CLC Seeks Investigation into Senator Cruz Podcast Deal with iHeartMedia

A smartphone on a desk with an image of Ted Cruz's podcast "Verdict with Ted Cruz" on the screen
Close up of a cell phone displaying the podcast "Verdict with Ted Cruz". Photo by Gina Kelly / Alamy Stock Photo

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) has filed a complaint with the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics (Ethics Committee) concerning Senator Ted Cruz improperly accepting a gift from iHeartMedia (iHeart) in violation of Senate rules and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA).  

The complaint stems from Senator Cruz and iHeart entering into a syndication deal, in which iHeart will fund production of Senator Cruz’s podcast, Verdict with Ted Cruz (Verdict), as well as market the show across 850 stations, and provide it with a co-host. 

Senate Rule 35 prohibits senators from accepting gifts from registered lobbyists, including gifts of service. HLOGA prohibits registered lobbyists from giving gifts to senators. Given that iHeart is a registered lobbyist that has spent over $3.5M in lobbying efforts in 2022, this syndication deal clearly violates Senate rules and HLOGA. 

The public has a right to know whether their elected officials are acting impartially in performing their duties, or in their own financial interest. Allowing Senator Cruz to receive a gift potentially worth millions of dollars from iHeart would call into question Senator Cruz’s impartiality on legislation impacting iHeart’s interests. 

This is not a hypothetical concern. iHeart has already lobbied on at least two bills before Senator Cruz’s committee, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, this year: A bill that would allow the Federal Communications Commission to require an announcement if a foreign governmental entity paid for a broadcast, and bill to create a report about the feasibility of funding the Universal Service Fund.  

The Ethics Committee has a responsibility to uphold the ethics rules and laws that exist to ensure that senators are acting in the public interest.  

Unfortunately, the Ethics Committee seems to ignore blatant ethics violations. Part of the issue at hand is an ongoing lack of ethics enforcement in the Senate in general. Currently, ethics enforcement in the chamber relies on a system of self-policing, in which members are responsible for enforcing ethics rules against their own colleagues. As a result, the Senate Ethics Committee regularly fails to hold its members accountable. 

This syndication deal is yet another instance of senators acting unethically, and we hope that, this time, the Ethics Committee will take action.  

Danielle is a Legal Counsel on CLC's Ethics team.