Just a little over a week ago, Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) was indicted along with his wife on charges related to the misuse of $250,000 worth of campaign funds for personal expenses and the filing of false campaign finance records. These days, the GOP is like a swiftly sinking ship.
Now, another GOP Congressman is being accused of using campaign cash to buy himself goodies. According to The Houston Chronicle:
‘Texas Democrats targeting Republican Congressman John Culberson in Houston are challenging nearly $50,000 in campaign spending since 2004 on books, coins, Civil War memorabilia and other collectibles, some reported as “donor gifts.”
Copies of complaints drafted to the Federal Election Commission and the independent Office of Congressional Ethics question the expenses in light of Culberson’s personal interest in military history. Since 2010, Culberson has been selling as much as $1.3 million in antiques and collectibles which he has said that he does as a hobby.
Culberson has not detailed his purchases or holdings in congressional disclosure reports because he considers his collection to be a personal rather than an investment asset. The Houston Chronicle reported:
‘Culberson’s campaign said Monday said that all of the spending in question was either for research material or modest gifts to campaign contributors and volunteers over the 19 years he’s been in office.’
His campaign denied the allegations calling it an “obvious partisan attack.” Houston Democratic activist Daniel Cohen drafted the complaints which seek investigations into whether Culberson used campaign funds to build his personal collection.
Although allegations were brought to Cohen by state Democratic party officials in Texas, he is bringing the complaints forward as a private citizen. Cohen said:
‘There are questions about whether he’s using his campaign funds as a bank. That’s a classic thing people are tired of.’
Analysts have said that is not likely this dispute will be settled before the November 6 election in which Culberson faces Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a Houston attorney.
A spokeswoman for Culberson, Catherine Kelly, questioned the motives and timing of the leaked complaints. This comes several days before Culberson and Fletcher meet with the newspaper’s editorial board. Kelly said:
‘The documents drafted by Texas Democrats against Congressman Culberson are an obvious partisan attack and ripped directly from the DCCC, are purely speculative, without merit, and have been curiously leaked to the Houston Chronicle fewer than three days before a joint appearance between the Congressman and his opponent.’
Culberson is running in the 7th Congressional District which was narrowly won by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Democrats are looking at this as one of their best pickup opportunities in the midterm elections as they set their sights on winning the U.S. House.
According to The Chronicle:
‘The allegations follow recent Democratic attacks surrounding Culberson’s investment in an obscure Australian biotech stock at the center of insider trading charges filed against New York Republican Chris Collins earlier this month. Culberson was one of a half-dozen lawmakers who bought into the company at around the same time in early 2017. He eventually sold at a loss before the company’s share price plummeted to pennies on the dollar.’
Democrats have questioned the legitimacy the Culberson campaign’s frequent purchases on Amazon.com, Borders, and Barnes & Noble. They have documented $32,981 in expenses since 2009 which have been reported as “books,” and “research materials,” and $17,000 on gifts, including antiques and military collectibles, since 2004.
The Chronicle also reported:
‘The complaints also spotlight the use of campaign funds in 2009 to pay for a $375 membership in the Texas State Rifle Association, and in 2012 for a $309 purchase at the Black Hills Institute, which sells and rents fossils.’
In the complaint, Democrats wrote:
‘It is very unlikely that a congressional campaign committee needs to buy or rent fossils to win a federal election.’
Fred Wertheimer, president and CEO of Democracy 21, a nonpartisan government watchdog group, said:
‘There are plausibility problems to argue you didn’t buy these for investments, but you sold them for more than a million dollars. We don’t know what he paid, or the value of collection. Those are the questions that come up here.’
Here’s what Twitter had to say:
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