When someone donates money to the campaign of a congressional candidate, they probably have the old-fashioned idea that it will actually all be spent to help him win election. Most is, but some isn't - at least not directly. But it's all perfectly legal.
For example, Democratic senatorial candidate Brian Moss used $7 of his campaign funds to pay a parking ticket received at the University of Utah, according to Federal Elections Commission records. Of course, that $7 didn't directly help the Moss campaign - unless keeping him out of jail for unpaid tickets is considered helping the campaign.Moss's opponent, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, used campaign donations for such expenses as $135 for a one-year membership at Delta Airlines' Crown Room at the Salt Lake International Airport, $2,200 for postage to mail Christmas cards, and $200 on "porcelain accessories."
Richard Snelgrove, Republican candidate in the 2nd District congressional race, paid several hundred dollars in campaign donations to his family's ice cream business for ice cream. The latest FEC reports had another scoop: Snelgrove's campaign still owes the company for $3,018.35 worth of ice cream.
Sometimes funds donated from one campaign actually end up going to a different one instead - obvioulsy not directly helping the politician who originally received the money.
For example, the 3rd District campaign of Democrat Robert Stringham received a $1,000 donation from the Wayne Owens for Congress Committee. Apparently Owens, the Democratic incumbent in the 2nd District, didn't need the money as much.
The re-election committee of Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, who did not face re-election this year but received donations anyway for a possible future race, sent $1,000 each to Snelgrove and Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah.
Records also show that Garn spent $400 in campaign funds on child care. He explained that was for child tending during several days while he and his wife were out of the country. He said he covers less costly child care needed for day to day campaign events out of his own pocket.
Garn also spent $4,000 of campaign funds to bolster the $79,900-a-year salary of his administrative assistant, Jeff Bingham. Garn said Bingham has been his top aide since the days Garn was mayor of Salt Lake City, and deserved more money than senatorial rules allowed him to pay.
Garn also said, "Other senators actually pay the entire salary of some staff members out of campaign funds. They feel they need more staffers than they are otherwise allowed."
Also records suggest money donated to campaigns this year won't be used until much later, if at all. For example, staffers working for Hatch say he expects to have $700,000 or so left over - which may serve as warning to any future challenger he may face when up for re-election again in six years that he has a fund-raising head start.
Recently, Washington papers have complained about such campaign fund carryover - especially among old-time members of the House who often run unopposed. Grandfathered rules even allow such members who were elected before 1980 to personally keep any unspent campaign donations in the bank when they finally retire.
What exactly are the rules of how candidates may or may not spend campaign donations? "There aren't any," an FEC spokesman said. "The law doesn't care how they spend the funds, just that they make a full disclosure of how they do."