The campaign for Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) has placed advertisements directing supporters to buy her new memoir from retailers, an arrangement that may violate campaign-finance laws.
Federal law prohibits candidates from shelling out campaign funds for personal purposes, defined as expenses that “would exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign or individual’s duties as a holder of federal office.”
On or before May 5, Boebert’s campaign began running an ad for her new book, “My American Life,” on WinRed, the Republican’s online fundraising platform that is typically used to solicit campaign donations. While a disclaimer at the bottom says that WinRed paid for the ad, the URL includes lauren-boebert-for-congress, and the ad has an option to sign up for updates from Lauren Boebert for Congress.
WinRed regularly runs ads in which candidates offer their book in exchange for a campaign donation. In those circumstances, the Federal Election Commission requires the campaign to buy the book in a manner that won’t lead to a royalty for the author (which is typically done by purchasing directly from the publisher at a discount).
Boebert’s ad is different. It directs supporters to buy her books from retailers, like Amazon and Books-A-Million, which could theoretically lead to royalties. (Boebert’s book deal has yet to appear on one of her annual financial disclosures.)
A spokesperson for Boebert’s campaign said the ad follows previous guidance from the FEC. Boebert’s representatives cited two advisory opinions that stated a campaign’s website and social-media accounts may advertise a candidate’s book and direct consumers to a retailer, as long as the cost of adding that promotional material to the site and accounts would be negligible.
An expert in campaign finance, however, disagrees with that interpretation. “Both of the advisory opinions cited by them involve book advertisements placed on the campaign’s own website—not ads that were placed on someone else’s website for a fee,” said Brett Kappel, an attorney at Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg. “WinRed could not provide that hosting service for free, or it would be an in-kind contribution by WinRed to the campaign.” FEC records do not appear to show any such donations.
A spokesperson for WinRed did not respond to an inquiry.
In April 2021, the FEC received a similar complaint about Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) from government watchdog Campaign Legal Center. Cruz was using campaign funds to buy ads on Facebook that encouraged supporters to buy his latest book at a retailer. The Campaign Legal Center has not received a response to its complaint.