A top Democratic lawmaker's unusual spending habits — which included tens of thousands in travel expenses last year despite shutting down in-person campaign operations and urging constituents to stay home amid the pandemic — have prompted ethics concerns, the Washington Free Beacon reported Monday.
What are the details?
Democratic New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who leads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, spent nearly $29,000 on "ground transportation" and "automobile expenses" in the last nine months of 2020, according to financial records.
The exorbitant spending on travel included "nearly $20,000 in lease and insurance payments, more than $3,600 in collision repairs, nearly $2,200 in gas, more than $2,100 in rental car fees, and nearly $500 for a satellite radio subscription," the Free Beacon reported.
Curiously, Maloney appeared to have halted at least some in-person campaign efforts in March 2020 while urging residents to "stay home" and do their part to "stop spreading this virus."
"Stay at home. Don't go out if you don't need to, minimize your contact with other people," the lawmaker said during a radio interview. "If a member of your family is sick, the whole family's got to stay home so we don't go spread it."
What's more is that Maloney's spending far outweighed that of fellow Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado, who didn't disclose any car-related expenditures last year despite his congressional district being nearly six times the size of Maloney's neighboring district, the Free Beacon noted. Delgado also reportedly transitioned to virtual events during the pandemic.
U.S. campaign finance laws prevent candidates from using donor funds to pay for personal travel.
In response to the news, some ethics experts have weighed in with concerns.
Kendra Arnold, executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, told the Free Beacon that Maloney's expenditures raised "red flags" and that the congressman "has a duty to explain" the payments.
"Candidates don't have to link [disbursements] to a specific corresponding event," Arnold noted. "We generally look for spending that isn't in the realm of a candidate in the same state or in a similar-sized district."
This is reportedly not the first time that Maloney has been the subject of complaints over alleged ethics violations.
While simultaneously running for New York attorney general and House re-election in 2018, Maloney funneled $1.4 million from his federal re-election campaign to fund his state AG run, prompting a lawsuit and ethics complaints from another progressive candidate.
The congressman also made headlines in 2020 when he called religious liberty a "bogus term" used only to discriminate against LGBTQ people.