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FEC commissioner dresses down Eric Swalwell for 'abhorrent' request of campaign funds

Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

A commissioner with the Federal Election Commission condemned Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) on Thursday after asking whether he could use campaign funds for childcare while he takes an international trip.

What is the background?

In May, Rebecca Olson, an attorney for Swalwell's campaign, asked the FEC for clarification whether Swalwell could use campaign funds for overnight childcare while he travels abroad.

"Can Swalwell for Congress pay for childcare expenses for his children if he travels at the request of foreign government or other entities because of his status as a member of Congress? If yes, would that include overnight care as well?" Olson asked.

The childcare is necessary, Olson explained, because Swalwell and his wife, who also works full-time, have three young children. Their busy schedule means they have to employ a "night nanny" when both parents are unavailable to care for their children.

Previously, the FEC ruled that campaigns may use campaign funds for childcare if the need is directly related to campaigning.

What did the FEC commissioner say?

Commissioner Trey Trainor (R) dressed down Swalwell over the request during an FEC meeting, calling the request "abhorrent."

"I am a father of six children, and my wife also works. And I am very aware of the lengths that parents have to go to in order to provide childcare," Trainor began. "I do see this as nothing more than a member of Congress looking for a way to have donors pay for nanny services while they run off on weeklong trips overseas.

"To be real honest with you: I'm actually going to pass judgment on it," he continued. "I think it's abhorrent that Congressman Swalwell would have such a young child and want to leave them in the care of someone else, for a weeklong trip overseas and using donor contributions to pay for that. I think it's inappropriate we even had to address this question."

Open Meeting of July 14, 2022 youtu.be

Ultimately, the commission failed to come to an agreement.

Three commissioners supported barring Swalwell from using campaign funds as requested, two supported allowing Swalwell to use campaign funds as requested, while the sixth commissioner abstained.

Anything else?

After the meeting, FEC commissioner Ellen Weintraub condemned Trainor for his comments.

"I have never seen a requestor treated so disrespectfully by a member of this Commission. This is the United States of America, not the Republic of Gilead. The @FEC enforces the law," Weintraub said on Twitter. "We do not 'pass judgment' on the personal lives of those who come before us asking for guidance."

Trainor shot back, "I’ve never seen campaign donors treated so disrespectfully! The Republic will persevere even if Swallwell doesn’t get all the junkets he’d like."

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