FEC Greenlights Rep’s Campaign Fund Spend on Security Gate
WASHINGTON — A congressman’s use of campaign funds to install a locking steel security gate around his Florida home after he received a series of death threats would not violate federal campaign finance laws, the Federal Election Commission said last week.
As previously reported in The Well News, Rep. W. Gregory Steube, R-Fla., reached out to the FEC in March asking for an advisory opinion on whether members of Congress can use campaign funds to protect their homes, up to and including paying for a locking security gate.
Steube, who was elected to represent Florida’s 17th Congressional District in 2019, has a long history of public service, having served two years in the Florida Senate and six years in the Florida House.
Prior to his government service, he served in the U.S. Army with distinction as an Airborne Division infantry officer and a Judge Advocate General’s Corps officer from 2004 to 2008, and as the chief of detainee operations for Multinational Division North in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2006 and 2007.
During his tenure in Congress, Steube has typically been aligned with the Trump right, being one of 126 Republican House members who signed an amicus brief supporting Texas v. Pennsylvania, a lawsuit contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election, and among those who argued the “deep state” as the Food and Drug Administration prevented the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19.
While Steube has not been shy about expressing his positions in Washington, he evidently has raised the ire of some back home in Florida, where he lives with his wife and son and multiple rescue dogs.
Since he was elected to Congress, his home has been broken into twice and he’s been subjected to numerous threats to his well-being as well as the well-being of his family.
The FEC has previously issued opinions allowing the use of campaign funds for personal security, and in response to a recent request from the House sergeant-at-arms, the agency specifically said members may use campaign funds to pay for security systems including cameras, sensors, and locks “in and around” a member’s residence.
In a later opinion the FEC clarified that wiring and lighting needed to maintain a properly functioning security system could also be installed using campaign funds.
In his request for an opinion on that installation of a steel gate, Steube said it would serve no aesthetic purpose, and would merely provide a lockable barrier to the entrance of his residence.
“The installation of a security gate, to protect the entrance of a property that cannot be fully secured by other means, is necessary as part of a comprehensive security system,” Steube wrote. “Therefore, I ask the FEC to issue an advisory … on whether members of Congress may use excess campaign funds to protect themselves and their residence.”
In a response dated April 28, the agency wrote, “The commission concludes that the proposed use of campaign funds for the purchase and installation of a locking steel security gate as part of the residential security system as specifically recommended by your county sheriff’s office, and more generally by the office of the House sergeant-at-arms is permissible under the Act and Commission regulations and would not constitute a prohibited conversion of campaign funds to personal use.”
The advisory letter goes on to note that “similar to the circumstances of the previous advisory opinions, your need for a residential security system arose due to your role as a federal office holder. Further, the purchase and installation of the gate is intended to provide an effective security system and is not intended for the purpose of improving your home.
“Moreover, even in the absence of specific threats directed at you, you are currently subject to the heightened threat environment faced by members of Congress that was considered by the commission in Advisory Opinion 2017-07. As such, the costs of installing a residential security system as recommended by the House sergeant-at-arms constitute ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with your duties as a federal office holder and are a permissible use of campaign funds.”
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