Earlier this month, Rep. Tim Scott traveled to picturesque Sea Island, Ga., for a forum sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute on AEI’s dime. And as lovely as the scenery is surrounding the Cloister Beach Club, where the event was held — think white-sand beaches, pools and palm trees — the South Carolina Republican apparently needed to improve the view.
According to documents filed with the House clerk and brought to our attention by Legistorm founder Jock Friedly, Scott brought along his mother and Zee Patel, a woman he identifies as a “friend,” for the three-day getaway. Patel is a general manager and buyer for the Bits of Lace lingerie store in Charleston, S.C, a boutique that identifies itself as a “bra-fit specialist.”
It’s against ethics rules for AEI to pay for Patel’s meals in addition to Scott’s and his mother’s — that’s a no-no, since the rules permit outside groups to pay travel expenses for members and their relatives, but not their pals.
A spokesman for Scott said the congressman had planned all along to personally reimburse AEI for the cost of Patel’s meals after the trip, and is just waiting for an invoice from the think tank.
In an earlier filing, Scott, who is unmarried, said he planned to take his mother and his aunt on the trip to Cloister, which Travel and Leisure magazine named one of the world’s “top 100” resorts. The ethics committee said it was fine for AEI to spring for Scott’s expenses and for those of his mother, but indicated that his aunt would have to pay her own way.
Seems there was a change of plans, and Scott wound up leaving the aunt behind and taking Patel instead. According to the post-travel disclosure form, AEI did not pay for Patel and Frances Scott’s travel or lodging expenses (they stayed in Scott’s quarters, for which AEI shelled out $876, the spokesman says). But the form shows that the Institute did pay for both women’s meals — at $371 each.
Bits of Lace, where Patel works, is in Scott’s district, and the Scott spokesman says Patel is a “family friend” of both the congressman and his mom — in fact, he says, it was Frances Scott who suggested bringing Patel when the congressman’s aunt couldn’t make it.
Records show that Scott’s campaign paid Patel $1,650 for “transition team” work in 2010.