Election records show Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) has spent thousands of dollars in campaign donations on businesses she owns or operates.
A review of Federal Election Commission records by The Daily Beast shows the New York Republican spent $15,634.85 this year in campaign funds on rent, telephone service and office supplies for OMP Park, Inc., which is registered in her name and lists her as chief executive officer, and a 2016 filing shows her campaign paid $28,676.86 in operating expenses for OMP and Mid-York Press, which her congressional page identifies her as co-owner and legal counsel.
"It is generally best practice, if you can avoid it, not to engage in business with a company that you or your family owns," said Adam Rappaport, senior counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "If you are going to do it, it is best practice to make sure you're dealing at fair market values and to keep good records, because that's what the law calls for."
Federal law allows candidates to pay their own companies with campaign funds as long as all the transactions were at the market rate, but ethics experts caution politicians against such arrangements to avoid legal and ethical problems.
"The payment records in this matter do not provide sufficient facts to know if the lawmaker is in compliance," said Kedric Payne, general counsel and senior director of ethics at Campaign Legal Center. "Voters should expect an explanation from their elected official or an ethics investigation to verify that the payments comply with the law."
Tenney, who was first elected to Congress in 2016, is a Tea Party favorite and an acolyte of Donald Trump, who rewarded her loyalty with a 2018 in-person fundraiser in her district.
Her campaigns for both federal and state offices have earned her family's companies more than $100,000, according to election filings.