Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sen. Martinez has money to burn

U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez may be winding down his political career, but that hasn't stopped him from spending his campaign cash.

It's all above board, under federal campaign regulations that give politicians broad leeway in how they spend their campaign contributions - even when they're about leave office.

The Miami Herald reports:
U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez announced eight months ago that he would not seek reelection but has continued to spend campaign donations on consultants, staff, air fares, meals, cellphones and purchases at the Senate gift shop.

Federal Election Commission records show Martinez has spent $147,642 since his Dec. 2 announcement. He also returned $419,051 to his contributors, with $456,200 remaining in the account as of June 30.

Federal law gives officeholders wide latitude to spend campaign donations on anything related to their election or in connection with their official duties.

``My general advice is, `contributors beware,' '' said Paul Ryan, an election law expert at the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based watchdog group. ``The door is close to wide open for what federal officeholders can do with the money in their coffers.''

Martinez's campaign treasurer, Tampa accountant Nancy Watkins, said the senator has adhered to federal law.

``It has to be for the campaign or official business,'' said Watkins, whose firm has received thousands of dollars from Martinez's campaign for accounting services in recent months. ``There's no conversion for personal use, and we don't have any of that going on here.''
Read the whole thing here.

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