Attendance at Ted Cruz's 2016 announcement was mandatory for Liberty University students
Paul Singer, USA TODAY6:18 p.m. EDT April 2, 2015
The trip, which cost more than $1,200, was one of several taxpayer-funded excursions the Texas Republican has taken to political events.
Senate rules mandate that official funds — allocated to each senator to operate their Capitol Hill office — "may only be used for official purposes," and "No official resources may be used to conduct campaign activities," according to the Senate Ethics Committee.
In the wake of his announcement last month that he is running for president, Cruz's use of his Senate office funds demonstrates how murky the line can be between official and political travel. USA TODAY recently tracked similar trips taken by Hillary Clinton, who may also be a presidential contender in 2016. During her Senate tenure, Clinton traveled on the taxpayer dime to several "official" events sponsored by political backers as she geared up for her 2008 presidential bid.
Cruz and the regional director of his Dallas Senate office spent at least $800 in taxpayer money to travel to the conference, a Western version of the bigger Conservative Political Action Conference held near Washington each year.
The senator asked attendees to sign a petition to defund President Obama's signature health care law, giving a Web address run by the Senate Conservatives Fund, a super PAC that spent heavily in 2014 elections to elect conservative candidates.
Cruz repeated this refrain at other events that year. The same month as the New York trip, Cruz spoke at a "Restoration Weekend" event in Palm Beach, Fla., hosted by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a conservative organization that says it "combats the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values and disarm this country as it attempts to defend itself in a time of terror." ...