The government watchdog group known as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who was a Republican Congressman from North Carolina prior to his role in the White House. The complaint points out a list of times when Meadows may have used campaign money for personal expenditures, which would be illegal. The money came from his own campaign, which he kept spending from after announcing his resignation from Congress and in the absence of any apparent active fundraising.
CREW’s director Noah Bookbinder observed the following:
‘One of the clearest rules in campaign finance is you can’t spend your campaign’s finances on yourself. That is what it looks like happened here, and it must be thoroughly investigated.’
The possible personal expenses from Meadows’s campaign money include spending on “clubs, gourmet cupcakes, a jeweler in Washington and lodging at the president’s hotel,” as Salon explains. The CREW complaint urges the FEC to consider referring the case to the Justice Department if the agency feels that such a move would be appropriate. Campaign finance law violations are one of the crimes that landed Trump’s former longtime “fixer” Michael Cohen in jail after it was revealed that he’d participated in a secret hush money operation targeting women with whom the president had affairs. The hush money was meant to help support Trump’s then-ongoing campaign.
There’s another high-profile campaign finance law violation case involving an ally of Trump, too — ex-Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter was caught spending huge amounts of campaign money on personal expenses while he was still on the job. Hunter — who was one of Trump’s first supporters in Congress — has been sentenced to 11 months in federal prison, although the start date of his sentence was delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic and concerns about the spread of the virus in prison facilities.
Meanwhile, the Meadows expenses sure look suspicious — for example, on the day that Meadows’s resignation from Congress took effect, the campaign spent $2,650 at Ann Hand jewelry in D.C. The campaign reported this expense as for “printed materials” — but Ann Hand is a jewelry store. They don’t sell items that could be reasonably classified as “printed materials,” a representative told Salon. Meanwhile, hundreds of dollars in Meadows campaign money was even spent at a Safeway grocery store. What legitimate connection to then-non-existent campaigning could those expenses possibly have? From January through March, the Meadows campaign spent at least $5,577.50 on food and beverages. Meadows announced that he was retiring from Congress last December — before this money was spent.
The questionable expenses continued after the Meadows campaign converted into the so-called Freedom First PAC. Those post-conversion expenses included $1,000 at the Capitol Hill Club and nearly $400 at the president’s own controversial D.C. hotel. Campaign accounts are unequivocally not supposed to be sources for personal financial favors for the people in charge of the money — yet, that corruption may be exactly what unfolded here. It’s part of the swirl of corruption around Trump — who could lose his chance at a second term in office in coming days.