As recently as January 2019, Sen. Susan Collins’ campaign accepted illegal contributions from her own government staffers in an apparent violation of Senate ethics rules and federal law. The actions undermine decades-old promises to cease the illicit activities of her campaign in the late 90s.
According to reporting by The Hill from 1998, Sen. Susan Collins’ campaign violated Sec. 603 of the Federal criminal code, which states that it is illegal for a Member of Congress to accept political contributions, including an “advance of money,” from employees in their federal offices even if it is promptly reimbursed. At the time her chief of staff vowed the practice would stop immediately.
But according to a review of public disclosures by the American Ledger, from April 2013 to as recently as January 2019, Collins has been receiving similar contributions from 5 separate members of her official staff in the Senate.
In April 2013, Collins’ campaign repaid a Senate staff assistant $108.80 for “postage.” Just weeks later in May of 2013 and then again in June of 2013, her campaign paid a legislative correspondent $948.54 for “computer equipment” and “campaign catering.” Three years later, in July of 2016, she paid a state office representative $65.00 for “office equipment.” And finally, earlier this year, she sent a $186.45 payment to a caseworker in January 2019 for an “academy meal reimbursement.” All reimbursements were listed as expenses related to her political campaign.
Collins’ campaign also issued a $1,327.00 reimbursement payment for “catering” to her chief of staff, Steve Abbott in 2015, who made the claims that Collins would cease this illegal activity in the late 90s, raising the question as to whether her campaign operation was lying about ever ceasing this illegal activity in the first place. Abbott responded to the allegations from The Hill by vowing that this illegal practice would not continue.
According to Senate ethics rules and the Federal criminal code, paying back official Senate staffers is strictly prohibited, making the Collins campaign’s continued reimbursement of her official staffers a flagrant violation of federal criminal law.
Collins’ acceptance of these contributions violated a clause in the Senate ethics manual, which states “a Senate employee…who volunteers on his or her employing Member’s campaign may not pay expenses for the campaign, even if the campaign promptly pays the staffer back.”
This latest revelation raises further questions about Collins utilizing her official staff to carry out campaign activities, an activity for which Collins has come under fire in recent months.