Nathan Stubbs

Vitter can't use campaign funds for legal fees

by Nathan Stubbs

U.S. Sen. David Vitter cannot tap campaign funds to pay more than $160,000 in legal fees incurred from his involvement in the D.C. madam criminal investigation, according to the Federal Elections Commission. Vitter asked to use campaign funds for $207,176 in legal fees occurred to date involving the scandal. The FEC published a preliminary opinion yesterday on the case that states Vitter will not be able to use campaign funds for $75,000 in legal fees for monitoring the late Jeanette Palfrey criminal investigation and another $85,000 in legal fees for working to quash subpoenas for Vitter’s testimony. The FEC deemed those expenses “personal,” likening them to past cases where the commission has ruled against allowing public officials to use campaign funds for divorce-related expenses or criminal charges such as driving under the influence of alcohol.

The FEC is allowing Vitter to use campaign money for $31,341 in legal fees for his attorney’s consultation during a Senate ethics probe, which was dropped, and his attorney’s discussion with a public relations firm. “Such use would not be a conversion to personal use because these legal fees would not exist irrespective of Sen. Vitter’s duties as a U.S. Senator,” the FEC wrote. Campaign funds can only be used for another $15,301 in legal expenses, including transportation costs, if they related to the senator’s official office duties.