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Members Of Congress Allowed Use Of Campaign Funds For Home Security

Jul 14, 2017

Members of Congress can now use their campaign war chests to pay for home security systems, and will not run afoul of rules against the personal use of campaign funds.

That's the ruling of the Federal Election Commission, issued earlier this week.

The decision came at the request of House Sergeant-At-Arms Paul Irving, who wrote the commission asking for the change, referring to "the new daily threat environment faced by Members of Congress." His request came in the immediate wake of the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others at a Republican lawmaker baseball practice in June.

Previous FEC rulings had allowed lawmakers to tap campaign funds for homes security purposes, as long as they had received a specific threat.

Irving asked for a broader reading of the rules. He wrote that in the first six months of 2017, the Capitol Police investigated more than 900 different threats to lawmakers.

"Over the course of the last five years, Members have had their home addresses and likenesses published in documents and on internet postings," Irving wrote to the commission. "Members receive threatening communications on a daily basis via the internet, telephone, and mail in Washington, D.C."

Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., who chairs the Committee on House Administration, supported Irving's request. "These types of threats necessitate a proactive rather than reactive response," Harper wrote to the FEC in a letter. "Members are unfortunately no longer able to wait until confirmation of a threatening communication before taking prudent steps to protect themselves and their family."

In its decision, the FEC pointed out that in its previous, narrower rulings, it concluded that home security improvements did not count as a personal use of campaign funds, since "the threats would not have occurred had the Members not been federal officeholders and/or candidates."

Commissioners said they accepted Irving's argument that with threats rising, similar rulings made sense for all lawmakers, regardless of whether or not they've received a specific threat. The FEC is allowing campaign funds to go to "the installation or upgrade and monitoring costs of camera, sensors, distress devices," in addition to locks — as long as such improvements are not "structural improvements to Members' homes."

Lawmakers have to report these expenses on their campaign finance forms.

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