A new report released today by Issue One and Campaign Legal Center (CLC) called, “All Expenses Paid: How Leadership PACs Became Politicians’ Preferred Ticket to Luxury Living”reveals how many federal lawmakers continue to exploit loopholes and lax enforcement to tap their leadership PAC funds to pay for resorts, golf memberships and fine dining — spending that would likely be unlawful if the members used funds from their authorized campaign accounts.
Little-known beyond the beltway, leadership PACs are officeholder-controlled political committees that have frequently been described as slush funds. Nearly every member of Congress has one.
Leadership PACs were ushered into existence so that officeholders could make contributions to their colleagues. Yet the report found that only a minority of all leadership PAC spending – just 45 percent – went toward contributions to other federal candidates or other political committees.
Instead, over the past five years, a subset of members of Congress have used their leadership PACs to collectively spend at least $871,000 on golf-related dues and expenses, $614,000 in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and $469,000 at Disney properties. Leadership PAC funds have been used to spend $765,000 at West Virginia’s Greenbrier Sporting Club and $361,000 at Ritz-Carlton hotels.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has long prohibited politicians from spending official campaign funds on personal expenditures – and for good reason. Campaign donations present a much greater risk of corruption if they are funding the politician’s next round of golf, country club membership, clothing purchase, or trip to Disney World. But that is exactly what is happening with leadership PACs.