Why Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, are bulk-buying copies of their own books

Among politicians and political candidates, it's a fairly widely-practiced, if somewhat less-than-honest, trend to buy their own book in bulk amounts.

Charlie Neibergall/AP
A copy of 'A Time for Truth,' by Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, sits on a table as he greets local residents during a campaign stop, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Rockwell City, Iowa.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's newest book, "A Time for Truth" is a bestseller.  So is his 2016 rival Ben Carson's "America the Beautiful." Same with Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue," Mitt Romney's "No Apologies," and President Obama's "Dreams From My Father." 

But in each case, the bestselling book's No. 1 buyer was the politician himself or herself, or a super PAC or group associated with him or her. 

Among politicians and political candidates, it's a fairly widely-practiced, if somewhat less-than-honest, trend with clear payoffs: publishing, then buying one's own book to gain lucrative bestseller status and free media attention rapidly and easily. 

And, perhaps most importantly for those running for office, it's an opportunity to travel the country and court potential voters – essentially, campaigning, under the guise of book touring – without spending a dime from campaign funds. 

Or, as The New Republic put it in a recent article, "This highlights a growing trend of political candidates publishing books, then using those books or their publishers to essentially funds campaign activities – without actually calling it as such. Publishing books allows them to meet thousands of supporters and push their agendas, while holding onto the precious cash that acts as their campaign lifeblood."

At the crux of that article was a significant revealation: that Senator Cruz's presidential campaign spent $122,000 buying up copies of his latest book, "A Time for Truth." 

According to The New Republic and taking into account the typical author discount of 50 percent, Cruz's campaign's payment of $122,252.62 to HarperCollins, the publisher of his book, indicates that the campaign probably purchased 8,000 to 10,000 copies of "A Time for Truth." 

It was enough to stir controversy earlier this summer when The New York Times left Cruz's book off its bestseller list, causing Cruz to cry foul.  As the Times explained about its decision, “the overwhelming preponderance of evidence was that sales were limited to strategic bulk purchases.”

Of course, Cruz is not the only politician to bulk-buy copies of his own book.

A super PAC associated with Mr. Carson, a prolific author and perennial bestseller, spent over $150,000 buying copies of his books

Ms. Palin made headlines in 2010 for using her super PAC to buy up $63,000 worth of copies of her book, "Going Rogue," reportedly to mail copies of the memoir to her donors. 

So did GOP candidate Herman Cain in 2011, when his campaign was found to have purchased $36,511 worth of Cain’s books from the his private motivational speaking company. 

And while on book tour in 2010, former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mr. Romney, a millionaire, asked organizations to purchase the equivalent number of copies of his book in lieu of traditional speaking fees.  

Is it legal for politicians to use campaign funds, which come from public donations, to make bulk purchases of their own books, in some cases, for reselling at a premium?  

Not necessarily, but governmental gridlock is allowing politicians to push the boundaries of what is exactly legal in terms of campaign finance, according to the New Republic. 

When there's a tie or an impasse on an issue in the Federal Election Commission, as there is on this point, then there are no repercussions, so candidates can generally move forward, even on legally murky ground. 

And it turns out even sitting presidents can get in on the fun. As The The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2011, a search of the government's online procurement database revealed that the State Department spent more than $70,000 buying up copies of Obama's books, including his 1995 bestseller "Dreams from my Father," to use as Christmas gifts and to stock foreign embassies. 

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