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US closes case of ex-New Jersey congressman

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 3, 2014 at 6:12 pm •  Published: June 3, 2014
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CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — The Federal Election Commission has found that it appears a former member of Congress used campaign money for personal purposes but still dismissed a watchdog group's complaint against him.

Former Rep. Rob Andrews, a Democrat from New Jersey, said the FEC's conclusion was correct. "I am very grateful for this final resolution," he said in a statement.

Andrews, who resigned in February to take a job at a Philadelphia law firm, declined to answer questions about the findings, which were released Tuesday by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The group, which filed a complaint against Andrews, said a letter from the FEC on the ruling was dated May 28.

Though the investigation is closed, campaign finance regulators said that Andrews appeared not to follow the law in one case.

He used $30,000 in donors' funds to take his family to a wedding in Scotland. Andrews said it was a legitimate political expense because it would keep him in the good graces of an important campaign volunteer.

The FEC said the campaign volunteer, Scott Street, described his relationship with Andrews as mostly personal and that neither Andrews nor his campaign staff could name any specific campaign-related projects Street worked on.

But the FEC said it was dismissing that complaint because Andrews repaid the money to his campaign and his political action committee.

On Tuesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington director Melanie Sloan said that decision set a bad precedent.

"This proves what so many already believe: members of Congress really don't have to follow the same laws as the rest of us," she said.

Andrews called her organization "a fringe group which refuses to disclose who finances its smear campaigns against public officials and their children."

The FEC also looked into a complaint that Andrews used donors' money to travel repeatedly to California, where his daughter had a budding singing and acting career, but found that any personal use of that campaign money was minor and need not be pursued further.

The agency also said Andrews followed the law in two other areas it probed — when he used campaign money to pay for a party celebrating both his daughter's high school graduation and his 20 years in Congress; and that his campaign made donations to arts groups his daughter was involved with.