We're the reporters who found 100+ former politicians’ campaign accounts spending campaign donations years after the campaign was over — sometimes, even when the politician was dead. AUA
Our short bio: We're Chris O'Donnell, Eli Murray, Connie Humburg and Noah Pransky, reporters for the Tampa Bay Times and 10News/WTSP. We've spent just short of a year investigating 'zombie campaigns': political campaign accounts that are still spending years after the politicians they were working to elect left office.
We found more than 100 former lawmakers spending campaign donations on things like cell phone bills, fancy dinners and luncheons, computers and an ipad, country club dues, and paying salary to family members – all after leaving office. Around half of the politicians we identified moved into a lobbying career when they retired allowing them to use those campaign accounts to curry favor for their new clients. Twenty of the campaign accounts were still active more than a decade after the candidate last sought office. Eight of the campaign accounts belonged to congressmen who had died but were still spending donations as if they were still running for office. In total, the zombie campaigns we identified have spent more than $20 million after leaving office.
It's not just small fish either. We found Ron Paul paying his daughter $16k+ over the course of 5 years after he last campaigned in 2012. He fled when our affiliates tried to ask him questions outside of the building where he records the Ron Paul Liberty Report. Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning paid his daughter almost $95k since he retired. Mark Foley, who was forced out of office a decade ago amid allegations that he was sexting teenage boys, still spends campaign donations on posh luncheons and travel. Sen. George LeMieux hasn't run for office since 2012, but spent $41k+ on management consulting services and then denied to us on camera when we confronted him. Hawaiian political operative Dylan Beesley was a campaign advisor the for the late Rep. Mark Takai. A couple months after his death, papers filed with the FEC listed Beesley as the campaign treasurer. Over the course of 17 months since Takai's passing, Beesley has paid $100k+ out of the dead congressman's campaign to his own consulting firm for 'consulting services' rendered on the campaign of a dead man.
For the short of it, check out this Schoolhouse Rock style animation.
We also built a database of all the zombie campaigns we identified which can be found here.
Edit: Alright folks, that's a wrap for us today. Thanks for all the awesome questions, observations and conversations. I also want to give a special thanks to the folks who gilded this post – too bad I use an alt when I browse reddit on a daily basis (Ken Bone taught me a thing or two about mixing your private and professional reddit accounts lol). I'll check back in the morning to keep answering questions if there are still some coming in. It would make it easier for me if you make the question a top-level post on the thread so I can get to it by sorting on 'new' – otherwise it may fall through the cracks. Thanks!