Dem FEC Commissioner Boarded Flight To Europe Before Receiving Approval

Andrew Kerr | Investigative Reporter

Ellen Weintraub, the vice chair of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), boarded a flight to Europe in early April prior to receiving approval for the foreign-sponsored travel.

Weintraub, the FEC’s only Democratic commissioner, spoke about best practices surrounding electronic reporting for political campaigns at an April 12 event in Lithuania sponsored by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) — a European-based organization that carries out election observation in participating nation states.

Weintraub’s flight to Lithuania was paid for by the ODHIR. The foreign funds were approved just one day prior to the event on April 11, a member of the FEC vice chair’s staff previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Weintraub’s staff sought to conceal who funded her travel to Europe after it was revealed her attendance at the event had caused the FEC to cancel a previously scheduled meeting. Weintraub’s staff removed references to ODIHR from a weekly FEC publication “for brevity,” a staffer told TheDCNF.

At a contentious FEC meeting on April 26, it was revealed Weintraub departed for Europe on April 10 — one day before she received approval for accepting travel funding from the ODHIR.

“You told me that Tuesday (April 10) you had to leave early because your flight left Dulles airport at 5:30,” FEC Chair Caroline Hunter recalled of a conversation she had with Weintraub.

The revelation Weintraub left for Europe on April 10 changes the timeline considerably. She didn’t wait until the last minute to receive approval for her foreign trip. Rather it appears Weintraub was already out of the country by the time her foreign-funded trip was approved.

The ODIHR had purchased a round-trip plane ticket for Weintraub that flew her in and flew her out the day of the April 12 event, a representative for the foreign organization previously told TheDCNF.

Since ODIHR funded flights for Weintraub on April 12, it’s unclear who funded Weintraub’s flight out of Washington, D.C., on April 10. It’s also unclear whether or not she was already in Europe when her foreign-funded flight was approved on April 11.

Weintraub’s office did not respond to TheDCNF when asked to clarify where the commissioner was when her foreign sponsor was approved on April 11.

Weintraub’s last-minute decision to fly to Lithuania on the ODIHR’s dime put FEC in a bind, forcing it to cancel a previously scheduled open meeting to rule on five pending actions.

Blame for the meeting’s cancellation lay at Hunter’s feet for refusing to accommodate for refusing to reschedule the meeting at the last minute, Weintraub said at the FEC’s open meeting on April 26.

“I had suggested when it turned out I was going to have a conflict with the last meeting that we could have moved the open meeting to (April 10) when we already had a meeting noticed,” Weintraub said Thursday. “I think we could have done the two items that would have been on the agenda … it was your choice to cancel the meeting and I was okay with that.”

It was “unbelievable” Weintraub expected Hunter to sandwich in the meeting into another already packed meeting to accommodate her last-minute overseas trip, the FEC chair said.

“The public meeting was voted on back in December,” Hunter said. “To suggest that because of me, we weren’t able to do it that week, is really unbelievable.”

Follow Andrew on Twitter. Send tips to akerr@dailycallernewsfoundation.org

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