(CNN) – Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert paid utility and rent bills with campaign funds, according to a new filing the Republican lawmaker made this week with the Federal Election Commission.
The report, submitted to the FEC on Tuesday, details a series of four payments this year totaling $6,650 to John Pacheco, whose address is the same as Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado — the gun-themed restaurant that Boebert owns. The payments are described as rent and utilities that had been erroneously billed to campaign.READ MORE: Colorado Weather: Mountain Snow And Wind Expected Saturday Night Into Early Sunday
Boebert refused to answer CNN’s questions Thursday. In an email, her spokesman Ben Stout said the funds in question “were reimbursed months ago when Rep. Boebert self-reported the error.”
It is against the law to use campaign funds for personal use. And Adav Noti, a top official with the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, said using donors’ money to pay rent and utilities is a “flagrant violation.”
“There are some gray areas in campaign finance law, and this is really not one of them,” added Noti, a former associate general counsel at the FEC.
But how federal regulators respond, he said, depends on the circumstances and whether payments represented an intentional attempt to misuse campaign dollars or were the result of sloppy compliance processes within the campaign.
Boebert’s campaign previously acknowledged the use of donors’ funds for personal expenses in a July filing covering the second quarter of this year. That prompted scrutiny from federal campaign regulators who sent a letter to the campaign, seeking more information.
Her campaign had described the four payments as a “personal expense of Lauren Boebert billed to the campaign in error” and indicated that the money already had been reimbursed.
This week’s filing amended the July report from Boebert’s campaign and showed the payments for the same amounts and on the same dates — previously described as personal expenses — as going to Pacheco. And, for the first time, the campaign indicated that the money had been used to pay rent and utility bills.
On Thursday, FEC spokesman Christian Hilland said, “Our campaign finance analysts will review (Boebert’s) amended report to see if it’s sufficient.”READ MORE: Owner Confirms Ice Castles Won't Be In Colorado's High Country This Winter
In an August letter to the Boebert campaign questioning the expenses, FEC campaign finance analyst Shannon Ringgold warned that the commission “may consider taking further legal action” if it found that the four payments in question were used to improperly cover personal expenses.
But Ringgold also said that “prompt action to obtain reimbursement of the funds in question will be taken into consideration.”
Boebert, a firebrand congressional freshman known for her anti-establishment views, has faced scrutiny of her campaign activity before.
This year, Accountable.US, a liberal watchdog group asked a congressional ethics office to examine what it called “exorbitant” campaign reimbursements to Boebert for mileage expenses during the 2020 campaign, detailed by The Denver Post.
And last month, as first reported by the Associated Press, Boebert’s required financial disclosure report showed her husband made more than $478,000 in 2020 in consulting services from Terra Energy Productions. He also made $460,000 from the firm in 2019, according to the filing.
Boebert’s financial disclosure report during the 2020 campaign, however, had not disclosed that income.
Federal law and rules require candidates and federal officeholders to disclose the sources of their spouses’ incomes, along with their investments, so voters are aware of potential conflicts of interests.
Noti said this week’s FEC filings by the Boebert campaign underscore the value of campaign finance disclosure laws.
“This is why transparency matters,” he said. “Voters in that district have a right to know that their member of Congress was using campaign money to pay rent.”
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