Political News

Republican campaign committees ask FEC to allow lawmakers to use campaign donations for bodyguards

Posted January 31, 2021 8:45 p.m. EST

— Amid heightened concern about lawmaker safety, officials with the Republican congressional campaign arms have asked federal election regulators whether lawmakers can use campaign funds to pay for bodyguards.

In a letter recently posted to the Federal Election Commission website, lawyers representing the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee asked the six-member commission to provide guidance on whether lawmakers can use donors' money "to pay for personal security personnel to protect the Member and the Member's immediate family from threatened harm."

The request follows the January 6 siege on Capitol Hill that left five dead and comes amid mounting threats against members of Congress. Last week, a group of more than 30 lawmakers requested more flexibility in using their taxpayer-funded congressional allowances to hire local law enforcement or other security personnel for district offices in their home states. Lawmakers also are to receive beefed-up federal protection while traveling to and from Washington, the US Capitol Police previously has announced.

"In light of current events involving concrete threats of physical violence against Members and their families, Members have been compelled to consider further security measures for themselves and their families," the campaign committee officials wrote in their January 26 letter to the FEC. "As has been well-documented in the media, Members and their families continue to endure threats and security breaches, which are being timely reported to appropriate law enforcement officials."

The commission previously has ruled that campaign contributions can be used to install and upgrade lawmakers' home-security systems without violating the federal prohibition on using political donations for personal expenses.

The letter from the NRCC and the NRSC comes in the form of an advisory opinion request -- the vehicle that candidates and others engaged in fundraising use to ask the commission to weigh in on legal matters.

While the Federal Election Commission can take up to 60 days to render an advisory opinion, the campaign committees asked the panel for "expedited consideration ... in light of recent developments that have elevated the threat environment facing Members."

The Committee on House Administration sent a letter to members earlier this month reminding them of various options they had for security-related expenses "in light of the tragic events related to the seditious breach of the Capitol."

The January 11 letter circulated to members reminded them that in their districts, they can get reimbursed for having security at a district event or outside district offices. The letter instructed members that the House Sergeant at Arms will provide "certain security enhancements" for district offices and that a bullet proof vest and security training are also considered reimbursable expenses.

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