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Two Democratic Senators Take Aim at ‘Zombie’ Campaigns

Chris Stein When Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) left Congress in 2017—with the eight-term lawmaker destined for a D.C. lobbying gig —he had something at his disposal that most people don’t: a campaign bank account.

Crenshaw went on to use that account for pricey dinners, stays at the Walt Disney World Four Seasons, a luxury resort in Colorado Springs , the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, even his membership dues at the Capitol Hill Club.

Using a campaign account for those expenses is, of course, illegal. And Crenshaw got caught. Last month, he entered a conciliation agreement with the Federal Election Commission, in which he agreed to pay more than $13,000 to the U.S. Treasury for the expenses, as well as a $3,950 fine.

But even though former lawmakers are not allowed to use unspent campaign money to live it up and assist in their lobbying careers—the Capitol Hill Club is a favorite haunt among beltway Republicans looking to wield influence—the very fact that Crenshaw had a campaign account, as a 77-year-old politician-turned-lobbyist with no apparent intention of ever running for office, was perfectly legal.

That is, it’s legal at the moment.

Two Democrats Senators, Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), are introducing legislation this Thursday that would outlaw so-called “zombie” campaign accounts for any politician who does not file for the next election six months after they leave office—and would require any former politician who wishes to register as a lobbyist to shut down their campaign account immediately.

The legislation, titled the “Zeroing Out Money for Buying Influence after Elections (ZOMBIE) Act,” is a reboot of a bill that Bennet offered last year . And it would extend the requirements to an official’s leadership PAC, such as the one belonging to former Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), who last year was cited for paying personal expenses in an FEC complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

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