PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A local elected official is being accused of misusing campaign dollars on luxury trips to high-priced resorts.
As KDKA political editor Jon Delano outlines, the charges against U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly come from a public interest law center in Washington, D.C.
In addition to his own campaign fund, Kelly, a Butler Republican, has a Leadership PAC called Keep America Rolling. There is nothing illegal about that.
But how the congressman spent nearly $205,000 from that PAC raises questions, says the Campaign Legal Center.
"A member of Congress cannot use funds from their leadership PAC for personal use. And what that means is they cannot take this separate campaign fund and use it for vacations or things that are entertainment or that nature," says Kendric Payne, general counsel for the CLC.
Leadership PAC dollars are supposed to be donated to other candidates, but that's not where Kelly's dollars went, Payne said.
"In the case of Representative Kelly, his campaign spent only 22 percent of the funds on other candidates," Payne said.
"So that raises the question of what are the funds being used to pay for? And we found that there are multiple resorts," added Payne.
The CLC found Kelly's PAC spent over $77,000 at a five-star resort in Park City, Utah; $19,000 at the five-start Sea Island Resort in Georgia; $3,000 for the Wynn, Four Seasons and Venetian hotels in Las Vegas; and over $5,000 at the five-star Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida.
Another $20,000 was spent on airfare and $7,000 on dining.
"All of this raises the question as to whether this money is being spent for personal use as opposed to campaign activity," Payne said.
All this spending could be perfectly legal if -- and it's an important if -- Kelly held fundraisers at these resorts to raise money for his PAC, but CLC said there's no evidence of that.
"You see money spent at resorts, but you don't see any campaign contributions coming in within 30 days before or after that would indicate that it is indeed a fundraiser," Payne said.
The CLC sent a detailed six-page letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics asking for an investigation of Kelly.
If the OCE finds a basis for unethical behavior, the matter goes to the House Ethics Committee, but Payne said the matter often gets resolved before Congress takes action.
"We have seen members investigated for misusing their leadership PACs. When the OCE report has become public, we have seen in both instances that those members of Congress have left public service," Payne said.
Kelly's office told KDKA that it has not yet seen the complaint filed by the CLC and has no further comment.
If the OCE finds it credible, Kelly will no doubt be asked to comment. As for sanctions, they range up to full House censure.
for more features.