The intended purpose behind leadership PACs is that they be used to assist other candidates, political groups or a politician’s own party. But new research from Issue One and the Campaign Legal Center reveals that Rep. Josh Gottheimer only spent 17% of his leadership PAC on political causes. All told, Gottheimer spent roughly $590,000 between January 2019 and December 2020, the period covered by the report. A spokesperson for Gottheimer’s campaign said, “Josh and the Jersey Values PAC team raised and contributed more than $3.3 million to Democratic candidates in New Jersey and nationwide during the last campaign cycle, helping elect and re-elect scores of Democrats.”
Gottheimer isn’t alone. Issue One reports that 120 members of Congress spent less than 50% of their leadership PACs on politics — roughly one in five U.S. representatives.
What’s more, 43 members of Congress spent less than 25% on politics during the two-year period. And a handful shelled out at least five figures without ever contributing a penny to any local, state or federal candidates, parties or political groups.
Most of that money went to “lavish living … beyond the rest of most Americans, including meals at fancy restaurants, trips to elite resorts, rounds of golf at premier courses and more,” according to Issue One. That translates into $2 million on hotels and resorts; $950,000 on airfare; $220,000 on sporting events and concerts; $190,000 on ski resorts; $150,000 on “steakhouses”; $130,000 on golf courses and country clubs; and $72,000 on Ubers and Lyfts.
Members of Congress who weren’t living large typically spent 70% of their leadership PACs on politics between January 2019 and December 2020.
Editor’s Note: This has been updated to include a comment from Gottheimer’s campaign.