Only three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and politicians spending your taxes on ridiculous personal expenses. These politicians faced the wrath of taxpayers when they blew money on everything from visits to their mistresses to private flights to sports games. Click through to see who was caught misusing funds, including members of the current presidential administration.
Mike Pence Missteps
Current Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence didn’t win his first run for congress in 1988. Or his second run in 1990. His political career officially started when he joined the House of Representatives in the year 2001 and by then his track record as an honest politician was already tainted. More on him later.
Aaron Schock’s Downton Abbey Style Office
Aaron Schock, the former Illinois Representative, was supposed to be a rising star in the Republican Party, but his use of public campaign funds for lavish trips and events was ultimately this thirty-five-year-old politician’s downfall. When The Washington Post stumbled upon Schock’s lavishly decorated office in The Rayburn House Office Buildings, he refused to talk about it, but now we know why.
The woman at the front desk told the newspaper it was based on the red room in Downton Abbey. Though the interior designer, Annie Brahler, offered her services for free which is a violation of the rules, Schock used taxpayer money to pay for the lavish objects that adorned the space. That wasn’t the only thing he wasted money on.
Click to the next slide to find out.
Aaron Schock’s Opulent Lifestyle
The office was just the tip of the iceberg with former Republican congressman Aaron Schock. He became known for frequent posts to Instagram with images that include a selfie with pop star Ariana Grande and glacier jumping in Patagonia, but his lifestyle cost taxpayers.
He was reimbursed for 90,000 miles he never drove, stayed in luxury hotels, dined at pricey restaurants, and flew on a private jet to a Chicago Bears football game. He also spent more than $24,000 on concert and event tickets, including a sold-out Katy Perry concert. That’s a lot of taxpayer money to spend on entertainment that many of his constituents can’t afford.
Mark Sanford’s Mistress
Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford faced a major scandal in 2009 when it was reviewed that he used a taxpayer-financed trade mission in South America to visit his mistress in Argentina. In an e-mail statement issued by his office, Mr. Sanford said, “While the purpose of this trip was an entirely professional and appropriate business development trip, I made a mistake while I was there in meeting with the woman I was unfaithful to my wife with.”
The costs for the trip totaled $12,000, which Sanford said he would reimburse. In 2011, Sanford was hired as a paid political contributor for Fox News, and in 2012 he became engaged to his mistress Maria Belen Chapur, though their engagement was broken off in 2014.
See which politician spent three-quarters of one million dollars on some ridiculous things next.
Elk Heads, Stuffed Animals, and Fur Capes
Former Democratic representative from Illinois, Jesse L. Jackson Jr., pled guilty in 2013 to a felony fraud count for using $750,000 in campaign money to pay for living expenses and buy some of the strangest items we’ve seen: elk heads, stuffed animals from Build-a-Bear, and fur capes.
The then 47-year-old politician told the judge, “For years I lived on my campaign. I used money I shouldn’t have used for personal purposes.” Jackson also bought nearly $11,000 worth of televisions, DVD players, and DVDs at Best Buy, a $5,500 vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, and pricey Manhattan dinners worth nearly $500 each.
President Trump’s Hypocrisy
In the first month of his presidency, Donald Trump has racked up $11.3 million in travel expenses.President Obama’s travel expenses for an entire year averaged $12.1 million. If Trump continues at this rate, he’ll rack up over $135 million in travel expenses per year. But his current expenditures directly contradict his complaints about Obama “paying a fortune for the use of Air Force One” less than a year ago.
His travel itinerary of three consecutive weekends at Mar-a-Lago stands in stark contrast to a statement he made during the campaign. “I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done. I would not be a president who took vacations. I would not be a president that takes time off… You don’t’ have time to take time off,” he told a reporter in 2015.
Flights for a Rabbit
Sometimes traveling on the campaign trail means bringing the whole family along, and for Republican California Representative Duncan Hunter, his family clearly included a pet rabbit. Hunter was an early supporter of President Trump and was in consideration for a top position in the administration, but some of the things he filed as reimbursements had people scratching their heads.
Among the items which the report released by the Federal Election Commission revealed was a whopping $600 of campaign funds spent or rabbit air travel. Of course, that was just a drop in the bucket compared to the $62,000 hunter spent on other personal expenses.
See what he spent it on in the next slide.
