- Wikimedia Commons / Gage Skidmore
- U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is now under scrutiny by a federal watchdog for changes he requested in a pandemic relief program.
Brian D. Miller, the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, is asking the Treasury Department for communications from Cruz's office requesting changes to a loan program that was ultimately altered to the benefit of big donors to the Texas Republican.
In addition to the correspondence, Miller asked Treasury to explain the reason for the changes it made to its Federal Reserve's Main Street Lending Program, which extended loans to businesses financially harmed by the pandemic.
The letter appears as an appendix to the inspector’s recent quarterly report to Congress.
The inquiry comes as Cruz faces a separate probe by the Senate Ethics Committee over whether his false claims of election fraud helped ignite the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Other Capitol Hill lawmakers have demanded his resignation after the mob attack that left five people dead.
Core to the special inspector general's probe are changes to the Main Street Lending Program shortly after Cruz wrote to Chairman Jerome Powell and former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin last spring and pushed to expand it to include oil and gas companies.
A Wall Street Journal investigation highlighted potential conflicts of interest between Cruz and Texas billionaire oilmen Dan and Farris Wilks, both significant contributors to his campaigns. One of the brothers' fracking operations landed a $35 million relief loan after the program was expanded at Cruz's request.
“While the recent reporting does not allege misconduct, it does concern the management of investments made by the Secretary under the CARES [Act] —an area of core jurisdiction for the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery,” Miller wrote in his letter to the Treasury Department.
In a statement to Dallas public radio station KERA, Cruz spokesperson Maria Jeffrey Reynolds defended the senator's requested changes, saying they helped rescue small and mid-sized oil businesses in Texas.
“The result of his leadership was a program that has helped about 25 U.S. energy producers, including roughly a dozen in Texas, and helped protect over 300,000 oil and gas job in Texas,” she told the station.
Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.