King told Kelly, though, it was not a criminal offense to spend campaign money on personal expenses. "King said using campaign dollars for personal purposes is generally not a criminal issue, noting that a person could be charged with an infraction that includes a fine up to $10,000," Kelly said. "Or the election commission can fine a committee up to $1,000."
I'm not sure federal prosecutors would view the issue the same way. Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. went to prison for spending about $750,000 of his federal campaign money on personal expenses. Jackson spent campaign money to buy a Rolex watch, a fedora once worn by Michael Jackson and furs, among other personal expenses. More than $582,000 of those expenses were paid with credit cards. Jackson was charged with fraud and conspiracy charges, while his wife faced income tax evasion charges. Another former Illinois congressman, Aaron Schock, was forced to resign and is now under federal investigation for misusing his campaign committee's money on lavish travel and other personal expenses.
My experience tells me that a politician is hiding something when he doesn't itemize credit card expenses on his campaign finance report. I parted ways with the first politician I worked for back in Illinois many years ago over a similar issue. I became concerned when he used campaign funds to pay tens of thousands of dollars in credit card bills. He served as his own treasurer, and his campaign finance reports did not itemize the purpose of those credit card expenses. He had used a credit card to pay off a bank loan on a Corvette he had bought and trips he and his wife had taken to place like to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and then paid the credit card bills with campaign money.
That state senator believed it was okay to pay off the car loan with campaign money because he used the car for campaign purposes like riding in parades. I'll never forget Phyllis Schlafly placing a call herself to the office to complain that a $5,000 campaign contribution she had made to the state senator's campaign committee from her Eagle Forum PAC was not reported on his report. The senator said he had "mistakenly" deposited the check into his personal bank account. That senator never got prosecuted for using campaign money for personal expenses, but he later had to file bankruptcy and was asked to resign when he became embroiled in a sex scandal involving a 17-year old State House tour guide.