“…a video broke this morning of his campaign staffers taking campaign money and apparently using it to give it to people coming here illegally.”
O’Rourke’s campaign said that the money was given legally to an El Paso charity that has nothing to do with the caravan and that it amounted to less than $300 for supplies such as diapers and granola bars. The campaign also said the donation will be reported on federal campaign filings, just as a previous donation was reported.
“Ted Cruz pushes fear and paranoia because he wants to divide and mislead Texans four days before this election,” O’Rourke said in a statement issued by his campaign.
Cruz based his allegation on undercover video from Project Veritas, a right-wing group with a checkered history of infiltrating liberal organizations and campaigns and using dubiously-edited video to claim wrongdoing.
Cruz referred to the video while campaigning in Fort Worth, telling a crowd of about 300 that “a video broke this morning of his campaign staffers taking campaign money and apparently using it to give it to people coming here illegally.”
The O’Rourke campaign said Cruz “shamefully and falsely suggested” that campaign donations were diverted to fund the caravan, which is still hundreds of miles from the U.S. border.
“Staff members took it upon themselves to use prepaid cards from one of our more than 700 field offices to buy baby wipes, diapers, water, fruit and granola bars, and donate them to a local humanitarian nonprofit named Annunciation House that helps mothers and children in the community. The value was under $300 and it will be appropriately reported to the FEC,” said O’Rourke spokesman Chris Evans.
A federal disclosure report shows that the O’Rourke campaign donated $4,000 on June 29 to Annunciation House. The organization provides shelter to families reunited after children were taken from parents under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy calling for criminal prosecution of all adults caught entering the country without permission.
Cruz, asked after his Fort Worth rally about his views of the activist group’s video, said, “I don’t know. I watched the video this morning. It certainly looks concerning. It appears to be multiple members of the O’Rourke campaign staff admitting to using campaign funds to in some ways support illegal immigrants. And on the face of it they’re describing filing false reports with the FEC and claiming that the money is being used for campaign events, for volunteers, and indeed they’re laughing about how no one will know that it wasn’t for volunteers or for campaign staffers but instead it was diverted to other uses.
“I would certainly assume that this video is going to raise a lot of questions, and questions that I expect the O’Rourke campaign should answer,” he said.
After a rally in Lewisville, O’Rourke called the attacks unfounded and a scare tactic.
“This is part of an effort to try to stoke fear and anxiety about immigrants, about asylum-seekers,” he said. “To the best of my knowledge, and we’re looking at this, some money was spent on baby wipes, diapers and water for women and children who desperately needed them.”
“We’re looking at this, but anyone who is trying to politicize this is trying to win an election based on fear. I want to make sure that we’re focused on the issues that matters most to Texas,” he said.
“I am comfortable that the campaign is aboveboard, that everything is being reported to the FEC, and I’m going to also make sure that I understand that’s going on, but from everything I’ve heard, that’s the sum of it,” he said.
Allies rallied to O’Rourke’s defense.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, hit Cruz for “stupidity.” State Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Democrat, called the senator’s allegation desperate.
©2018 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.