A new report from the Federal Election Commission reveals that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) used money raised by a political action committee he created, New PAC, to pay for nearly $40,000 in questionable travel, lodging, dining, and entertainment expenses since 2017. According to the FEC, New PAC listed the expenditures as fundraising costs.
A Boston Celtics fan since high school, Nunes spent nearly $15,000 on tickets to see home games at TD Garden last year: $7,300 in February 2017, $5,700 in April 2017, and $1,588 in May 2017. In addition to the tickets, New PAC spent $3,594 on hotel stays during games in May 2017.
Last month, McClatchy reports, Nunes spent about $5,000 at six California wineries outside his district, about $5,000 on Gold Coast Limousine service during his winery trips, and $4,409 at a beach hotel located near the wineries. In March 2018, Nunes spent $7,229 at seven restaurants and hotels in Las Vegas. He has spent a total of $42,741 on "catering, site rentals, hotels and meals" in Las Vegas since 2013.
The expenditures on basketball games, wineries, Las Vegas trips, and other travel were all described as related to fundraising. The House Ethics Committee prohibits "personal use" of PAC money, but the rule is rarely enforced. The FEC says money that public officials raise for their own campaigns cannot be used for personal expenses, but that rule does not apply to leadership PACs like Nunes', which are supposed to support other people's campaigns. "For many officeholders," the Campaign Legal Center notes, "leadership PACs have become little more than slush funds, used to subsidize an officeholder's luxury lifestyle."
In a statement to The Hill, the congressman's office called the McClatchy report "yet another baseless attack" by the news service, saying "it insinuates wrongdoing while actually showing that Rep. Nunes has broken no rules and properly reported all expenses for his fundraising events, much of whose income he gives to help elect other Republicans."
Nunes separately raised $7 million for his 2018 re-election bid, a significant jump from previous election cycles, when he usually collected $1 million to $2.5 million. McClatchy notes that "Nunes' fame has grown enormously due to his position as House Intelligence Committee chairman, his friendly relationship with President Donald Trump and his controversial views about Department of Justice investigations."