Jewelry, Dental Work, SeaWorld, and More
Those rabbit flights were just the beginning of Duncan Hunter’s personal expenditures from his campaign funds. Other expenses included a $1,400 trip to the dentist, $1,400 to the restaurant that delivers lunches to the private school attended by Hunter’s children, and $961 spent at SeaWorld.
Hunter also did some shopping, with $2,617 going to Walmart, $6,142 going to Costco, $434 going to Dick’s Sporting Goods, $206 to activewear store North Face, $135 to clothing store H&M, $217 to a jewelry store in Italy, and $229 to a Disneyland gift shop. Hunter has repaid some of the expenses–$12,000—that his campaign identified as personal or mistaken.
Jim Moran’s Costly Shuttle
Jim Moran, a former Democratic U.S. Representative for Virginia, found one way to avoid a costly transportation bill while he was in office. Moran passed a bill that cost taxpayers nearly $100,000 for the government to establish a bus service that ran from the Capitol to Georgetown, then to Rosslyn, Virginia.
While it may not seem like a bad idea to expand public transportation, it’s a lot more misguided when you realize Moran lives in Rosslyn—the neighborhood the shuttle would now travel to, making it easy for Moran to commute to work each morning. Why pay for gas mileage or sit in traffic when you could have the taxpayers foot the bill? In his defense, Moran started several public transportation and biking initiatives.
See which governor went to prison for his misuse of funds.
Weekend Home Renovations
Former Republican Connecticut Governor John Rowland decided it sure would be nice if he didn’t have to pay for his weekend home renovations by himself, so he used taxpayer money instead. Rowland pled guilty for conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, tax fraud, and mail fraud in 2004 and served ten months in federal prison. In 2014, he was indicted again on seven counts for his role in election fraud.
The first arrest came after a criminal investigation revealed Rowland was using government contractors to renovate his vacation home which he initially denied, but then admitted on television in December 2003.
The mayor in the next slide is serving time in jail.
Who Doesn’t Love a Spa Day?
Apparently, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick loves a day at the spa so much he was willing to spend money on his city-issued credit card to pay for trips to the spa, including massages, travel, meals, and expensive bottles of wine. In the first 33 months of Mayor Kilpatrick’s four-year term he racked up a whopping $210,000 in personal expenses on that city-issued credit card.
Keep in mind, while this former Detroit mayor was living the high life, the city he was responsible for running was dealing with a $230 million deficit, and residents were living in abject poverty. He paid back just $9,000 of the money he spent, and he’s currently serving a 28-year jail sentence for unrelated charges.
Yet another governor went to prison… see who next.
Jobs for the Kids
Former Illinois Governor George Ryan gave his children a helping hand by paying their salaries out of his campaign funds. Ryan’s children and other relatives were given hefty payments, though they did minimal work on his campaign. His son-in-law was once paid $55,000.
This misuse of campaign funds resulted in a lengthy trial and Ryan spending six years in prison. His five daughters were never brought to the witness stand, though they did have to testify about the gifts they received through written statements. Illinois is no stranger to corrupt politics, but this display of nepotism is still pretty jarring.
Financing a Book Tour
Texas Governor and former Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry used at least $294,000 of Texas taxpayers’ money for personal trips, including family vacations, tours to promote his book, and campaign events, and he has no plans to reimburse the state.
At the same time as state budget reductions were used to offset a multi-billion dollar revenue shortfall, Rick Perry and his wife were taking trips to the Bahamas, Amsterdam, and Madrid. Perry also used funds to travel to New York, California, Washington, and Las Vegas to promote his book Fed Up! In those states. Taxpayers were certainly fed up with these expenses.
Trips to Basketball Games
While Kansas was in a $1.1 billion budget hole, schools were failing, the state was kicking people off food stamps, and families were struggling. But Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback was flying high—literally. Brownback, along with Republican state senators, House members, and agency heads, were using taxpayer money for personal travel on a state-owned executive aircraft.
Brownback and the other politicians flew in the Raytheon King Air 350 to see University of Kansas basketball games. Brownback flew his entire family to Memphis for the Liberty Bowl game, which cost taxpayers $1,251. He also flew on another trip to see the NACC tournament and cost taxpayers $465. When cameras zoomed in on Brownback during the game, he got booed.
