GOP Wants to Pay Bodyguards With Donations; FEC: Not So Fast

Attorneys for the two Republican national congressional fundraising committees expressed “serious concerns” this week about what they call the Federal Election Commission’s “inadequate” response to a request that would clear officeholders to use campaign donations to hire bodyguards without violating the prohibition on personal use.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) appealed to the regulator in late January for an emergency ruling on the issue. That request cited “concrete threats of physical violence against Members and their families” in light of events surrounding the Jan. 6 insurrection, which have forced some officials to consider further steps to protect themselves.

Last week the FEC published a draft ruling in response to the request which would allow officeholders to hire security details with campaign funds, but only under certain circumstances: if they are targets of specific threats, or if US Capitol Police have advised personal protection for individual members; but not under hypothetical future scenarios. That response rankled Republicans who had sought permission to muscle up before direct threats emerged. In a letter to the FEC on Wednesday, the GOP groups said that the FEC appeared to be “side-stepping” the question.

“The Draft purports to recognize this concern, but the standards proposed for both residential and personal security personnel would prohibit any proactive action,” the attorneys wrote.

Though the Jan. 6 attack primarily targeted Democrats, Republican lawmakers have also navigated serious threats to their safety in recent months, particularly those who broke with Trump amid his efforts to block the ratification of Electoral College votes. Then-Vice President Mike Pence, who oversaw the process, was threatened with lynching on Jan. 6, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was accosted in an airport by Trump supporters after he refused to challenge the votes. CNN reported in January that some of the ten Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach the then-president had been afforded personal protection after receiving death threats.

Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI)., told MSNBC after his vote to impeach that he and some of his GOP colleagues may invest in body armor. “It’s sad that we have to get to that point, but you know, our expectation is that someone may try to kill us,” he said. More than 30 House members have petitioned leadership to allow them to use taxpayer-funded expense accounts for safety measures, such as hiring personal protection and buying “security items” to keep at home.

The GOP’s initial emergency request pointed to a number of recent threats, including an Associated Press report about “plots to attack members of Congress during travel to and from the Capitol complex” during Trump’s second impeachment trial. It also cites the Jan. 19 arrest of a Queens man who had called on allies to “slaughter” lawmakers, chiefly but not limited to Democrats.

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