TAMPA BAY, Fla. – After a joint 10Investigates/Tampa Bay Times investigation exposed 100 former Congressmembers exploiting a loophole in campaign finance law that allowed them to keep spending campaign donations for years after they left office and stopped campaigning, new campaign filings suggest some campaigns have changed their ways.
That includes the campaign of late Congressman Mark Takai, whose treasurer paid himself more than $100,000 in the 17 months after Takai died for campaign consulting. But after word of 10Investigates’ story reached the treasurer and political consultant, Dylan Beesley - and a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint was filed against him - Beesley took just $1,500 for consulting in the entire first quarter of 2018, according to the campaign’s most recent filings.
Beesley maintained he stayed on with the campaign to oversee a foundation in the late Congressman’s name, but the foundation was only incorporated after Beesley was asked tough questions about his dealings in Dec. 2017.
After the story made headlines, the campaign spent nearly $5,000 on legal services with KaiserDillon PLLC, a Washington D.C. law firm described online as representing clients “in white collar and government investigations…and legal ethics and malpractice.” Beesley also refunded one donor’s $2,000 contribution from the large (but dwindling) campaign 'warchest' that Takai left in 2016 when he passed away from cancer.
Other first-quarter campaign filings of note:
- Disgraced Congressman Mark Foley, R-Florida, continued to spend from his old campaign account on memberships and “sponsorships” for posh West Palm Beach-area social clubs.
- Former Congressman Robin Tallon, D-South Carolina, a registered lobbyist who has been spending from his old Congressional campaign account for 25 years, ceased much of his controversial spending, only reporting a few new small charitable contributions, political donations to three city council candidates, and basic expenses for his FEC reporting.
- Former Congressman Cliff Stearns, R-Florida, continued to pay his wife $1,000 per month to file his FEC report once every three months, as well as nearly $200 for “internet/wifi” more than five years after leaving office. But he also gave $100,000 to a nonprofit drug rehab organization with locations in Ocala and Brandon.
- Sitting Congressman Dennis Ross, R-Florida, collected a giant haul from various special interests and political action committees in the first quarter, only to announce he would not run for another term in April. He told 10News WTSP he had no plans to close down his account once he left office.
Another notable “zombie campaign” that continued its questionable ways was that of former Congressmen Bud Cramer, R-Alabama, which reported a $1,801.14 “fundraising expense” at The Source, a pricey Wolfgang Puck restaurant in Washington DC.
Cramer’s campaign did not report any actual fundraising receipts in the first quarter, raising questions about what the expense was for. Candidates are prohibited from most fundraising activities when they have not declared for an office.
Cramer, who announced he would not seek re-election ten years ago this spring, continued to ignore requests for comment. Neither Beesley, Foley, Tallon, nor Stearns agreed to interview requests regarding their campaign accounts.
►Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the 10 News app now.