Heidi Cruz may be standing by her man during the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but she’s turned the stereotype of the conservative, churchgoing couple on its head. A working mom and a power broker in her own right, investment banker Cruz is more Hillary Clinton than Laura Bush. By using her Wall Street connections to help husband Ted Cruz finance his Oval Office run, though, the Goldman Sachs Group managing director has given ammunition to critics of money’s influence on U.S. politics.
“Ted loves the business I’m in,” Cruz said during a 2011 panel discussion on women in finance at Claremont McKenna College in her native California, where she earned a BA in economics and international relations in 1994.
No doubt. Tax returns released by the Cruz campaign in late February show that the couple earned $1.2 million in 2014 — significantly more than Ted’s $174,000 salary as a U.S. senator for Texas. Meanwhile, Ted has gathered almost $120 million in political donations, making him the financial front-runner among Republican candidates, more than $80 million ahead of Donald Trump. There’s no telling how much Heidi pulled in herself, but she’s regarded as the secret to Ted’s fundraising success.
Cruz, 43, has always been an overachiever. The daughter of Seventh-day Adventist missionaries, she earned a master of European business degree from the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management and an MBA from Harvard Business School before turning 30. Her first job out of college was as an investment banker at J.P. Morgan & Co. in New York, where she focused on international structured finance and Latin American mergers and acquisitions. Cruz then took a detour into politics by decamping to Austin, Texas, to join then-governor George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential election campaign as an economic adviser. There she met her future husband, an attorney who also served on the Bush team.
Cruz went on to spend four years in Washington, working as a special policy assistant to Robert Zoellick, then chief U.S. international trade negotiator, before becoming director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Latin America desk and adviser to National Security Council head Condoleezza Rice.
In 2004 she took a position with Merrill Lynch & Co. in Houston as an energy investment banker to be closer to Ted, who had recently been appointed solicitor general of Texas. The following year she moved to Goldman Sachs, where she now heads the firm’s Southwest private wealth division. Although Cruz is on an unpaid leave of absence from Goldman, she and Ted have been dogged by criticism for their ties to the financial industry. One of the biggest knocks against the couple is that they took out a margin loan from Goldman and a private line of credit from Citibank, both between $250,000 and $500,000, to fund Ted’s 2012 Senate bid. The fact that the Cruzes didn’t correctly disclose the Goldman loan to the Federal Election Commission has made them a bigger target for advocates of caps on campaign spending. For his part, GOP rival Trump never misses an opportunity to cast Ted Cruz as beholden to lobbyists and special interests.
Though she’s worked as an investment professional for more than a decade, Heidi Cruz still talks like a politician. “The job that I have at that firm is, in many ways, in my view, the heart of helping people who have achieved the American dream,” she said of her Goldman post in a recent interview with CNN.
“I have no doubt that she might really interpret the work that she’s doing in that way,” says R. Marie Griffith, director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. So far in the campaign, the Cruzes have come to represent Wall Street as much as Washington and the front pew at church. “People in my field are a little bewildered right now because it seems like religion matters less in this election than it’s mattered in a long time,” Griffith says.