Personal Spending Leads DOJ to Probe Former Local Congressman

Former Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen may be out of office, but she’s not out of the spotlight.

According to Miami television station WFOR, the Justice Department is investigating Ros-Lehtinen for allegedly spending campaign money on personal trips including a $4,000 Disney family vacation in 2017.

To that end, the DOJ has been subpoenaing her former staff to provide statements and records, or to go before a grand jury.

Her attorney, Jeffrey Weiner, told WFOR, “We are gathering the information requested by the Department of Justice and are confident that, if bookkeeping errors were committed, they were due to negligence, and not willful or intentional misconduct by the former congresswoman or anyone on her staff, or her accountants.”

The issue dates back to April 2017, when Ros-Lehtinen decided not to seek re-election after 30 years in Congress.

She subsequently transferred more than $177,000 from her re-election campaign account to IRL PAC, a political action committee that she controlled.

However, it is against the law to spend such funds for personal use.

Other expenditures include lavish hotel stays in New York, north Florida, and South Beach, of anywhere from $6,000 to $28,000, according to the television station.

The campaign spending was first reported by last year. A nonpartisan watchdog group called the Campaign Legal Center subsequently filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission.

The commission, however, does not currently have a quorum in order to investigate such issues. That is why the DOJ has taken over.

Most cases of such wrongdoing are typically resolved by the politician returning the money in question and paying fines, while more severe cases lead to criminal prosecution.

“I will do all within my ability as a lawyer to protect and defend Ileana from criminal charges,” Weiner added.

Ros-Lehtinen was the first woman to be elected to Congress from Florida.