Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Good, The Bad, And The Shopping

GOP Sen. Rand Paul is in trouble again, this time over accusations by congressional watchdog CREW that he used donor money for personal expenses like lavish shopping trips to Europe.

Sen. Rand Paul spent hundreds of donor dollars on shopping trips and thousands on meals, travel and other expenses abroad, according to a report from nonpartisan watchdog groups released this week.

The spending was funneled through a political leadership committee, which are meant to enable lawmakers to donate to other political campaigns to secure leadership positions. But, according to the "All Expenses Paid" report, they're often used to fund "lavish lifestyles on their donors' dimes."

Paul, Kentucky's junior senator, spent $11,043 at restaurants in Italy and Malta last year through his leadership PAC, Reinventing a New Direction, according to the report.

In the same year, he spent $4,492 on limousine services in Rome and $1,904 on a hotel in Athens that boasts "breathtaking panoramic views."

His PAC, known as RAND PAC, also spent $337 on apparel at a Nebraska Men's Wearhouse, $438 on apparel at a shoe store on Madison Avenue in New York City, $201 at TJ Maxx and $1,575 at a restaurant in the Trump Hotel.

It's that last one that bothers me the most.  Paul has spent years growling about unethical spending like this, and the fact that he's just as crooked as his dad in unsurprising, it's just that he's an even worse liar about it.

In a statement sent Saturday, Paul defended his expenses, saying they were part of fundraising efforts for his leadership PAC

“This week I defended the President’s foreign policy against the establishment of both parties," Paul said. "I was rewarded with a left wing attack story about overseas spending. The truth is, I’m probably one of the only senators who has never traveled at taxpayer expense, and all trips taken were for fundraising and made money for RANDPAC.”

His expenses likely aren't against the law. They do, however, illustrate his use of political contributions for expenses that don't fall squarely in the realm of donations to other campaigns.

Paul is also highlighted in the report for his lower-than-average contributions to other candidates or committees. The report says less than 7 percent of his expenses over the past three election cycles have gone to others, according to figures from the Center for Responsive Politics. On average, 45 percent of lawmakers' leadership PAC spending goes toward such donations.

The Center for Responsive Politics shows that in the 2018 cycle, Paul's contributions to other candidates constitute 15.6 percent of spending from his leadership PAC.

The "All Expenses Paid" report, from Issue One and the Campaign Legal Center, both nonpartisan nonprofits, calls for changes to the leadership PAC fund regulations, arguing that such dollars are being abused with personal expenses by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

"Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have raised and spent millions from their leadership PACs. In doing so, they blur the lines between official and personal activity while schmoozing at venues far beyond the eyes, as well as the pocketbooks, of most of their constituents," the report said.

Of course, the Trump regime changed the rules on PACs this week, now advocacy groups don't have to disclose any donors at all as long as they can prove less than half of their expenses are going to political purposes.  You know, groups like the NRA.

Republicans are crooked as hell.  Yeah, Democrats do it too, but not to this extent.  And Trump just made it a lot easier to get away with.

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