issue one

New members, meet the ‘slush fund’
Many Hill freshmen are already establishing leadership PACs despite association with abuse

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., left, and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., are among the more than two dozen freshman lawmakers who have established so-called leadership PACs, a type of fundraising committee critics say is too often abused. Ocasio-Cortez and Omar have pledged not to accept corporate PAC money. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The newest class of congressional lawmakers — some of whom campaigned against corruption and corporate influence in politics — is rapidly adopting a practice that critics say is among the swampier in Washington.

More than two dozen new members of the House and Senate — including prominent freshmen such as New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney — have established so-called leadership PACs, according to data compiled by government watchdog group Issue One. Leadership PACs are fundraising committees that allow lawmakers to raise money for their colleagues and candidates.

Groups Call for Fed Crackdown on Lawmaker Slush Funds
Petition to FEC asks for clarification that steak dinners, golf outings are personal expenses

Members of Congress cast shadows on the first tee for a rules briefing for the First Tee Congressional Challenge golf tournament at the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md.. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Watchdog groups asked federal officials Tuesday to crack down on lawmakers who use certain fundraising accounts to finance their golf outings and steak lunches.

Leadership political action committees are meant to help Congress members raise money for their colleagues — thus helping them climb leadership ranks. Because those accounts aren’t subject to the same spending restrictions as the ones candidates use for their own campaigns, they are prone to eyebrow-raising spending activity, or “used as slush funds to subsidize officeholders’ lifestyles,” the Campaign Legal Center and Issue One wrote in a petition to the FEC.