Politics

FEC Votes to Allow Campaign Cash for Security

House members could use funds for “nonstructural” security systems

Capitol Police have investigated more threats to members of Congress this year than they did in all of last year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday approved by voice vote a request to allow House members to use campaign contributions for certain types of security.

The action by the five commission members follows the shooting at a Republican baseball practice last month, in which House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was wounded, along with four others. 

The final guidance by the FEC permits lawmakers to use campaign funds for “nonstructural” security systems, which would include installation and monitoring costs for cameras, sensors and “removable security devices” at their homes. That is a change from the draft proposed by the FEC ahead of the vote, which said that members could use campaign contributions to install or upgrade residential security systems but did not specify eligible expenditures.

The FEC said campaign cash should not be used to make upgrades or to add security systems meant to increase the value of a home. Threats to members have to be assessed by the Capitol Police.

House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving requested the FEC guidance after Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was among those shot on June 13.

Irving outlined a “new daily threat environment” facing lawmakers, citing U.S. Capitol Police’s investigation of 902 threatening communications received by lawmakers in 2016 and 950 threats investigated in just the first six months of 2017. He reiterated those statistics in his testimony to the FEC on Thursday.

Both the House sergeant-at-arms and the Capitol Police would see a boost in funding under the fiscal 2018 Legislative Branch spending bill that was approved by the full House Appropriations Committee in late June.

The bill would provide $5 million for the House sergeant-at-arms to enhance district office security, such as cameras, panic buttons and other security infrastructure. Also in the works is a planned House Administration Committee authorization to increase Members’ Representational Allowances by $25,000 per member for official event security in home districts.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, ranking member of the Legislative Branch spending panel, said before the FEC’s vote on Thursday that he wanted lawmakers to have more information about their options for security in Washington and in their districts.

Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., the subcommittee chairman, told CQ Roll Call that some members, in particular, “have had very specific threats made upon them and their family and are understandably increasingly fearful.”

Until the FEC’s decision on Thursday, members could only use campaign funds for security after the FEC granted permission on a case-by-case, threat-specific basis. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was allowed to upgrade security at her home after the Arizona Democrat was was shot and severely wounded at a 2011 event for constituents in Tucson.

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