Rep. Andrews being investigated for misuse of campaign funds

Sean Rainey | Contributor

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) is investigating New Jersey Democratic Rep. Rob Andrews for possibly using campaign and political action committee money for a family trip to Scotland in June 2011.

“Andrews may have also improperly used congressional campaign funds to pay for various trips to Los Angeles in 2011 and for his daughter’s graduation party in June 2011, among other potential personal uses,” the OCE wrote in a referral.

The report from the OCE was released last week. The interview with the congressman happened in March 2012. The board voted unanimously 6-0 that “the Committee on Ethics further review the allegations concerning Representative Andrews because there is a substantial reason to believe that he improperly used congressional campaign and Leadership PAC funds for personal use, in violation of House rules and federal law.”

The information to the OCE came from a “political consultant” who is referred to as Witness 1 in the report. Andrews states that Witness 1 is a volunteer political consultant who has been doing opposition research for him and is someone he would like to work with in the future. Witness 1 told the OCE that he and the congressman have both a personal and political friendship. Andrews’ wife only knows Witness 1 politically and not personally.

Andrews and his family flew to Scotland in June 2011 for a wedding of a family friend. After the wedding, Andrews flew to London. When questioned if the trip to the United Kingdom was political in nature, Andrews told the OCE, “That wasn’t the purpose of the trip. The purpose of the trip was to broaden and deepen this relationship with Witness 1 and to make it more likely he would help us in the future.”

The total cost of four round-trip tickets for Andrews and his family totaled $16,574.88. Andrews at first paid for the airline tickets with his personal credit card, however, in May 2011, “Andrews’ Wife and his chief of staff requested that the travel agency assisting the Andrews family on their trip planning refund $16,574 back to the personal credit card.” The money was then wired from the Leadership PAC account, a PAC that the congressman is affiliated with, according to the OCE.

The report also states the use of campaign funds for a party to celebrate the congressman’s 20 years in public service is legal, but that adding his daughter’s graduation party makes the political event into private event and the use of campaign funds came into question.

Also in the report, Andrews talked about a mistake in political life. “Here is a confession you probably do not want me to make on the record. But I made a really stupid decision to run for Senate in, like, a 10-day period, and it all happened really quickly. And I jumped in really unexpectedly 10 days before the filing deadline. And all hell was breaking loose.”

Andrews challenged Sen. Frank Lautenberg for the Democratic nomination in 2008. The congressman said at the time, “I am not returning to the House.” His wife, Camille Andrews decided to run for her husband’s house seat and said she was not a placeholder in case Rep. Andrews lost the primary to Lautenberg.

Rob Andrews lost the 2008 primary to Lautenberg and on the same day his wife won the party nomination for his vacant House seat. However, on Sept. 3, 2008, Camille Andrews withdrew her name from the November election, and the next day her husband replaced her on the ballot.

“I had no intention of going back to the Congress until a week ago,” Rep. Andrews said at the time. “I just looked deep into what I believe in and decided that this is what I had to do.”

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