What’s a defeated 20-term member of Congress with some leftover campaign cash to do? Throw a party, of course.
More than six months after he was ousted by California voters, Democratic former Rep. Pete Stark hired The Hula Monsters, a Hawaiian-shirt clad band that plays a blend of swing, honky-tonk and more, to perform for a backyard party, according to campaign spending records and an interview with a band member.
Federal politicians aren’t supposed to use campaign accounts for personal benefit – only legitimate political purposes. Messages left for Stark’s accountant and former campaign manager about the spending were not returned.
Ben Holmes, the band’s drummer, said the five-member group has played for Stark before and at the latest Stark gathering they performed for about four hours. Holmes described their music as a blend of “rockabilly, country western, western swing, traditional honky tonk.”
(A 1997 Baltimore Sun story described the band this way: “The Hula Monsters are five guys in loud luau blouses playing something you might call Hawaiian-western-swing music. It's a fantasy of cowboys, tikis dangling from their string ties, doing the boogie in boots with barefoot island girls. It's like the Texas Playboys engaged in some weird gene-splicing experiment with Don Ho. And it's good, happy music.”)
Holmes presumed the crowd at Stark’s home last month was mostly his staff. “Just a thank-you party for his folks,” he said.
Except Stark, 81, lost those congressional folks back in January, when he left office after losing reelection to Democrat Eric Swalwell.
Most of Stark’s spending from his campaign account in 2013 has been accounting fees, taxes and some sundry items associated with winding down the committee. But last month the ex-congressman reported paying $440 for a tent rental from “Absolute Party Rental” and another $1,800 to the Hula Monsters.
As of June 30, Stark still had $67,550 cash on hand in his account. The treasurer keeping the books is his wife, Deborah Stark.