Another Private Plane
When will politicians learn that spending taxpayer money on private planes tends to anger those taxpayers? Apparently, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill had to learn that lesson the hard way. The senator used a private airplane she co-owned with her husband to take 90 flights between Washington, D.C. and her home in St. Louis. She later reimbursed the U.S. Treasury $88,000 for the flights, but that wasn’t the end of her trouble.
In 2011, it was revealed that McCaskill failed to pay more than $280,000 in property taxes on the private plane, and would have to sell it. She told reporters, “I will never set foot on the plane again.”
Mike Pence’s Expenses
Before Mike Pence was the Vice President, he was a young lawyer on the rise who was challenging a Democratic congressman in a Republican Indiana district. However, he lost the bid because of a financial scandal.
Campaign finance records from 1990 revealed that Mike Pence, then 31 years old, was using political donations to pay for a number of personal expenses, including golf tournament fees, credit card bills, groceries, his mortgage, and car payments for his wife. He spent a total of $12,867 on personal expenses. At the time, the personal spending wasn’t illegal, but it ruined Pence’s campaign, which he lost by 19 points.
Trump’s Trips to Mar-a-Lago
Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago, which his team has referred to as both the Winter White House and the Southern White House, are actually way more expensive for taxpayers than if President Trump would just stay in the real White House.
The three trips Trump has taken so far are estimated to cost the federal treasury about $10 million, including money for the Coast Guard to patrol the exposed shore, other military security, and the costly staffing and security expenses associated with moving the president. For some perspective, Trump’s first month of travel expenses are costing taxpayers just a little less than Obama’s expenses for one year.
Melania Living in New York
Melania Trump’s decision not to move into the White House and instead stay at Trump Tower is costing New York an estimated $500,000 a day to guard the Trump Tower—a total that could amount to $183 million a year. If that wasn’t enough, President Trump could actually benefit from his wife staying in New York with their son Barron.
The Defense Department and Secret Service are currently looking into renting space in Trump Tower, which would make the president their landlord. That would put an additional cost of about $1.5 million on the backs of taxpayers.
Eric Trump’s Business Trips
In addition to the expenses taxpayers are incurring to send President Trump on vacation to Mar-a-Lago or keep Melania comfortable with Barron in a second home at Trump Tower in New York, another major expense is falling on our shoulders. Taxpayers are also paying for Trump’s adult sons to pursue their business interests around the globe.
Recently, U.S. embassy staffers paid almost $100,000 in hotel-room bills because Eric Trump had a business trip in Uruguay. The line between Trump’s businesses and our government has become increasingly blurry with the amount of taxpayer money supporting his businesses, which is what critics were worried about at the beginning of Trump’s presidency.
A Lot of Dry Cleaning
It may be Anthony Weiner’s least interesting scandal, but in December 2016 the former Democratic representative from New York was found to have spent some major campaign funds on personal purchases totaling $195,377. The personal expenses included $1,500 in dry cleaning and cellphone service. That’s a whole lot of dry cleaning for this former politician’s suits!
The New York City Campaign Finance Board ordered Anthony Weiner to pay back the money plus a $65,000 fine, but this scandal was just a blip on the radar for this derailed politician’s dead career. It definitely couldn’t compete with his other major scandal’s headline.
Congress Spent Nearly $2 Million in Breakfast
In 2012, the watchdog group The Sunlight Foundation found out the United States House of Representatives was racking up a serious breakfast bill just shy of $2 million a year on coffee, bagels, and doughnuts. That’s a whole lot of dough.
The worst offenders were Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who dropped $64,000 in taxpayer money on catering in 2012, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who spent $61,000 on catering in 2012, and Democrat Steny Hoyer who racked up a $52,000 bill. Republican Kevin McCarthy of California also splurged on catering, with a grand total of $95,000 (with $4,000 spent on bottled water), which is enough to pay two mid-level staffers on Capitol Hill.
The “Love Gov” Busted
Republican Governor of Alabama Robert Bentley’s days in office were numbered as his impeachment hearings began in April 2017. It started when the governor accidentally texted his wife Dianne, who he’s been married to for 50 years, telling her, “I love you Rebekah.” That’s when she realized he’d been sleeping with his former top political advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. While looking into the affair, and how the governor was covering it up, they also discovered misuse of campaign funds. The 74-year-old grandfather of six eventually resigned, as his party called on him to give up his seat.