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Where campaign funds can't be tapped

Senator David Vitter

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: Members of Congress are not allowed to use money in their campaign accounts to cover personal expenses. But Senator David Vitter of Louisiana recently asked the Federal Election Commission if he could use his campaign account to pay legal expenses related to a prostitution case. Without getting too personal, is that a personal expense? Marketplace's Steve Henn takes a look.


Steve Henn: For years, politicians have grown accustomed to using campaign accounts as personal legal defense funds.

Former congressmen-turned-convict Randy Duke Cunningham used his to pay his legal bills in a bribery trial. Larry Craig used his to defend himself in the wake of his arrest in a Minneapolis airport.

Melanie Sloan: Well that seems in fact quite personal.

Melanie Sloan founded the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington:

Sloan: The FEC has been slowly over past years expanding the circumstances under which a member of Congress can use campaign funds for legal counsel.

But apparently there are limits. Attorneys at the FEC just recommended Senator David Vitter not be allowed to use campaign cash to pay more than $100,000 in legal bills he incurred while attempting to avoid testifying as a witness in a prostitution trial.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.
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