Report: Paul Ryan’s ‘Problematic’ RNC Spending Spree

I’ll admit I’m a little slow up the uptake with this story, but given that we’re just 8 days from election day, I’m having a hard time keeping up with all the information that catches my eye.

According to a report by Hunter Walker of Politicker, Republican Rep. (and vice presidential candidate) Paul Ryan may have violated federal campaign finance laws relating to expenses related to the 2012 Republican convention that were charged to his Congressional campaign.

According to the quarterly campaign finance disclosure filed in October, Mr. Ryan’s congressional campaign spent $59,603.41 that was specifically identified as convention-related expenses between July 26 and October 17. FEC regulations require candidates who, like Mr. Ryan, are actively running for multiple federal offices to “designate separate principal campaign committees and establish completely separate campaign organizations.” These separate committees are prohibited from transferring “funds, goods, or services, including loans and loan guarantees” between themselves. Expenditures made by a vice presidential candidate while participating in national campaign activity in the course of a campaign are considered “expenditures made by or on behalf” of the presidential campaign they are associated with.

The FEC has issued advisory opinions explaining what expenses are allowed for candidates attending their parties’ conventions. In one of these, the commission notes that convention expenses cannot include “any use of funds in a campaign account of a present or former candidate to fulfill a commitment, obligation or expense of any person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign or duties as a Federal officeholder.” In the same advisory opinion, the commission said “regulations covering delegate activity indicate that such costs would be for the purpose of influencing a Federal election and, hence, not a personal use.” In other words, in Mr. Ryan’s case, this means he would be permitted to use his campaign account only to fund expenses related to him and his campaign staff attending and holding events explicitly associated with his re-election effort, not for general convention expenses which would be considered part of the effort to boost his campaign with Mr. Romney. If a committee pays for someone to attend the convention and they participate in activities related to multiple campaigns, their expenses must be paid incrementally by the separate committees involved. Furthermore, convention guests whose expenses are paid for by one of their campaign committees must be “integral” to their campaign efforts.

However, though Mr. Ryan spent more than $75,000 at the convention, his campaign manager, Kevin Seifert, told us his congressional campaign staff includes only five people and the bulk of his RNC expenses came from the purchase of over 20 hotel rooms.

According to Hunter Walker’s report, Mr. Ryan’s largest RNC expense was a $34,854.35 payment for “hotel rooms” at the Marriott Tampa Waterside, which also happened to be the “home base” of the Romney for president campaign in Tampa Bay. Apparently Ryan’s Congressional campaign (which sent just 5 staffers to Tampa Bay for the GOP convention) reserved 20 rooms at the Marriott Tampa Waterside.

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