Rep. Lance Gooden reimbursed himself over $280,000 in campaign funds since 2018, a CQ Roll Call review of Federal Election Commission records shows.
The Texas Republican lists payments from his Lance Gooden for Congress Committee to himself for travel, phone, meal expenses among some of the 68 transactions over a three-year period. Many of these expenditures—40 to be exact—were labeled as “expense reimbursement.” Included in the expenditures was a $7,000 purchase on Dec. 31, 2019 described as for “materials,” as was a $6,000 transaction on Sep. 27, 2019 and one for over $10,000 on Feb. 27, 2019.
Members are prohibited under federal law and House rules from using campaign funds for personal use and must be able to verify that campaign resources have not been misused. The Federal Election Commission states that if a candidate “can reasonably show that the expenses at issue resulted from campaign or officeholder activities, the Commission will not consider the use to be personal use.”
Gooden, who easily won reelection to his second term in November, has also spent campaign money abroad, and in the popular destinations of New Orleans, La., and Las Vegas, Nev.
The lawmaker spent $445 on staff meals at the Kornhaus Cafe in Bern, Switzerland in August of 2019.
That same year, Gooden spent over $7,800 in New Orleans on event food, drinks and a hotel room expense. This includes over $3,700 at Antoine’s Restaurant, where “countless celebrities have dined,” including Franklin Roosevelt, Pope John Paul II and Brad Pitt. Further, he spent over $3,000 at the Ritz Carlton New Orleans for event food and drink expenses, and $356 for a stay at the Saint Hotel near Bourbon Street.
In Las Vegas, Gooden’s campaign spent just over $1,700 on event food and beverage at two popular Vegas hotels: the Wynn and the Vdara.
Rob Phillips III, a compliance officer for Gooden, didn’t address the specific purchases, but noted the lawmaker’s spending is aligned with other clients of his.
“Candidate fundraising is expensive and Congressman Gooden’s expenses and accounting are in line with other clients I do compliance work for regardless of whether the cost is a reimbursement to the candidate or paid directly to an event vendor,” Phillips said in an email.
HenryAlan, the firm at which Phillips works, lists Gooden’s campaign and Ross Spano for Congress on its website. Spano, a Florida Republican who lost his primary in August, is being investigated by the Department of Justice for allegedly accepting loans in excess of federal limits to propel his 2018 campaign.
Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at the liberal watchdog group Public Citizen, said the amount of reimbursements to Gooden is notable and that he cannot draw a salary from the campaign because he is an incumbent lawmaker.
“That is an extraordinary amount of reimbursements from campaign funds. The reimbursements may be legitimate — I would have to see the details to determine that — but most candidates rely on their campaign treasurers to pay for campaign expenses directly from campaign funds,” Holman said in an email.
“This level of reimbursements suggests that the candidate is playing loose with campaign expenses, paying for many travel and other campaign-related expenditures out of the candidate’s own pocket and then seeking regular reimbursements from the campaign,” Holman added.
Office of Congressional Ethics spokesperson William Beaman had no comment. Tom Rust, a spokesperson for the House Ethics Committee, had no comment.