(This post has been updated.)
Sen. Richard Shelby, who could become chairman of the Senate banking committee if the GOP wins the Senate this election, enjoys top-dollar restaurants and swanky hotel stays. And since 2008 he’s reimbursed himself and his wife from his campaign and leadership PACs more than half a million dollars to live the high life.
The Alabama Republican was recently called out by the Wall Street Journal as a stingy lawmaker who hoards contributions and doesn’t share with his more vulnerable colleagues. Now an analysis by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) shows that Shelby is spending that money to treat himself and donors to upscale dinners at Washington establishments, such as The Palm, Bobby Van’s Grill, The Source, Charlie Palmer’s Steakhouse, Citronelle, Bourbon Steak and the Capital Grille.
And where does Shelby rest his head when traveling for campaign events? In New York City, he has expensed stays 32 times at the Michelangelo Hotel, where, according to its Web site “flair meets function. The eclectic meets the everyday.” He has stayed at the “legendary seaside resort” Hotel del Coronado in San Diego and at the four-star Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans, CREW reports.
“I don’t think most of Senator Shelby’s constituents are spending so much time in the lap of luxury. Here he is raising money and spending it mostly on himself,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW.
Shelby’s office did not immediately return requests for comment.
Spending contributions this way is not illegal, but it does raise eyebrows. Shelby is sitting on $17 million, according to his last FEC filing, and isn’t up for reelection until 2016. Also, he’s won reelection without breaking a sweat for the last two decades. In 2010, he won with 84 percent of the vote.
“When you start looking at how much money he’s spending, it’s significant for a guy without a race,” Sloan said. Shelby is “asking for money, and people think they are giving money to promote a certain agenda. But they are promoting a senator’s cushy lifestyle.”
UPDATE: Shelby’s communications director sent us this response:
“Senator Shelby has always actively supported his Republican colleagues’ reelection campaigns as well as the NRSC’s efforts to raise funds in order to help Republicans win back the Senate. Just like virtually every other Member of Congress, Senator Shelby travels and attends fundraising events – and he does so in order to help the NRSC and contribute to his Republican colleagues. Specifically, Senator Shelby has donated the maximum amount from his Leadership PAC, Defend America, to 30 Republican Senate candidates this election cycle. Senator Shelby has also both attended and headlined NRSC fundraising events, including one event that he personally organized this past week in Huntsville, Alabama, that raised approximately $800,000.”