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FEC commissioners clash over use of campaign funds to pay for some childcare expenses • OpenSecrets

By on July 15, 2022 0
Ellen L. Weintraub, Commissioner of the U.S. Federal Election Commission, speaks during a panel discussion on disinformation and the 2020 campaign co-hosted by PEN America at the FEC in Washington, DC on September 17, 2019 (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

The Federal Election Commission public meeting Thursday became tense as commissioners discussed draft advisory opinions linked to a request Rep. Eric Swalwell (D – Calif.) to use campaign funds for child care while campaigning or traveling as a congressman.

The discussion quickly escalated when Commissioner Trey Trainor said it was “odious” that Swalwell would leave his child for an international trip.

“To be really honest with you, I’m actually going to pass judgment on this. I think it’s abhorrent that Congressman Swalwell has such a young child and wants to hand him over to someone else for a week-long trip overseas,” said Trainor, a Republican member of the commission appointed by former President Donald Trump. He acknowledged the length many parents have to travel to access childcare.

Swalwell had asked the committee to clarify the use of campaign funds to pay for childcare – when his wife was unavailable – for nightly campaign events, campaign events for other candidates and at the application of foreign governments as a member of Congress.

Both draft notices concluded that Swalwell could use campaign funds to cover overnight childcare costs for his own campaign when his wife is unavailable. But they differed on whether campaign funds were used to cover his travel for other campaigns for joint fundraising activities or travel related to invitations received in response to his official duties as a member of the Congress, such as at the request of foreign governments.

The distinction hinges on whether child care expenses for official travel abroad constitute personal use, which the commission’s regulations define as “to discharge any commitment, obligation or expense of any person which would exist independently of the candidate’s election campaign” or the obligations of office holders. swalwell faces media review in 2021 in photos of him, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona), and the reps’ respective wives riding camels in Qatar on a trip paid for by the US-Qatar Business Council.

Commissioner Shana Broussard said she was “appalled” by Trainor’s comment, adding that she was “not here to pass judgment on anyone’s personal life”.

“It’s not a competition to see who’s in a fairer place,” said Broussard, who is a Democratic member of the commission and was also nominated by Trump.

Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub took Twitter after the meeting to berate Trainor for his comment.

“I have never seen a claimant treated so disrespectfully by a member of this Board,” Weintraub said. wrote. “We don’t ‘pass judgment’ on the personal lives of those who come to us for advice.”

“I have never seen campaign donors treated so disrespectfully! The Republic will persevere even if Swallwell doesn’t get all the junkets he would like,” Trainor replied per tweet, misspelled Swalwell’s name.

FEC ruled in 2018 that candidates can use campaign funds to pay for childcare costs incurred during the election campaign. During the 2022 election cycle, federal nominee committees expenditure declared collectively $130,000 in child care expenses as of March 31, according to an OpenSecrets analysis of the expenses.

Swalwell spent $35,000 on childcare during this time. That’s slightly less than Tamika Hamilton, a Republican congressional candidate in California’s 6th congressional district, who spent $36,000. Other politicians who have used campaign funds to cover child care include Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Reps. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) and Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-Wash. ).

Weintraub offered to back the draft notice that would authorize child custody for the three cases in question. “I think it’s completely consistent with previous commission precedents and AO precedents, and because I think it’s good policy,” she said at the July 14 meeting. .

Both projects failed to receive the four votes required to pass. The commission asked the Office of the General Counsel to prepare a plan reflecting a point on which all commissioners agreed, allowing Swalwell to at least use campaign funds to cover childcare costs. overnight while traveling for his own campaign when his wife is unavailable.