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Campaign Law Watch / CAMPAIGN LAW WATCH -- FEC

FEC: Giffords Can Use Campaign Funds for Home Security

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who is still recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, will use campaign funds to add security around her home.(Photo from Facebook)

September 1, 2011

In a unanimous vote, the Federal Election Commission on Thursday allowed Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to use campaign funds to install enhanced security measures at her home.

Giffords’s campaign asked the agency whether she may use campaign funds to defray the installation cost of additional security measures in her Tucson home. Giffords was recently transferred to outpatient rehabilitation, allowing her to return to her family home when not undergoing rehabilitative therapy from the gunshot wound she suffered.

With Giffords’s recovery, the U.S. Capitol Police issued several recommendations to protect the congresswoman’s safety at home. The recommendations included improved exterior lighting, safety locks and a duress alarm button. Collectively, the upgrades totaled $2,200.

 

“We all hope that the alarm is never triggered,” said FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat. “This was perhaps the easiest request that we have gotten in the last three years.”

The FEC found that the home-security upgrades are a permissible “personal use.”  In its advisory opinion, FEC Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly wrote: “The commission has long recognized that if a candidate ‘can reasonably show that the expenses at issues resulted from campaign or officeholder activities, the commission will not consider the use to be personal use.’ ”

The FEC concluded that expenses incurred from an enhanced security system were directly related to Giffords’s duties as a federal officeholder.

Two previous FEC opinions established the precedent of using campaign funds to offset security costs for vulnerable federal officeholders. In these opinions, the FEC concluded that two threatened public representatives could use campaign funds to install or upgrade home-security systems.

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