Over the last year, a new campaign expense has emerged, and in keeping with the times it’s sufficiently dystopian: personal bodyguards.
When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) went before the National Rifle Association’s annual gathering on Friday, he spoke about liberal “elites” who advocate for gun control while hiding behind “private security.”
But the irony of Cruz making that statement is that it’s actually Cruz himself who spends the most on private bodyguards among Republicans in Congress.
Since October 2020, the Cruz campaign has paid Houston-area executive protection firm Atlas Glinn nearly half a million dollars to protect himself and his family—$499,661, almost all of it in monthly lump sums averaging around $30,000, according to federal disclosures. (The Atlas Glinn website features a photo of a security detail guarding Cruz in a parade car.)
Cruz—a Harvard Law School grad who in the aftermath of last week’s elementary school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, attacked the Democratic politicians and the media for dominating the gun control narrative—also put more than $800 of his donors’ money toward “security equipment” last year from Houston-based boutique Caroline+Morgan Interiors. It’s not immediately clear from the company’s website exactly which of its wares would fit the bill as security equipment.
While Cruz is the biggest GOP spender, however, he also hauls in the most cash from pro-gun rights groups, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. But the threat of violence now appears to be outweighing those rewards, at least in financial terms. Cruz has spent so much donor money ensuring his own safety that he has fully exhausted the $442,343 he’s received over the years from the gun lobby, and then some.
His longtime wingman, fellow Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn, declined to join Cruz in Uvalde on Wednesday for the press conference and vigil. Cornyn comes in third in gun money, per CRP, but he bailed on the NRA convention in the wake of the tragedy, and is supposedly hammering out a bipartisan framework for gun control legislation this week with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). The Cornyn campaign has to date spent no money on bodyguards.
Asked about the expenses, a Cruz spokesperson told The Daily Beast that the senator has been inundated with death threats.
“Senator Cruz has received thousands of death threats from angry Leftists and there are several individuals being prosecuted by the Department of Justice because of threats on the Senator as we speak. If you don’t think that is a legitimate reason for security you should probably have your head checked,” the spokesperson said. “Senator Cruz supports the Second Amendment right of every law-abiding Texan and American adult to protect themselves.”
Second behind Cruz in Republican campaign security spending—and coming on strong—is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).
Over the first few months of 2021, the pro-gun Greene didn’t spend too much on security. She did, however, hold several gun giveaways, culminating with a .50-caliber sniper rifle that she had used to blow up a Toyota Prius labeled “socialism” in a fundraising ad.
But in December, Greene retained Tennessee-based executive protection firm KaJor, which around the time was also providing cover to Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man who shot three men and killed two during 2020 civil rights protests. Greene has so far paid the firm nearly $150,000.
A Greene spokesperson told The Daily Beast that “Congresswoman Greene receives violent threats from Democrats on a regular basis.” The spokesperson declined to discuss the issue further, citing “a matter of safety.”
When the Federal Election Commission gave the green light on personal security spending last year, they were initially responding to a Republican request. As threats against officials escalated in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection, GOP lawyers asked the FEC if campaign cash could subsidize bodyguards.
But Democrats have also taken advantage of the campaign allowance—even more so than Republicans.
The thin details of the financial reports make it difficult to perfectly isolate bodyguard expenses from other security costs, such as electronic home surveillance systems. But The Daily Beast’s analysis indicates that since the FEC published its guidance, federal candidates for office have spent as much as $4 million on personal protective services, including travel and events.
And that spending is overwhelmingly Democratic. In fact, Cruz and Greene appear to be the only two Republicans who have spent six figures for personal protection. At least six Democrats have hit that mark.
When The Daily Beast first tallied up the security payments last summer, the biggest spender was far and away Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA). Now, 10 months later—following reports that violent threats against lawmakers hit all-time highs a year after the insurrection—and it’s still Warnock on top.
Warnock, who is defending his seat in a critical midterm contest against GOP challenger Herschel Walker, has since Jan. 2021 paid out a staggering $835,248.67 for executive protection services. That’s more than Cruz and Greene combined. (A Warnock spokesperson declined to comment on security measures, but pointed out that a man who threatened to kill Warnock was in December sentenced to 33 months in prison.)
While Cruz comes in second overall, close on his heels are three Democratic officials who have each spent more than $300,000—Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA), and Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO). Rounding out the top group, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) has reported about $122,000 in personal security costs since the insurrection, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) went from $0 in personal detail expenses in 2021 to about $115,000 so far this year—adding about $4,000 for a wrought-iron security gate.
Swalwell, a manager during ex-President Donald Trump’s second impeachment, told The Daily Beast that followers of Trump and Fox News host Tucker Carlson have personally attacked him, including at public events. He and his family have received “hundreds of threats” to their security, he said, some of which have led to arrests and criminal convictions.
“As the father to three children in diapers, I’m especially mindful of my kids’ security. Since Fox News [broadcast] footage of my home and numeric street address on-air in December 2020, my children have been limited in their ability to play out front. To protect my family, on some occasions we have hired trained security professionals,” Swalwell said.
“I do not oppose guns. I like guns. I enjoy shooting,” he continued. “And the security professionals I have hired are trained.”
“What I don’t like,” Swalwell continued, “is a country of unrestricted weaponry that allows the most dangerous weapons to end up in the hands of the most dangerous people. We can still be a country that allows its citizens to shoot for sport, hunt with your kids, and protect your home and not allow weapons of mass destruction to mow down our children.”
But the biggest spender on personal security doesn’t quite fit the definition of “federal candidate for office.” That would be Fair Fight, the PAC affiliated with Georgia Democratic activist and gubernatorial hopeful Stacy Abrams. Fair Fight has spent nearly $1.4 million on security in 2021 and 2022.
Add up the expenses between Warnock, Ossoff, Greene, and Abrams, and the threat environment in Georgia becomes clear—enough to merit $2.8 million in personal protection for a handful of apparent targets.
That’s more than half the total federal bodyguard spending, concentrated in the Southern battleground state.
But if Cruz wants to weigh in on those critical races, it’s not clear whether Georgia would welcome him back—not after last time.