The top Republican on the House Ethics Committee spent more than $1,300 in campaign funds at a five-star hotel in London, according to Federal Election Commission records examined by CQ Roll Call.
From 2018-2019, Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant’s campaign committee — Kenny Marchant for Congress — expended funds at The Royal Horseguards Hotel, a luxury hotel overlooking the River Thames positioned within walking distance to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The hotel offers “Victorian grandeur combined with elegant, first class contemporary comfort,” and is “one of the finest hotels near Westminster,” according to the hotel’s website.
Luke Bunting, a spokesperson for Marchant, said the lawmaker has regularly participated in congressional delegation travel (CODEL). A CODEL is considered official travel, which is paid for or authorized by the House. Members and staff travel abroad in these CODELs.
“That figure reflects four separate transactions that occurred over a period of two years, with only one taking place during this Congress,” Bunting said in an email.
Two of the four expenditures at the hotel were described as “lodging” and the remaining two as “travel expense.”
“The Congressman has regularly participated in codel working trips abroad alongside fellow Members of Congress, with strict adherence to all FEC and ethics rules,” Bunting added. “This includes the House ethics rule that campaign funds may be used to ‘pay official or officially-related travel expenses’, and the FEC rule that funds may be used to ‘defray the ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with an individual’s duties as of a federal officeholder.’ As is our practice, we will take another look at these expenses and provide any necessary updates.”
When asked why, if Marchant was on a CODEL, shouldn’t all the expenses be paid out of committee funds, as well as what specific expenses Marchant was defraying, Bunting did not respond.
Tom Rust, a spokesperson for the House Ethics Committee, had no comment.
Federal law and House Rules prohibit members from using campaign funds for personal use.
When it comes to travel expenses, the FEC says: “Campaign funds may be used to pay the costs of travel to an activity that is related to the campaign or to the candidate’s duties as a federal officeholder.”
Daniel Weiner, a former Federal Election Commission attorney who is the deputy director of election reform at the Brennan Center for Justice, said it really depends on what the details of the specific expenditures were and there is a lot of deference afforded to candidates and officeholders when it comes to travel.
“If it’s just a question of he was on official travel and he wanted to stay at a nicer hotel and so he used his campaign funds, you might raise eyebrows about that or think about whether you wanted to donate to him again, but I’m not sure that breaks the law.”
Marchant is not running for reelection.