Fears of political violence trigger new campaign spending

The Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill changed American policy a lot, but a minor consequence was the Federal Election Commission decision that members of Congress could now spend campaign money on a new element: the bodyguards.

While the vast majority of lawmakers have yet to accept the FEC’s offer, more than two dozen have. In total, security costs have already exceeded $ 1.6 million so far this year, according to The Daily Beast’s review of recent federal disclosures.

The biggest spenders, among Democrats and Republicans, shared one attribute: They voted to impeach or convict former President Donald Trump.

Newly elected Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) was by far the leader, racking up more than $ 344,531 in security fees. Other members at the top of the list include Warnock Home State colleague Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) , Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA).

Only two pro-Trump officials incurred significant protection expenses: Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who had frequently charged personal security costs to his campaign even before the FEC does not make its decision official. in March.

The move sparked a boom in campaign security spending. Although the FEC had allowed candidates and elected officials to use donor money for electronic security systems since 2017, it had not clarified whether personal bodyguards could be considered a legitimate campaign expense. Such spending was relatively rare, federal records show, but it has exploded this year, with more than two dozen campaigns reporting the costs of personal protection so far in 2021.

The spike in spending reflects heightened fears among elected officials after a host of Trump supporters targeted them in the Jan.6 attack. The largest spending in the data, which covers the year up to June 30, appears as irregular lump sums and appears to reflect responses to specific threats.

“Sadly, there have been many threats made against Senator Hawley, his wife and children, including several direct threats against Erin Hawley threatening bodily harm.“

– spokesperson for Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO)

For example, Romney’s only reported expense – $ 43,633 on “security” on February 11 – came just before his condemnation vote, and a day after Matt Schlapp, chairman of the Conservative Political Action Conference, suggested that Romney’s “physical security” would be at risk at the annual CPAC event.

“This year I would actually be scared for his physical safety, people are so mad at him,” Schlapp told Fox News. He later said he didn’t mean Romney any harm. “I just want him to find a new hobby far from destroying the momentum of the GOP,” Schlapp added.

Hawley, who raised his fist outside the Capitol on January 6 in solidarity with the protesters, also appears to have reacted to specific perceived concerns. Two days earlier, Hawley had claimed that a group of “Antifa bastards” had “shouted threats” and “vandalized” outside his home in Virginia, a statement PolitiFact called “mostly false.”

His FEC records show a total of $ 44,912 in two security expenses, Jan. 12 and 25. In February, Hawley’s wife filed a criminal complaint in Fairfax County against the organizer of the protest, citing vandalism, trespassing and “disturbing the peace of the house.” “An examining magistrate has dismissed the charge of vandalism and the first hearing is scheduled for August 16.

A spokesperson for the Hawley campaign told the Daily Beast that his wife had been threatened with “bodily harm”.

“Unfortunately, there have been many threats made against Senator Hawley, his wife and children, including several direct threats against Erin Hawley threatening bodily harm,” the spokesperson said, declining to detail examples of recent threats.

The highest costs, however, were incurred by Democrats. After Warnock, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) spent the most, paying $ 247,487 for personal security in the first half of 2021.

Kelly, a former Navy pilot and astronaut whose wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (R-AZ) nearly died in an assassination attempt in 2012, has never publicly mentioned specific threats and declined to comment on security issues for this article. Ahead of the 2020 election, Kelly defended fellow Arizona representative Paul Gosar, a Republican, who said he received heavy threats in September.

Gosar, an election opponent who, according to Stop the Steal chief Ali Alexander, helped organize the January 6 rally, never reported any personal protection expenses.

Behind Warnock and Kelly, two Democrats and an anti-Trump Republican round out the top five spenders: Ossoff ($ 162,107), Toomey ($ 91,059) and Swalwell ($ 77,661), who in early March filed a lawsuit against Trump and a circle of facilitators, including GOP colleague Mo Brooks (R-AL).

Asked for comment, Swalwell told the Daily Beast that the risk had not diminished since taking a leading role in Trump’s second impeachment.

“The threats to my safety and that of my family intensified considerably when I was appointed impeachment officer in January, and have not abated since,” he said.

Outspoken progressives Ocasio-Cortez and First-Term Representative Cori Bush (D-MO) also billed tens of thousands of dollars into their campaign accounts, $ 60,264 and $ 35,403 respectively. Like Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez had previously spent campaign money on protection, and in particular on the events surrounding the escalation of reported threats.

In previous years, these expenses were infrequent and, beyond security systems, were not explicitly sanctioned. The relatively minimal costs of these systems have been included in this analysis, which also shows that some members, such as the impeachment official, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and election objector, Rep. August Pfluger (R -TX) – have installed new amenities this year.

In the weeks following Jan. 6, lawyers for the Republican National Committee pushed regulators to formalize a rule that allows campaigns to be charged security fees. After a contentious back-and-forth, the FEC granted the request in March.

“Threats to my safety and that of my family intensified dramatically when I was appointed impeachment officer in January, and have not abated since.“

– Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA)

Notably, with the exception of Hawley and Cruz, the Republican officials most concerned appear to be members who voted to impeach Trump. They include Toomey, Romney and Cheney, whose spending of $ 59,300 predates House Republicans voting in May to remove her as conference chair.

Cruz, however, presents a unique case among officials. The Texas Tory began exploiting his campaign for security costs years before the FEC made its official decision, racking up $ 71,386 between July 2018 and the end of 2020, just below the $ 74,386 he spent this past. year.

Most of Cruz’s expenses went to a company, Atlas Glinn, which, during the three months of October through December of last year, received a total of $ 46,000 from his campaign, according to the documents. The company’s website features a photo of a security team guarding Cruz in a parade car. Outside of Atlas, Cruz’s biggest security provider appears to be Air France, which on May 31, 2018 received two campaign payments of around $ 2,000 each, marked as “security expense.”

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