Rep. Devin Nunes (R-California) is facing criticism from two ethical watchdog groups over his use of campaign money to pay for what appear to be personal expenses for himself.
Nunes’ political action committee, or PAC, purchased many questionable items on his behalf, including tickets to basketball games, restaurants, hotels, and transportation, according to reports from the Federal Election Commission and two non partisan watchdog groups. These aren’t small payments, either; many total several thousands of dollars per day.
Under House ethics rules, PACs are banned from spending campaign dollars they raise for personal use of the candidate they represent. The rules, however, are rarely enforced.
That may have to change, given how prevalent and shocking some of Nunes’ spending habits are. His PAC, for example, purchased on three occasions tickets to see Boston Celtics basketball games.
Nunes also liked to spend his PAC’s money in Sin City. Since 2013, he has amassed more than $42,000 in spending in Las Vegas, using the money to buy catering, site rentals, hotels, and meals during those trips.
March 9 was a particularly busy day for Nunes in Las Vegas. His PAC spent more than $7,000 at seven different restaurants and hotels in the city on that day alone.
His expensive tastes weren’t limited to Las Vegas, however. On June 19, the PAC also spent almost $10,000 to pay for winery tours and a limo service in Paso Robles, California, and Santa Margarita, California, both two cities that are outside of his district’s borders.
The expenditures are listed officially as fundraising expenses, according to records, a charge that has some critics skeptical.
“They’ll say these are fundraising events, or say it coincided with a fundraiser, where they raised more money with donors,” said Brendan Fischer, who co-authored a report on the various ways that members of Congress use PACs to pay for their lavish lifestyles. “But at what point are they effectively raising money just to fund their next fundraiser?”
Nunes, who chairs the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, is familiar with bending the rules of ethics. Last year, Nunes was placed under investigation for allegedly briefing President Donald Trump on matters relating to the House’s investigation on Russia meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Nunes stepped aside from chairing that specific investigation as a result.
Nunes doesn’t seem to think the rules apply to him. And he also seems to believe that he can spend political money in whichever way he wants, using his political position as a means to fund a lavish lifestyle of drinking wine, going to NBA games, and visiting Las Vegas.
The House absolutely must enforce the rules for Nunes’ transgressions and continue doing so for other lawmakers engaging in similar behavior. To not refute this sort of action gives other lawmakers permission to continue doing it, allowing the potential for bribery of members of Congress to take place.