Federal investigators are studying thousands of dollars in suspicious spending by former federal legislator Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Miami, that her political action committee spent on personal activities after the legislator announced her retirement in 2017, according to an investigation by the Department of Justice. Justice for allegedly spending campaign funds on personal trips and vacations for her and her family, CBS Miami has known.
Miami attorney Jeff Weiner said the Justice Department’s investigation into Ros-Lehtinen’s alleged spending of money from his political action committee’s campaign money on travel people has no basis in any criminal case.
“There may have been mistakes, but they weren’t penalties at all,” Weiner told the Miami Herald late Wednesday. It added that the former federal legislator and her staff have cooperated with federal authorities and released campaign finance records and other records required by the Justice Department.
Weiner said all of the expenses in question were for political activities and were duly reported to the Federal Elections Commission. “This should be an administrative matter,” he added.
Ros-Lehtinen, a prominent figure who served in the 20th Federal Congress, could not be reached for comment.
The news of the federal investigation of the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice in Washington DC was initially reported by CBS4 in Miami. A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment.
In a statement sent to CBS4 and later to the Miami Herald, Weiner said there is no evidence of anything improper on Ros-Lehtinen’s part.
“We are compiling the information requested by the Department of Justice and we are confident that if accounting errors were made, they were due to negligence, not intentional misconduct by the former former legislator or anyone on her staff, or her accountants,” Weiner said.
“In my team and I’s investigations of the facts in this matter, we have not found any evidence of intentional wrongdoing by Ileana or anyone on her behalf.”
After announcing on April 30, 2017 that she would not be running for re-election in 2018, Ros-Lehtinen transferred more than $ 177,000 from her re-election account to the IRL PAC, a political action committee that she controlled, according to CBS4. That is common practice when politicians announce their retirement. Some of the expenses of the IRL PAC are political in nature, but under federal law no campaign funds can be spent for “personal use.”
Spending reports from the IRL PAC show several questionable expenses, such as about $ 4,000 on a family trip to Disney World in December 2017, more than $ 10,000 rooms at the Lotte New York Palace in New York, about $ 6,000 on rooms at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island in North Florida and another $ 28,000 at the W Hotel in South Beach.
Before leaving office, he spent $ 3,100 at MesaMar, a luxury seafood restaurant in Coral Gables, on New Year’s Eve 2018, according to the political committee’s expense report.
Ros-Lehtinen’s campaign expenditures were initially reported by Noah Pransky on Florida Politics page in June 2019. In turn, the Campaign Legal Center, a non-partisan group, filed a complaint in October this year against Ros-Lehtinen with the Federal Election Commission.
The group’s complaint alleges: “There is reason to believe that the IRL PAC” violated federal law “by using contributions for personal use, such as a family trip to Disney World and tens of thousands of dollars in luxury hotel expenses, none of which is apparently related to the candidacy duties of Representative Ros-Lehtinen or her duties in office “