Congressman Under Fire After Using Campaign Cash For Wife’s Travel, ‘Flight Upgrades’

Rep. Frank Mrvan (D-IN) has been spending thousand of dollars of campaign cash on ‘upgrades’ and flights for his wife, according to FEC filings. He’s coming under criticism for doing so, since campaign funds can’t be used for personal expenses. However I suspect that the freshman congressman, who is locked in a toss-up race for re-election, is getting a bad rap.

Mrvan, who has represented Indiana’s 1st Congressional District since taking office 2021, has doled out an estimated $4,012 through his campaign on flights to and from Washington, D.C., for his wife, Jane Mrvan, including seat upgrades from July 2021 to May 2022.

Mrvan’s most recent filings with the FEC revealed that the flight purchases and upgrades have continued well into 2022.

Here’s a sample from the campaign’s filing:

Spender Recipient Description Disbursement date Amount
MRVAN FOR CONGRESS AMERICAN AIRLINES JANE TO DC 1/31/2022 $384.20
MRVAN FOR CONGRESS AMERICAN AIRLINES JANE FROM DC 12/9/2021 $197.40
MRVAN FOR CONGRESS AMERICAN AIRLINES JANE TO DC 10/19/2021 $148.40
MRVAN FOR CONGRESS AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT UPGRADE 10/19/2021 $33.52
MRVAN FOR CONGRESS AMERICAN AIRLINES UPGRADE 10/12/2021 $14.01
MRVAN FOR CONGRESS AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT UPGRADE 10/12/2021 $44.24
MRVAN FOR CONGRESS SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. JANE FROM DC 9/29/2021 $340.99
MRVAN FOR CONGRESS SOUTHWEST AIRLINES JANE TO DC 9/28/2021 $287.98
MRVAN FOR CONGRESS AMERICAN AIRLINES JANE TO DC SEAT UPGRADE 9/10/2021 $16.71
MRVAN FOR CONGRESS AMERICAN AIRLINES JANE TO DC 9/10/2021 $164.39
MRVAN FOR CONGRESS AMERICAN AIRLINES JANE IN FROM DC 7/20/2021 $194.40
MRVAN FOR CONGRESS AMERICAN AIRLINES JANE OUT TO DC 7/13/2021 $268.40
MRVAN FOR CONGRESS UNITED AIRLINES SEAT UPGRADE FOR DC TRIP 11/12/2020 $39.00

A campaign spokesman defends the campaign covering the congressman’s wife’s flights to and from DC because his role in Congress is a “family commitment.”

Frank believes holding public office is a family commitment, and he is proud that Jane is supportive and welcomes her active role…This election is about delivering results for Indiana’s 1st Congressional District, and Frank is proud to support investments in the South Shore Rail Line, the Gary/Chicago International Airport and environmental cleanup and restoration projects, all of which the Republican nominee would oppose.

If public office ‘is a family commitment’ then the seat upgrades must be explained by the maxim, “happy wife, happy life.”

The interesting thing here is that the criticism stems from filings which are pretty transparent from the campaign itself. And it’s pretty obvious that opposing campaigns (and sometimes journalists) will comb through those reports. There’s no attempt to obfuscate anything. That’s the first clue that some of the criticism may just stem from the wording used by inept campaign staff. Look at the prices paid for these ‘upgrades.’

These look generally like payments by a non-elite traveler for advance seat assignments. Calling these seat assignments ‘upgrades’ is inartful at best.

And while flights to and from DC appear to be having the campaign cover family travel to visit the Congressman (personal expense) it’s more likely that his spouse is living in DC most of the time and the campaign is paying for her to travel to the district to.. campaign.

The lesson here seems to be that it’s important for a politician to hire experienced staff to fill out paperwork, because the paperwork is going to be public. It matters whether the staffer writes ‘seat assignment fee’ instead of upgrade, and ‘flight for campaign trip’ instead of ‘flight from dc’.

(HT: @crucker)

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