Dr. Mehmet Oz certainly made himself a wealthy man during his professional career.
He drew upon that wealth during his unsuccessful 2022 campaign for one of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seats, losing to John Fetterman.
Oz spent north of $26 million of his own funds in an attempt to secure the seat, including $4 million in the final days of the campaign.
Now, thanks to a 2022 Supreme Court ruling, Oz is still raising money and repaying himself – at least $1.2 million this year according to a CQ Roll Call analysis.
While campaign contributions cannot legally be used by candidates or office holders for personal expenses, that prohibition does not include loan repayments.
In a 6-3 decision, the high court struck down a provision of a 2002 law meant to limit the influence of money in politics, siding with the free speech rights of candidates in a challenge brought by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
The challenge wiped off the books a $250,000 limit on the use of campaign contributions, made after the election has happened, for the sole purpose of repaying the candidate’s personal campaign loans.
“Restricting the sources of funds that campaigns may use to repay candidate loans increases the risk that such loans will not be repaid in full, which, in turn, deters candidates from loaning money to their campaigns,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in his opinion.
The Biden administration and other government watchdog groups had argued that the provision prevented the appearance of corruption because it stopped interest groups from donating to a candidate who already won in a way that would flow directly to the candidate’s personal accounts.
“These wealthy candidates really are paying themselves off. They’re going out, getting gifts from donors, to put in their own pockets,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen.
Last November, Oz’s campaign reported $1.8 million on hand. Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, Oz would have had 20 days to repay himself from leftover funds, or any amount over $250,000 after that deadline would have been deemed a contribution under FEC rules, according to Holman.
With the decision, Oz was able to repay himself nearly $1.25 million in the first quarter of 2023 – a $982,615 amount on January 3 and an additional $250,000 on April 12.
Oz’s FEC filing indicates that “Doctor Oz For Senate” raised nearly $605,000 in the first half of 2023, despite not appearing to be a candidate for office, including $118,000 in individual contributions. He has also collected $282,000 from Tag Strategies LLC, a fundraising and marketing company.
Oz is not alone in this endeavor.
Republican Sens. J.D. Vance of Ohio and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin have already paid themselves more than $250,000.
Vance, a freshman who beat Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, has paid himself $480,000, or 42 cents of every dollar received, as his receipts totaled $1.1 million. Vance, who won’t be up for reelection until 2028, ended the second quarter with $409,000 in his campaign account, and $220,000 in loans remaining unpaid.
Johnson paid himself $400,000 in May even though he did not lend his campaign any money last cycle, when he won his third term by just 1 percentage point. Johnson did have unpaid personal loans totaling $8.4 million from elections he won in 2010 and 2016.