Come, journey down the Ted Cruz citizenship rabbit hole.
When the junior Republican senator from Texas and thinly-veiled 2016 presidential hopeful released his birth certificate last Friday confirming his birth in the far flung, foreign city of Calgary, an exhaustive analysis of the document began. After scouring the certificate a bevy of experts returned with some news: whether he likes it or not, Cruz is a Canadian-American.
His dual citizenship was apparently a shock to Cruz himself. Born in Canada to an American mother, he moved with his family to Texas when he was young and lived most of his life in the U.S., where he said he believed he solely held American citizenship. When asked about it this week, Cruz said he was unaware he had dual citizenship and vowed to renounce his Canadian birthright, something which could take him up to eight months.However, Cruz was involved in government long before he began his Senate career and initiated his increasingly obvious 2016 flirtation. Several years ago, Cruz held multiple unelected positions in the federal government — jobs that, at least one of which, involved a background check. Based on TPM’s exhaustive research, it’s highly unlikely Cruz would have made it through that process without facing direct questions about dual citizenship. So, what did Cruz tell his bosses about his citizenship?
To be clear: There’s no real question Cruz is a natural-born U.S. citizen and so therefore eligible to be President. The issue at hand is whether Cruz committed the grave bureaucratic sin of improperly filling out paperwork.
Finding that answer is far tougher than you might think.
Prior to entering the Senate, Cruz had a legal career that included stints as the director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Policy Planning and as an associate deputy attorney general in the Justice Department.
Over two days, TPM put in multiple requests with each of those agencies to find out whether someone in the positions Cruz held would have had to undergo background checks prior to taking the jobs. TPM also talked to the Office of Personnel Management, which conducts background checks for federal agencies.
The agencies were only able to answer a few of TPM’s questions, but here’s what the research found: For at least one of those jobs, heading an FTC office, Cruz would have had to go through a background check. And as part of that process, he likely would have had to fill out a form that asks potential employees to disclose their birthplaces and whether they held dual citizenship in any other country.
Peter Kaplan, a spokesperson for the FTC, told TPM on Tuesday that the heads of offices at the agency undergo background checks through the Office of Personnel Management. The OPM has standard forms they use “governmentwide for various employment and benefits program purposes.” On the OPM’s list of standard forms there are three questionnaires for jobs of various sensitivity; “national security positions,” “public trust positions,” and “non-sensitive positions.” All three of these questionnaires contain detailed sections on citizenship that ask applicants their “place of birth” and whether they have ever held “dual citizenship.” To be clear, TPM did not ask specifically which forms Cruz himself filled out, only which forms someone in his position would have to. But the FTC wouldn’t even go that far. Kaplan said someone would have to file a federal public records request to determine specifically which forms would be required of someone in Cruz’s position.
(Spokespersons with the Justice Department, meanwhile, were unable to provide an answer to a similar question by publication time.)
A spokesperson for the personnel office, who asked not to be named, said Wednesday that a form known as the SF 85, the “Questionnaire for Non-Sensitive Positions,” is the lowest level of background check the OPM conducts. Like all of the other OPM questionnaires, it includes specific queries for potential employees about their birthplace and whether they have dual citizenship. Archived versions of the OPM website show these questions were included on all three questionnaires when Cruz first worked at the DOJ in 2001 and when he moved to the FTC later that year.
TPM reached out to Cruz’s office multiple times in the past two days to see whether the senator or his staff would be willing to answer questions about which background check processes he had undergone. The key thing remains what answer he put down in the section about the dual citizenship. However, all of the calls reached an answering machine that said that the office had been “receiving high call volume” and asked callers to “please leave a message.” No one had responded to TPM’s messages by publication.
Photo by AP and OPM, composite by TPM’s Hunter Walker