Monday, March 20, 2006

Pence Digs Into Campaign Fund For Personal Expenses

Rep. Mike Pence (R) has been a leading advocate for lobbying reform in Washington, but his practice of using his campaign funds for personal expenditures has caught the eye of the Washington Post notes the Indiana Daily Insight. Rep. Pence earns $165,000 a year from his congressional salary, but Pence, like many other members of Congress, reaches into his campaign coffers, which are enriched by contributions from lobbyists, to pay bills which you and I must dig into our own pockets to pay for.

Last year, Pence spent $348,255 from his campaign committee, plus $25,472 from his PAC, even though it was a non-election year. The Post writes:

Pence sought reimbursement for 293 meals in 2005, for a total of $9,806. Most were at fast-food or family-style restaurants, including Wendy's, Arby's, Ruby Tuesday, and various pancake houses and pizza parlors, as well as convenience stores and airport concessions based in Anderson, Ind. Ninety-four of the charges totaled $10 or less. He also paid $4,082 for a 1998 Oldsmobile minivan that he drove throughout his east-central Indiana district.

Pence even sought reimbursement from his campaign for a $1 meal from a local gas station, which his staff believes was for a bottle of water, according to the Post. Pence's staff defended the expenses this way:

When Mike Pence campaigns, he campaigns as if he's in a tight race," said William A. Smith, Pence's chief of staff. He said that his boss prefers one-on-one meetings to big groups, which explains the numerous small charges, and that items are often billed to the campaign, as opposed to the official account, to avoid potential ethics questions. "If he's doing political work, that's going to be part of his campaign budget," Smith said.

The FEC rules give lawmakers broad discretion on how they spend their campaign funds. Some items are specifically banned, the story notes, including home mortgages, clothing, personal automobile expenses, country club and health club memberships, vacations, household food, nonpolitical admissions to concerts and sporting events, and tuition. However, lawmakers are allowed to accept free travel paid by lobbyists, which often amounts to a free vacation to exotic destinations.


stAllio! said...

a version of this article appeared on the indy star site but curiously, all the worst details about pence appear to have been edited out of the star's version. do you think it's a coincidence that the details most relevant to indiana are missing from the star's version of this article?

Gary R. Welsh said...

The Star sometimes uses an abbreviated version of a longer story as they obviously did here. In this case, I think it totally lost its effectiveness as far as Pence is concerned because of what they left out as you obviously agree. It may or may not have been deliberate. I can't say for sure.