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Swalwell's campaign spent hundreds of thousands on travel, childcare and luxury spas, filings show

Swalwell's campaign spent more than $20,000 on expenses marked as "gifts" and "gestures" records show. More than $430,000 of Swalwell's expenses from last year are marked as "travel."

Published: February 20, 2024 12:47am

Updated: February 20, 2024 8:40am

California Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell's campaign spent more than $2.1 million last year, with expenses including international travel, fine dining, luxury spas, chauffeured cars, childcare and more, according to Federal Election Commission filings. 

More than $430,000 of Swalwell's expenses from last year are marked as "travel," campaign records show. At least $13,000 was spent overseas, including on trips to the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Nearly $350,000 of the travel expenses were spent on entities based outside of California. 

The House Ethics Manual allows campaign funds to be used on trips to "attend a campaign or political event, or to engage in other campaign activity."

Additionally, the FEC allows a member to use campaign funds to pay for travel and related expenses of his or her spouse and minor children at political events and events that the lawmaker is attending in an official capacity. 

It is unclear whether Swalwell's family accompanied him on any trips, and his campaign did not respond to requests for comment. 

"Since campaign funds are not taxpayer dollars and donations are not tax-deductible, the best way to hold a candidate responsible is to quit donating to them," Adam Andrzejewski, founder of the nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog, told Just the News. "Historically, oversight bodies have given wide latitude to political expenditures because the donations are from the private sector and the gifts come from after-tax money," he said.

Notably, while expelled Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., came under fire for his use of campaign money for travel over the course of three years, Santos' campaign spent more than $136,000 on travel, which is significantly less the $430,000 that Swalwell spent in one year. 

It appears that Swalwell also spent nearly $29,800 on Sunny's Executive Sedan, which bills itself as a "first class chauffeur experience." They provide clients with top class cars, ranging from Mercedes S-Class coupes to Cadillac Escalades.

Additionally, although Santos was questioned for spending campaign money at a spa, it appears that Swalwell did the same on several occasions. For example, in April, it appears Swalwell spent about $320 at the five-star Salamander Resort and Spa in Virginia. In October, Swalwell spent $515 at Lake Austin Spa Resort in Texas. 

Additionally, Swalwell's campaign spent more than $20,000 on expenses marked as gifts and gestures, records show. 

House rules allow members to "use campaign funds to purchase such nominal-value gifts for the Member's supporters or contributors." Although it is unclear whether multiple gifts were purchased at the same time, nearly 45% of the gift expenses were listed as being $100 or more.

The extraordinary expenses extend beyond gifts and travel. Swalwell's campaign spent more than $54,000 on childcare expenses in Iowa, California and Washington, D.C., records show. Swalwell has three children between the ages of six and two.

In 2022, the FEC approved a request from Swalwell to use his campaign funds to pay for overnight childcare expenses incurred when he travels for his own campaign and his wife cannot watch their children. It is unclear whether his children traveled with him to Iowa and Washington, D.C., or whether the expenses were for his children or those of his staffers.

In any event, Swalwell's spending on childcare is far greater than that of any other congressional candidate. All congressional campaigns spent about $92,000 on childcare expenses in 2023 which means that Swalwell's childcare expenses accounted for nearly 60% of that total.

This is not the first time Swalwell has been under scrutiny. The House Ethics Committee investigated his ties to alleged Chinese spy Christine Fang and concluded last year that it would take no further action on the matter. Swalwell cut ties with Fang in 2015 after receiving a briefing from federal investigators, according to Axios. He was not accused of wrongdoing.

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