Two of them are running for seats in Long Island and Oneida County. The rest were from Iowa, Kansas, California, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to Federal Election Commission filings. The largest campaign donation was $1,500. The greatest PAC cost — $58,100 — went to polling.
To the chagrin of some North Country Democrats, Cobb used the funds to provide herself with $18,000 in health insurance expenses and $15,000 in political consulting fees. Another $25,737 in consulting services was paid to Cobb’s former campaign staffer, Mauranda Stahl-Simmons.
“We are immensely proud to have endorsed a diverse slate of candidates, including three frontline incumbent Democrats and five challengers working hard to flip important seats,” Cobb said in an emailed statement. “We look forward to states finalizing their maps and are eager to support as many rural Democrats as possible in their general election efforts this November.”
Democrats from Cobb’s aspiring district were surprised to learn that she’d turned her campaign committee into a fund to support rural candidates, and even more stunned to discover that since it’s founding, none of the money has gone to any North Country candidates. They also have questioned the payments for Cobb’s health insurance and the consulting fees.
“If you’re going to ask people to give money to help candidates, the bulk of that money should go to the candidates, not to the operation,” said Essex County Democratic Chair Maggie Bartley. “If you’re spending that much on operation, maybe you’re not doing such a good job.”
When asked about Cobb’s spending on out-of-state candidates, Bartley added, “I was surprised because I thought her name recognition is really good up here. I don’t know how good it is in Wyoming.”
The FEC does not require that PACs donate a set amount of funds to candidates, and Cobb’s actions are not breaches of commission rules.
“There are very few restrictions on how PACs spend their money,” said Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the Campaign Legal Center. He added that the PAC’s spending raises ethical questions rather than legal ones.
The same goes for individual campaign committees. As long as the committees write off their spending as a campaign expense, virtually any charge is excusable. At times, this has led to money mismanagement and scandal.
In the last few years, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, D-Queens, has spent $6,025 on New York Mets tickets; $1,012 at Yamashiro, a Hollywood, Calif. sushi restaurant; $10,140 on Steve Furgal’s International Tennis Tours and approximately $6,600 on luxury hotels, including The NoMad Hotel in Los Angeles and Le Méridien in Philadelphia, according to FEC filings.
A representative for Meng’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Candidates more commonly use campaign money on security and transportation services, especially in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021 violent protest in Washington, D.C.
U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, spent $13,292 on security in the weeks after the event when he was on the U.S. House floor. Last March, the FEC approved the use of campaign funds for protection.
“During that period, members of Congress were at greater risk and received an unprecedented number of threats to their safety due to the lie perpetuated by former President Donald J. Trump and Republicans in Congress that the 2020 election was stolen,” said Mia Ehrenberg, a spokeswoman for Maloney’s campaign.
There were other big personal security spenders. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-Bronx, spent almost $75,000 on services in 2021, according to a Fox News analysis.
While U.S. Rep. and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries spent campaign money on Uber and Lyft transportation, he occasionally used limousine services, racking up a $7,583 bill in the process, according to FEC filings. Two services contacted by the Times Union that Jeffries used, BSW Limo and Five Emerald Limo, said that Jeffries did not rent stretch limousines.
Although one of the businesses was instructed to pick him up at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, where he spent $2,471.85 in campaign money during two visits there last year in September and May.
André Richardson, a senior advisor to Jeffries, defended the use of the finances for the transportation services.
“The notion that Chairman Jeffries has ever used campaign funds to travel in a traditional prom-like limousine is laughable,” he said. “To suggest otherwise is nothing more than stale House Republican opposition research masquerading as legitimate political discourse.”
In the North Country, some Democrats remain unsatisfied about the way Cobb has managed her PAC. One, who asked to remain anonymous, reviewed the filings and said they had never seen charges similar to Cobb’s health insurance stipends and consulting fees during their time in politics.
“It didn’t really seem as though its purpose matched with the needs of the district,” they said of the committee. “We have no idea what the purpose of this was, other than for her to get paid.”
This content was originally published here.