Politicians use campaign funds for everything from criminal lawyers to donuts

    If you have a big pile of money around that gets spent at your discretion, it’s hard not to think of it as your own.

    I’m speaking of the campaign funds of elected officials, which are supposed to be used to win elections, but somehow get spent on all kinds of things.

    The Courrier Post reports that New Jersey Democratic U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews has retained a high-powered Washington law firm, likely to respond to a complaint filed by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington that Andrews has used campaign funds for personal expenses.

    CREW questions many travel expenses covered by Andrews’ campaign fund, including trips to Los Angeles “that coincided with recording sessions for his 17-year-old daughter Josie, an aspiring singer.”

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    The Courrier Post notes that Andrews’ campaign expense report also shows many small purchases at Wawa’s and Dunkin Donuts. (This reminds me of a 2006 story by the Daily News Will Bunch about Rick Santorum’s unusual mortgage, and dozens of small purchases by his political committee at Starbucks, Arby’s, and Burger King).

    UPDATE: The Courrier Post piece was preceded a day before by Matt Friedman piece in the Star Ledger on Andrews hiring the defense team. It notes that, among other things, Andrews used campaign funds to pay a $125 speeding ticket.

    And in Pennsylvania, the Pittsburg Post Gazette reports that Republican State Sen. Jane Orie, recently convicted of 14 counts of corruption, used $100,000 of her campaign funds to cover attorneys’ fees for her criminal defense.

    State Ethics Commission executive director John Contino has criticized this practice, and noted that Pennsylvania lawmakers actually use tax dollars to pay lawyers fighting corruption investigations. It’s something the legislature can think about fixing the next time it’s in a reforming mood.

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