Federal regulators next week are set to pave the way for lawmakers to pay for bodyguards with campaign money.
James “Trey” Trainor, a Republican commissioner at the Federal Election Commission, said in a phone interview Monday that he expects an advisory opinion on the matter to be approved at the FEC’s next public meeting, on March 11.
Allowing campaigns to pay for lawmakers’ bodyguards would mark a significant expansion of permissible campaign fund uses. But Trainor said there’s agreement within the commission that personal security for elected officials is a growing concern.
He cited examples such as a protest in January at the suburban Virginia home of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who wasn’t there at the time but accused protesters of vandalism and threats to his wife and newborn daughter. News reports said the demonstrators protesting Hawley’s objection to certifying the Electoral College vote for President Joe Biden were peaceful.
The Republican House and Senate campaign committees said in an FEC advisory opinion request in January that paying for bodyguards with campaign cash is justified due to increasing personal threats faced by members of Congress and their families. They cited vandalism of the homes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and said lawmakers have received increasing threats of violence and been confronted and harassed in airports.
The letter didn’t mention the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that led to several deaths.
Some lawmakers, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), have already made campaign payments to companies that provide personal security, according to a review of FEC disclosure reports.
Trainor, an election lawyer from Texas, was confirmed to the FEC last May with support from Cruz. The senator said in in a statement then that he’d known Trainor for 20 years and called him “a friend and an effective advocate for the rule of law.” Trainor supported Cruz’s 2016 presidential bid before backing Donald Trump.
Not up for re-election until 2024, Cruz’s campaign paid over $45,000 last year to Atlas Glinn LLC, a Houston-based company that “employs exceptionally trained Agents, PPO’s (Personal Protection Officers), and Commissioned officers,” according to its website, which features a photo of Cruz accompanied by bodyguards.
New York Magazine reported Cruz had a security guard watching his house and dog while he was in Cancun, Mexico. And the Houston police said they were asked by a Cruz staff member to monitor the Cruz family at the airport as they prepared to leave the country.
Sen. Raphael Warnock‘s (D-Ga.) campaign reported payments during his special election run last year totaling more than $75,000 to Executive Protection Agencies. An Atlanta company with that name advertises bodyguards among its security services. And freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) reported more than $12,000 in payments during his House campaign last year for a “security detail” to a company called BK Unlimited.
The Senate offices of Cruz and Warnock didn’t respond to emails requesting comment. Cawthorn’s office had no comment.
FEC Set to Vote
The commission hasn’t yet indicated publicly how it will rule on the request from the National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee, but Trainor said he was confident that the use of campaign money for bodyguards would be approved and said it was important for the FEC to approve it soon.
The votes of at least four of the six FEC commissioners are needed to approve any advisory opinion ruling. The commissioners are evenly divided between three recommended by Democrats and three Republicans.
The FEC was scheduled to consider the opinion at its previous meeting on Feb. 25, but it was postponed due to a procedural issue related to the fact that the Republican campaign committees may not be considered directly affected. The FEC’s procedures state that a requester “cannot ask for an advisory opinion about someone else’s activities, hypothetical situations, or general questions of law.”
The campaign committees making the request include all incumbent Republican lawmakers as members and said they were making the request to allow all House and Senate members to use campaign funds to pay for personal security personnel. “Members are confronted in public on a routine basis, and it has become increasingly common for protesters to gather outside Members’ homes,” the NRSC and NRCC said in requesting the advisory opinion.
The FEC has long allowed campaigns to pay for security related to fundraising events. More recently it’s issued a series of advisory opinions allowing campaign money to be used for lawmakers’ home security systems. Some have suggested these security expenses should be paid by the government, not campaigns.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org