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Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz hosts a podcast called “Verdict With Ted Cruz.”
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Ted Cruz Is Facing Heat for His Podcast

The senator says he isn’t paid for his podcast, but the donations to a PAC from the company that distributes it raised some eyebrows.

Ted Cruz’s podcast has landed him with an ethics complaint.

Cruz has said he isn’t paid for his “Verdict With Ted Cruz” podcast, which comes out three times a week. However, iHeartMedia, the corporate media firm that distributes the podcast has given over $630,000 to the Truth and Courage PAC, a group dedicated to Cruz’s reelection campaign.

Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit focused on money in politics, filed a complaint on Wednesday with the Senate Ethics Committee alleging that the senator’s podcast deal with iHeartMedia violates ethics rules. It followed complaints the group and End Citizens United filed earlier this month with the FEC — putting him under increasing pressure to explain how and whether he’s being compensated for a podcast he hosts as a sitting U.S. senator.

In the new complaint, the Campaign Legal Center asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate whether Cruz is disguising speaking fees as payments to the Truth and Courage PAC.

“There’s a lot of money being traded hands from iHeart to something that specifically benefits Sen. Cruz,” Campaign Legal Center legal counsel Danielle Caputo told NOTUS. “So that seems suspicious to us because there is this important area prohibition, and it seemed almost to be an attempt to get around that prohibition.”

Campaign Legal Center previously filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee in 2022, shortly after Cruz entered into a deal with iHeart. It asked the committee to investigate whether the deal violated any ethics rules surrounding gifts, since the company provided a studio space, co-host and audience. The Ethics Committee ruled that the new agreement did not.

The latest complaint centers on the honorarium ban in the Ethics in Government Act, which bars senators from being paid for speeches. There’s an exception for speech payments that go to a charity, but it does not include political committees.

Cruz’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday, nor did Premiere Networks, a subsidiary that syndicates radio programming for iHeartMedia.

The senator has been defensive in the past when asked about the podcast and donations. “It really is sad what has happened to the media,” Cruz said in response to a local ABC reporter’s questioning, adding that the FEC complaint came from a “left-wing Democrat attack group” and that a previous Senate ethics inquiry into his podcast was dismissed. When Business Insider asked him about the podcast, Cruz accused the reporter of wanting to “write an attack piece.”

The Senate Ethics Committee did not respond to a request for comment.

The Ethics Committee has not disciplined anyone in years. But Caputo of Campaign Legal Center said they hope the committee “investigates these claims and make sure that they are holding Senator Cruz, but more broadly, that they’re holding senators accountable to the laws that they are required to follow.”

Ryan Hernández is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.