The report found that in the 116th Congress, 120 leadership PACs spent less than 50 percent of their money on politics, with the rest going to things like meals at upscale restaurants and stays at elite resorts. Those PACs together spent more than $2 million at hotels and resorts, $220,000 at sporting events and concerts, $190,000 at ski resorts and $150,000 at steakhouses.
Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) leadership PAC spent 12 percent of its $1 million haul on politics, the smallest percentage among senators, shelling out $1,900 at a five-star resort in Palm Beach, Fla., and $1,500 at Maryland’s top-rated resort, according to the report.
Two leadership PACs controlled by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) spent a combined $1.9 million, but just one-quarter went to political activities, according to the report. The PAC spent $7,800 at a five-star New York City hotel and $2,100 at the five-star Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills, which calls itself “the epitome of Hollywood glamour.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) spent 18 percent of his PAC’s $2.2 million on political activities, spending $12,000 on Houston Astros games and $5,000 at the Cloister at Sea Island, Georgia’s top-rated luxury hotel, the report found.
Politicians have defended their leadership PAC spending, stating that their stays at pricey hotels and resorts are used to facilitate fundraisers with big-dollar campaign donors who expect a luxurious venue.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) proposed legislation to clarify that leadership PACs cannot be used for personal use, a measure that didn’t gain momentum last Congress.