When Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, bailed out for the balmy climes of Cancún while the worst winter storm in recent memory stranded millions of his constituents without power, he hired a security guard to watch his home and care for his poodle, Snowflake. But the way the senator chose to pay for that help may attract the attention of the Federal Election Commission, which has not sanctioned the use of campaign funds for personal security.
Cruz appears to have tapped into both campaign funds and his taxpayer-backed Senate allowance for security expenses, some of them related to travel. The FEC bars candidates and elected officials from using political contributions for their own personal use, and Cruz may have violated this rule if he used donations to pay for a security guard for his Houston home or at other times outside his capacities as a candidate or officeholder. It would also appear to be a violation of the personal use prohibition if Cruz dipped into his campaign account to pay the guard to do household chores, such as caring for Snowflake. Last year, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo triggered an internal investigation for a similar alleged misuse of taxpayer funds, such as paying an aide to walk his dog.
Salon reported earlier this month that in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, the two Republican national congressional committees filed a joint advisory ruling request asking the FEC to allow lawmakers to fund personal protection details with campaign donations, but the issue is unsettled. While candidates can and do expense electronic security systems for their homes, the FEC has not ruled on whether the exemption extends to bodyguards.
A handful of candidates, including Cruz, appear to have gone ahead without FEC guidance. In October 2020, the senator's campaign organization, Ted Cruz for Senate, started paying the Houston security firm Atlas Glinn Inc. for "personnel service/equipment," according to FEC filings. The Atlas Glinn website features a photo of Cruz accompanied by what appears to be a security team. In the three months from October to December, the campaign paid the firm a total of $46,000, according to federal records.
In addition to home security, Cruz's campaign also spent more than $15,000 in the last four months on what it characterizes in filings as "security equipment installation": $11,000 to Houston-based Automation Media Professionals, and $4,000 to Solar X Window Film Systems, also in Houston, for "tear and penetration-resistant" protective window film designed to hold "glass fragments together in the event of an accident, break-in or violent storm." Cruz and his family live in Houston, which also hosts his southeast Texas office.
The vast majority of these payments came after the 2020 general election, which Cruz predicted could be a "bloodbath" for Republicans. The Harvard Law graduate was among the first and most ardent peddlers of former President Trump's baseless claims of election fraud, a leading voice in a broader narrative that led directly to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters. Cruz was inside the Senate chamber when that attack began, objecting to Electoral College votes, and used the event to raise campaign funds.
In justifying the emergency nature of the FEC request last month, attorneys for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee cited the alarming spike in security threats connected to the Jan. 6 riots.
"In light of current events involving concrete threats of physical violence against Members and their families, Members have been compelled to consider further security measures for themselves and their families," the committees wrote. "As has been well-documented in the media, Members and their families continue to endure threats and security breaches, which are being timely reported to appropriate law enforcement officials."
Cruz has also paid his former bodyguard out of his campaign and Senate accounts. FEC filings show that in 2019, Ted Cruz for Senate issued a $5,000 payment to Air France for "security expenses," and paid more than $3,000 to Matthew "Grant" Murray, apparently for providing security for Cruz while he was traveling.
Murray currently works for Cruz's Senate office: His LinkedIn profile says he is a "Special Operations Advisor to the U.S. Senate," and before that he served as regional deputy director for southeast Texas, a job he took in November 2016 after briefly heading up security for Cruz's ill-fated 2016 presidential campaign. Before that, Murray was director of operations for 360 Group International Inc, a personal security firm that describes itself as providing executive protection, security consulting and threat assessment services to VIPs, companies and government agencies.
Since 2016, Murray has made six figures a year as a full-time Senate employee, according to LegiStorm data, and in 2018 he appears to have made $50,000 on the payroll for Cruz's re-election campaign. The Cruz campaign has also paid Murray more than $10,000 for travel and per diem expenses, according to campaign records.
In 2018 Murray accompanied Cruz in his official Senate capacity on a federally funded trip to Israel, and in 2019 the campaign paid a security bill to the full-time Senate aide ahead of an Indo-Pacific tour that Cruz appears to have taken in his government capacity.
Filings also indicate that the campaign reimbursed Murray for "materials" related to a 2019 trip orchestrated by a travel agency called Culture Trip GMBH. According to its LinkedIn page, Culture Trip is "Germany's leading, luxury travel planner" and offers "access to the inaccessible: private homes and collections, exclusive wine tastings & culinary events with master sommeliers and star chefs, curator walks through extraordinary museum treasures and the most fabulous team of expert/guides available." The company says that it specializes in custom small-group tours throughout Germany, and offers "hand-selected" drivers and guides as well as "Shore Excursions."
Salon could not find reports that Cruz traveled to Germany in 2019, in any capacity, but his campaign had logged that $5,000 payment to Air France for "security expenses" just a few months prior. If Cruz did indeed indulge in a luxury getaway — for which recent events suggest he has a taste — it's not clear that Germany impressed him: A few months later he crossed the aisle in an attempt to block the construction of a pipeline that would reroute Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to a German port, threatening further sanctions against Russia if the countries went ahead with the project, although it was backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an important U.S. ally. Nearly a year earlier, in January 2018, Cruz had rejected bipartisan calls for stricter sanctions on Russia in a resolution that failed in the Senate by three votes.
This week, Cruz urged the Biden administration to cut support for the Russian gas pipeline, saying that it could have "serious consequences for the national security of America and the energy security of our European allies."
It does not appear that Cruz enlisted a personal detail on his recent but brief holiday in Cancún. The Houston Police Department provided personnel assistance and "monitored his movements" after Cruz's staff requested a law enforcement "assistance upon arrival" at the airport, The New York Times reported. Video captured Houston officers accompanying the senator when he returned the next morning, when Cruz issued a statement saying he had taken the trip under disaster conditions because he wanted "to be a good dad."
"With school canceled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon," the statement said. "My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas. We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm. My team and I will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe."
The Cruz campaign did not immediately reply to Salon's request for comment.