Did Texas U.S. Rep. John Culberson use campaign money for fossils and collectibles?


As the 2018 campaign comes to a close, the political arm of the Environmental Defense Fund has sent a mailer to homes in Texas’ 7th Congressional District saying that John Culberson, a Republican congressman, is "wrong for Houston." As partial proof, it said he was "caught using campaign cash on collectibles, including Civil War memorabilia and fossils."

"Caught" is an interesting word, since the nine-term incumbent, now challenged by Democrat Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, disclosed the memorabilia purchases, which he says he gave as gifts from his campaign. As for the fossils, his campaign insisted there were no such purchases -- and said it only bought books and maps from a business that happens to also sell fossils. Critics have made a false assumption, the Culberson campaign told us initially.

The FEC gives "pretty wide latitude" to the purchase of books and other materials that a candidate or officeholder might use in his or her official capacity, Brendan Fischer, an expert on campaign finance law at the Campaign Legal Center, told us. But what about a Triceratops model and replicas of a Tyrannosaurus Rex tooth fossil? "I’d like to hear their explanation for it," he said. "It’s hard to see how it would pertain to their official duties."

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