Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an interesting article on Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and his Scrooge McDuck-esque pile of campaign money. The problem? According to the WSJ, Sen. Shelby isn’t sharing enough of the wealth with Republican colleagues fighting to take over the Senate in a high-stakes election year.
CREW looked a little more closely at Sen. Shelby’s campaign accounts. Sen. Shelby’s campaign committee and political action committee (PAC) have reimbursed the senator and his wife more than $580,000 since the 2008 election cycle—more than any other senator. That’s an astonishing amount. So far, in calendar year 2014 alone, the senator’s campaign committee and leadership PAC have reimbursed the couple $52,834.
Many of the reimbursements are for mundane charges such as travel expenses, office supplies, or meeting costs. Tens of thousands of dollars, however, went towards lodging and travel expenses at four-and-five star hotels around the country: 32 stays at the Michelangelo Hotel in New York City totaling $34,742, a $1,157 stay at the world-famous Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, $1,078 at the Cloister at Sea Island, $788 at the Lodge at Pebble Beach, and a total of $5,187 at New Orleans’ “super luxury” Windsor Court Hotel as well as the Roosevelt Hotel, Hilton’s 2012 “Hotel of the Year.” The list goes on and on.
Meanwhile, the list of restaurants where the senator dined on the campaign or PAC dime reads like a Zagat Survey of the nation’s best steakhouses. Since 2008, Sen. Shelby’s campaign committee and leadership PAC have reimbursed him a total of $31,226 for meals at The Palm, Bobby Van’s Grill, The Source, Charlie Palmer’s Steakhouse, Citronelle, Bourbon Steak, and the Capital Grille.
In addition, a number of the reimbursements that went to Sen. Shelby weren’t itemized, making it impossible to tell what the money was ultimately spent on. For example, in February 2014, his leadership PAC issued $4,177 and $1,236 reimbursements to Sen. Shelby that lacked any information about the purposes of the expenditures. Candidates are not required to disclose travel expenses below $200, but it’s hard to believe the PAC reimbursed Sen. Shelby for five grand worth of pizzas and Big Macs.
Sen. Shelby’s campaign committee also made an unusual $1,620 payment for “food/beverages” to a company called Table Matters in Birmingham, Alabama. Curiously, according to Table Matters’ website, the store doesn’t sell food or drinks but is rather a “one of a kind gift shop” specializing in “pottery from all over the world and unique table linens.” The company also offers in-home consultations as well as a bridal registry.
As the WSJ article pointed out, Sen. Shelby has been in office for the better part of 30 years and hasn’t had a close race since 1986, making it likely his campaign finances have escaped strict scrutiny. Maybe it’s time to take a closer look. Sen. Shelby may be stingy when it comes to greasing the palms of his colleagues, but he’s no Scrooge when it comes to spending cash on himself.
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