhea.

Like Cruz in 2016, Boebert initially ran against Trump. The president endorsed Scott Tipton, her opponent in the Republican primary. Boebert ended up beating the five-term incumbent by nine points, marking the first time a challenger had defeated a sitting congressional representative in Colorado in 48 years.

Boebert's surprise victory also underscored a wider nationwide trend. Conservatives have gravitated towards far-right candidates, some of whom embrace the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory.

In a May interview with the pro-Q webcast "Steel Truth," Boebert tried to distance herself directly from the conspiracy theory while expressing "hope" that it was "real."

"Everything I heard of Q, I hope that this is real, because it only means America is getting stronger and better," she said, adding that QAnon followers were "only motivating, and encouraging and bringing people together stronger. And, if this is real, then it could be really great for our country."

Boebert told Salon that she disavows QAnon.

The congresswoman-elect was not the first Republican candidate to flirt with the movement, though she did not gone as far as Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Oregon Senate nominee Jo Rae Perkins, both of whom profess their allegiance outright.

Greene eventually won her race. However, neither of those candidates won fundraising support from the hyper-conservative Cruz.

While Cruz has never publicly aligned himself with QAnon, he drew criticism in September for "going QAnon" when he criticized the Netflix movie, "Cuties," and asked the Justice Department "to investigate whether Netflix, its executives, or the filmmakers violated any federal laws against the production and distribution of child pornography."

That day, he made his first of two transfers to Boebert's campaign — $70,500.

Editor's note: This post has been updated to include comment from Boebert.

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

MORE FROM Roger Sollenberger

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Campaign Finance Conspiracy Theories Donald Trump Elections Fec Lauren Boebert Qanon Reporting Ted Cruz Texas