After the death of former U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young in October, some of his closest advisors appeared to have gone on a spending spree — using tens of thousands of dollars from the Congressman’s campaign account.
Fourth quarter expenditures reached $55,377, including large receptions, dinners and hotel charges, which far exceeded any previous quarter in campaign spending. This spending was in light of Young’s announced retirement in 2013 and his death on October 18, reports Noah Pransky of WTSP/10 News.
On October 21— three days after Young’s passing — a charge of $902 appears on a campaign credit card, listed as “meals for campaign workers/volunteers,” from the Indian Rocks Beach Salt Rock Grill, federal records show.
When asked about the charges, Pransky reports that questions were referred to the National Republican Congressional Campaign (NRCC), the group charged with helping Republicans get elected to Congress.
A campaign worker/volunteer reception for Young’s campaign cost $13,978 at the Sheraton Sand Key resort in Clearwater. That event, says the NRCC, was for long-time campaign workers to support each other the day after Young’s death.
Federal election laws provide campaigns quite a bit of flexibility in how to spend donations, but the Young’s campaign spending after his death did catch the attention of one watchdog group in Washington D.C.
“After a member of Congress has died, there’s not a lot of reason for campaigns to continue spending money,” says Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
The campaign spent $12,250 on Bethesda, Md. hotel stays in October and November, near the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where Young had eventually passed away.
The NRCC tells Pransky “about 7” of the Young’s closest friends and aides stayed near, to discuss plans.
“In accordance with Congressman Young’s wishes, his longtime political advisers joined him at Walter Reed after he fell ill in October,” said NRCC spokesperson Katie Prill in a statement. “These campaign workers of the Congressman have served him well throughout the years on many campaigns.”
The only person on the campaign payroll was longtime treasurer George Patterson, says the NRCC. No one could say exactly how the rest of the campaign’s money would be spent — $134,151 as of Jan. 1.
The campaign did make a $2,000 campaign contribution in November to David Jolly, Young’s former aide, who is running to replace him in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. More than $50,000 was refunded to donors in November.
As per election laws, campaigns of deceased lawmakers can give campaign funds to charity, other campaigns, or issue a refund to donors.
There are several loopholes, which Sloan says are a result of Congress refusing to reinforce campaign finance laws
“People need to keep track of what their money is being spent on when they make campaign contributions,” Sloan said. “They should insist it be spent on legitimate campaign expenses.”