WASHINGTON • Rep. Ann Wagner, R–Ballwin, and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., are named in a new report on how members of Congress use “leadership PACs” – separate campaign fundraising entities from their regular political committees – to buy everything from rounds of golf to trips to posh resorts to tickets to Broadway shows.
“In the past five years, members of Congress have spent at least $871,000 on golf club expenses, $741,000 at the St. Regis Hotels, and $469,000 at Disney World,” the report’s synopsis says. “A South Dakota Senator (Republican John Thune) spent $403,000 at West Virginia’s Greenbrier Sporting Club; an Ohio Congressman spent $64,000 on Broadway tickets in New York City.”
This runaway spending was brought to light in a new report released today by Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and Issue One, “All Expenses Paid; How Leadership PACs Became Politicians’ Ticket to Luxury Living,” which highlights countless stories of the bipartisan abuses of a source of funds little known beyond the beltway, but widely exploited within it: so-called ‘leadership PACs.
Here’s what it says about two Missouri politicans, the only two singled out in the report:
• Blunt’s leadership PAC, Rely on Your Beliefs Fund, “has spent $117,083 since 2013 on primarily event catering, lodging, travel, and facility rentals at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort in Florida, ‘a grand New England-style yacht club at this lakeside hotel.’ According to Political Party Time (a site that tracks political fundraisers), the leadership PAC hosted a “Family Retreat to Disney’s Beach Club Resort” there in 2013.”
Keri Ann Hayes, executive director for Blunt’s PAC, said the PAC has held several fundraising events at Disney. Blunt’s PAC has also donated $370,000 to Republican candidates and Republican committees during the 2018 election cycle.
• Wagner’s “leadership PAC, Ann PAC, spent $21,831 from 2015 through 2017 for event expenses, lodging, catering, and travel at various locations in Las Vegas, including the Venetian/Palazzo Hotel and expenses from Tao Restaurant Vegas, an ‘unparalleled Asian-inspired restaurant’ that is the sister to the ‘trendsetting’ Tao in New York. The payments to the Venetian/Palazzo in 2015 correspond with the Republican Jewish Coalition Spring Leadership Meeting.”
Spokespersons for Wagner did not respond to a request for comment.
Spending ranged from a frequent fundraising trip that Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, and his supporters took to a posh Maine resort, to more than $18,000 in tickets for fundraisers at professional baseball and hockey games by Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville.