After Mark Meadows left Congress to become Donald Trump’s chief of staff in March 2020, his campaign spent thousands on food and beverages that could hardly have been campaign related. Several months later, CREW noticed those expenses and others that appeared to have been for personal use, and filed an FEC complaint, since spending campaign donor money on personal use violates campaign finance laws. 

It should be cut and dry: Meadows’ campaign admitted that it spent $2,655 in campaign funds on food and beverage unrelated to campaigning or his work as a member of Congress, which was an impermissible personal use according to the FEC’s General Counsel.  

But if you thought the FEC would take action, you’d be wrong. The FEC lately seems content to dismiss complaints and close files, even in cases where staff has found that violations—even egregious ones—likely occurred. 

In the Meadows case, the same thing happened. The FEC closed the file without taking further action, invoking its prosecutorial discretion because of the small amount of money. 

In North Carolina, which Meadows represented while in Congress, $1,000 is the threshold at which larceny becomes a felony. If Meadows had stolen $2,655 from a business—instead of a campaign—would he likely have received, at the very least, a criminal charge and a fine or jail time? Probably. 

Let’s hope that Mark Meadows actions leading up to and on January 6th don’t go as unpunished as his campaign finance violations. Fortunately, not every enforcement agency is as toothless as the FEC has become.