Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 11, 2016

Members of Congress Buy Xmas Gifts with Campaign Funds

Some members of Congress enjoy giving holiday gifts, especially when they don’t have to pay for it with their own money. But don’t worry, they aren’t using taxpayer money – just money contributed to their campaigns.

Business is usually good during December at the U.S. Senate Gift Shop, the U.S. House of Representatives Gift Shop, and at the U.S. Capitol Historical Society Gift Shop. Examples of holiday gifts available, such as those with a congressional seal, are mentioned in Roll Call’s article on “Stocking Stuffers Galore in House Gift Shop.”

Many members use campaign funds to make purchases from these shops. Here are a few examples. In November 2011, the campaign committee of former Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., spent $3,430 on Christmas ornaments. Over the 2011 holidays, the campaign committee of  Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., purchased $6,779 in Christmas gifts from the House gift shop. In 2012, McClintock’s campaign spent $3,750 for Christmas ornaments for supporters.  In 2012, the campaign committee of former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, spent $2,959 for Auction Items/Gifts. In December 2012, the campaign committee of Rep Albio Sires, D-N.J., spent $2,450 for ornaments for constituents. Over the last three years the campaign committee of Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., has spent $8,546 on “candy dishes, serving trays, pic frames” and other items at the Senate gift shop.

Some House members often find the items they want at the Senate gift shop. In 2011, the campaign committee of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., purchased $1,450 in Christmas ornaments from the White House Historical Association.

Besides holiday gifts, members of Congress also purchase Christmas cards with campaign funds. In December of last year and the year before, the campaign committee of Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, spent over $10,000 for Christmas cards. Last Year the campaign committee of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, spent over $12,704 on Christmas cards.

Members also use campaign funds for holiday parties. Last year the campaign committee of Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., spent $837 on a Christmas party for his Birmingham staff, and $7,300 at Johnny’s Half Shell for his DC staff. The campaign committee of Rep. Bob Brady, D-Pa., spent over $10,000  in early December of last year, and the year before for “Christmas Gifts” at the Capital Grille, but those expenses may have been the cost of a yearly party.

In December 2011, the campaign committee of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr, D-Ill., spent $13,616 on Christmas card printing and mailing, but because of his recent conviction for using campaign funds for personal use, we really can’t be sure if the money didn’t go for something else.

Holiday spending in November and December of this year will be reported in the fourth quarter disclosure reports due to be filed by January 31, 2014.

To search detailed money-in-politics databases, visit Political MoneyLine.

  • JMH21

    This is a story about nothing but some will make it into something. Sending out things like ornaments and holiday cards is a staple of politics, especially to your donors. It is akin to spending money to raise more money, something every politician does and in fact has to do to compete in today’s high price campaigns. I don’t see anyone in the media complaining about how much they charge for a political ad or commercial.

  • tpartynitwit

    Congratulations, Kent, this is the most trite cheap shot of the year.

  • RhymesWithRight

    I guess I fail to see the problem. I get Christmas cards from the campaigns of dozens of officeholders and candidates each year, from US Senator down to the local JPs and Constable. And those gifts go to donors or are used for auctions at campaign events. In other words, this is a non-story.

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