Complaint accuses Mike Kelly of using $100k of campaign funds at luxury resorts in alleged ethics violation | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Complaint accuses Mike Kelly of using $100k of campaign funds at luxury resorts in alleged ethics violation

click to enlarge U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly - OFFICIAL PHOTO
Official photo
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly
On Oct. 6, the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit watchdog group, requested an ethics investigation into U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler) for allegedly violating the personal use ban on campaign funds after Kelly allegedly spent more than $100,000 from his leadership PAC on luxury trips, transportation, and dining, including a trip to a five-star resort in Utah. 

Members of Congress are prohibited from using leadership PACs for personal spending, and the CLC requests that the Office of Congressional Ethics require Kelly to verify that he has complied with House rules given his “remarkably small” expenses on political campaigns.

The House Ethics Manual states that “[c]ampaign funds are not to be used to enhance a Member’s lifestyle, or to pay a Member’s personal obligations,” and while Congress members are given wide berth in determining what constitutes a bona fide campaign or political expense, they must be able to verify that funds were not spent for personal use.

From 2019-20, Kelly’s leadership PAC spent $77,717 at the St. Regis Deer Valley, a five-star resort in Park City, Utah, of which $18,365 was spent on lodging on four separate dates, and $15,946 on unspecified purposes with descriptions listed as question marks or references to memos without further details, according to CLC's complaint.

While Kelly’s leadership PAC labeled some expenses for the more than $300 spent on food and beverages at The Mustang, an upscale American restaurant about two miles away from the resort, as “fundraising,” the PAC’s records do not show significant contributions near that time.
A request for comment made to Kelly's office went unanswered.

"The purpose of leadership PACs is to enable lawmakers to raise and spend campaign funds for their colleagues running in competitive House and Senate districts," the CLC wrote. "Rep. Kelly's leadership PAC does not appear to prioritize spending on such political expenses because only 22 percent of the roughly $205,000 spent by Rep. Kelly's leadership PAC from 2019 to 2020 went toward other candidates and political parties and groups."

According to the CLC complaint, Kelly’s leadership PAC also spent large sums at luxury hotels and resorts in Sea Island, Georgia; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Palm Beach, Florida in the same time frame, including nearly $20,000 to the Sea Island Company, which owns the Sea Island Resort in Georgia, and about $3,000 at Wynn Las Vegas, Four Seasons Las Vegas, and The Venetian Resort.

Kelly has served in the U.S. House since 2011, and ran car dealerships before that. His district, Pennsylvania's 16th Congressional District, encompasses most of Northwestern Pennsylvania, as well as Butler County, where Kelly resides.

He came under scrutiny in late 2020 after initiating a lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania's mail-in voting law as unconditional. That lawsuit, which was connected to the "big lie" that falsely claims former President  Donald Trump won the 2020 election, was thrown out by Pennsylvania's Supreme Court.

As a member of Congress, Kelly is permitted to raise and spend campaign funds for his colleagues running in competitive House and Senate districts. Kelly, however, only spent about $45,000 on other candidates and political parties and groups, which represents 22% of the roughly $205,000 total his leadership PAC spent in 2019-20.

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