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Duncan campaign’s $40K in tickets apparently broke law

For years, Congressman John J. Duncan Jr. has been buying tickets with campaign funds and giving them to constituents, even though that’s apparently a violation of federal law.

From Michael Collins’ report:

“If this is just giving tickets to sporting events and other events to constituents and was unrelated to any campaign fundraising, then it was a violation of the law,” said Larry Noble, former general counsel to the Federal Election Commission and now the senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit and nonpartisan group that advocates enforcement of campaign finance laws.

Duncan’s campaign expense reports show he spent nearly $40,000 in campaign funds to entertain constituents at athletic events or the symphony between 2007 and 2013, the year he stopped giving out the tickets. Just $7,300 of that total was reported as being spent on fundraisers, which is allowed under federal law. The fundraising expenses included the cost of food and room rental.

Duncan’s office says he was under the impression campaign rules allowed him to use the funds to buy tickets to athletic events or concerts as long as he gave them away and didn’t use them himself — which, his spokesman says, he never did.

(Update/Note: Charlie Daniel’s take)

The purchases were disclosed on his campaign expense reports — frequently under the unambiguous heading “athletic tickets for constituents” — and federal elections officials never questioned the practice, said his spokesman, Patrick Newton.

“We’ve always reported and said what we were doing,” Newton said. “They never told us we couldn’t do it, and they go through our reports every year.”

Regardless, Duncan stopped buying the tickets two years ago after his campaign received a letter from the Federal Election Commission saying such ticket purchases were allowed only if they were part of a specific office event or campaign activity, Newton said.

The letter was a general advisory sent to Congress members and was not directed specifically at the Duncan campaign, Newton said.

Federal Election Commission officials declined to say whether Duncan was breaking the law, but referred a reporter to regulations that have been in place since 1995 and govern the use of federal campaign funds for entertainment.