Zombie Campaign Redux: Former Members of Congress Continue to Use Leftover Campaign Cash as Personal Slush Funds

Congressman Crenshaw
Former Congressman Ander Crenshaw visits Jacksonville, FL by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jessica Potter [Public domain]

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed two complaints with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that two former members of Congress illegally used leftover campaign contributions for personal uses, like a trip to Disney World and payments to family members.

Ander Crenshaw represented Florida’s 4th Congressional District until 2017. John Linder represented Georgia’s 7th District until 2011. After leaving office, both Crenshaw and Linder used leftover campaign contributions to cover apparently personal expenses like cell phone and internet bills, and to foot the bill for expensive meals and travel, including a trip to Alaska for Linder and a stay at the Four Seasons Resort at Disney World for Crenshaw. In 2018 alone, Crenshaw spent around $10,000 on travel expenses in Florida, North Carolina, and Colorado.

Linder also paid his children over $141,000 for “FR consulting,” which appears to be an abbreviation for “fundraising consulting”—but is difficult to justify, given that Linder’s committee has raised $0.  

Crenshaw’s and Linder’s apparently personal uses of campaign funds are the latest examples of “zombie campaigns,” where former officeholders have continued using campaign funds for years after they’ve left office, stopped campaigning, or even died. A 2018 investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and WTSP documented the extent of the zombie campaigns phenomenon.

Crenshaw and Linder represent a twist in the zombie campaign story: both converted their campaign committees to multicandidate PACs, rolled-over hundreds of thousands of dollars of leftover contributions, and then used the PACs as slush funds. Converting to a multicandidate PAC matters little: contributions received by Crenshaw and Linder when they were still candidates remain subject to federal law’s personal use ban.

CLC filed a rulemaking petition asking the FEC to strengthen or clarify the application of the personal use ban to former lawmakers. The FEC then announced that it would more carefully scrutinize disclosure reports filed by former lawmakers, and later stated that the review would begin in 2019.

These violations represent a blatant misuse of funds, and CLC will continue to identify and report these violations to protect the integrity of our campaign finance system.