Democratic California Rep. Eric Swalwell is not allowed to use money from his campaign to pay for babysitters while visiting with foreign governments or other entities, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruled Monday.
“[B]ecause of his status as a well-known member of Congress, [Swalwell] gets many invitations, including invitations from foreign governments for information gathering visits, that may require him and sometimes his spouse to be away for multiple days,” Swalwell’s legal team claimed in its May petition. “To provide for care for the children, on some occasions the Swalwell family have enlisted the support of a night nanny, when both are unavailable to care for the children.”
Mike Columbo, who was an attorney at the FEC between 2008 and 2017, told the Daily Caller News Foundation the foreign expenses Swalwell sought to get his campaign to cover “do not arise to the level of an officeholder’s ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with their office.”
“Fortunately, there were enough commissioners who were opposed to this bizarre request,” said Columbo, who is now a partner at Dhillon Law Group focused on government ethics and anti-corruption cases. “The idea that American citizens’ campaign contributions would be used to subsidize an American official’s personal expenses for non-campaign foreign travel at the beckoning of a foreign government is perverse.”
There are six commissioners for the FEC, and they are presidentially appointed and confirmed by the Senate. Commissioners meet privately to “discuss matters that, by law, must remain confidential, and in public to formulate policy and vote on legal and administrative matters,” according to the FEC.
Swalwell also petitioned the FEC to be able to use money from his campaign for childcare while at campaign events for other candidates and also his own campaign events — with the FEC ruling he can only do so for his.
The FEC ruling comes on the heels of Swalwell’s campaign disclosing roughly $38,000 on travel expenses between May 19 and June 30, Fox News reported.
Swalwell notably disclosed spending tens of thousands in campaign money on limousine services and alcohol in 2021, FEC filings show. His campaign spent more than $21,000 in April 2021 at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, a luxury hotel where his wife was director of sales.
The American Accountability Foundation, a watchdog probing ethics in government, filed an FEC complaint against Swalwell in December 2021 over his campaign expenditures. The watchdog alleged Swalwell improperly spent the funds.
The FEC declined to comment and Swalwell’s campaign did not respond. Swalwell is running for re-election in November.
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