Fanciful thinking that the U.S. attorney in New Jersey would bother taking a look at a Democrat Congressman spending lavishly with campaign funds. Heck, our Justice Department can’t even keep tabs on all those guns they supplied to Mexican drug gangs. What’s the big deal about calling a wedding in Scotland a political event?
A three-night stay at a five-star hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland, for a wedding: $7,725.
A set of china from Bloomingdale’s for the bride and groom: $463.
Cab rides, meals, tips and airline baggage fees: $953.
Expensing it to your campaign account: Priceless.
In June, U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1st Dist.) and his family visited Edinburgh for a wedding — part of a larger European vacation. There, Andrews, his wife and two teenage daughters stayed at the Balmoral Hotel in the center of town, which bills itself as a “luxury hotel in the true sense of the word.” The price was indeed five-star: Two rooms for three nights cost $7,725.
Nor did they go to Scotland empty-handed. The family bought a $463 china set from Bloomingdale’s as a gift to the newlyweds.
In all, Andrews and his family spent more than $9,000 on the Edinburgh leg of the trip. Rather, his congressional campaign did.
The hotel, wedding gift, and several hundred more dollars for ground transportation, meals and petty cash came not from the family’s pockets, but from Andrews’ campaign fund, according to a Star-Ledger review of his campaign-finance-reports.
Andrews said the expense was legitimate because the wedding was for a donor and volunteer adviser, allowing him to consider it a political event. Citing privacy concerns, he declined to identify the adviser, who he said helps his campaign with opposition research.
“We have legal advice, and before we make any expenditure like that we listen to legal advice,” said Andrews, pointing out that the rest of the European vacation, including airfare, was paid for with family funds. “We’re convinced this is an appropriate expenditure to thank and support someone who has given us a lot of time and effort.”
But the Edinburgh trip is just one of many instances in which the South Jersey congressman — who together with his wife earned more than $500,000 in 2010 — mixed personal and political expenses in an unorthodox way.
Also in June, Andrews’ campaign spent more than $10,000 on a party at his Haddon Heights home to celebrate his 20 years in Congress and his daughter’s high school graduation. And his campaign has made tens of thousands of dollars in donations to Philadelphia theaters — sometimes within months of another daughter appearing in one of their productions.
In 2009, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission charging that Andrews broke the law when he used campaign funds to buy almost $1,000 in clothing after an airline lost his luggage.
Andrews reimbursed his campaign for the purchase. The commission told his treasurer that although the congressman violated the rules, it was dismissing the complaint in part because “the alleged amount in violation was so low that it would not merit the further use of commission resources.”
When asked about the Scotland trip, the executive director of CREW, Melanie Sloan, said: “It’s hard to figure how you can take your whole family to Scotland for a donor’s wedding and call that a legitimate campaign expense. It seems to me like the U.S. attorney in New Jersey might want to consider taking a look.”
Read on. It appears there’s nothing Andrews won’t spend campaign money on. But its all good for Andrews. He sits in one of the safest seats in the state, so he can do as he pleases.