How do departing members of Congress spend their leftover campaign cash?
Mostly, on operating expenses, political donations and charity, but sometimes the funds are spent in unexpected ways, a new report finds.
Among the former congressmen, two-term Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) dipped into his campaign funds to pay for a $525 bill at the Ritz Carlton on Valentine's Day in 2011.
Rep. Tom Reynolds, a five-term New York Republican, used his election account for a $10,000 lifetime membership to an all-Republican private club on Capitol Hill.
And California Democratic Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald's campaign account was used to reimburse herself for about $3,500 in loans and gifts.
Weldon's account paid for his Ritz Carlton tab and thousands of dollars in travel and other expenses long after he retired from Congress -- and well before he announced he was running for Senate earlier this year.
Reynolds had already decided to leave Congress and become a lobbyist when his campaign account picked up the tab for his club membership. The campaign payments to Millender-McDonald were made after she died.
Lawmakers often use campaign funds to pay for meals, travel, flowers and other costs. What makes these expenses different is that the lawmakers were no longer running for office when they spent the money.
A new report by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, called "No Strings Attached: How Former Members Spend Their Excess Campaign Funds," shows that many former lawmakers spend their excess campaign funds in unusual -- but probably legal -- ways.
The group looked at lawmakers who served in the 2007-08 term of Congress who did not return for the 2009-10 session.
The 57 lawmakers who left Congress during that period have spent a total of $10.8 million, the report said. Of that total, the lawmakers spent a combined $5.5 million on operating expenditures, while making $3 million in political contributions and $1.7 million in donations to charity. They refunded a combined $224,000 to donors.
Read more: The Wall Street Journal
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