Minnesota congressional candidate Royce White did not disclose the purpose of some big retailer spending from campaign funds, according to FEC records

A Minnesota congressional candidate has spent thousands of dollars in campaign funds at popular retailers in recent months without explaining in his fundraising report how many purchases were used for his campaign, an Axios review of records has revealed. of the Federal Election Commission.

Why is this important: Some of the expenses reported in 5th Congressional District candidate Royce White’s recent campaign finance filing may violate FEC reporting requirements and rules prohibiting the use of political funds for personal gain. , two experts told Axios.

The big picture: The Royce White Committee for Congress lists dozens of purchases totaling more than $10,000 at major retailers that included clothing, sporting goods and home goods stores without disclosing the purpose in his July 15 filing with the FEC.

  • The report also does not specify the recipient or reason for more than $50,000 in checks and wire transfers paid to the campaign account.
  • In response to a question from Axios, White said the campaign was in the process of updating its filing and insisted that “all funds were spent on campaign-related activities.”

State of play: White, a former NBA player and advocate for mental health awareness, is one of three candidates in the upcoming Republican primary to challenge DFL U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar for a Minneapolis-based seat in November.

  • The race drew significant campaign funds: White and his main rival, GOP-endorsed candidate Cicely Davis, each raised and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on their respective candidacies in the mostly Democratic district.

Enlarge: White’s second quarter report showed he raised over $137,000 and spent $178,000 between April and June. According to the report, his campaign spending included purchases from Bed Bath & Beyond ($442.95), Nike ($372.69), Lululemon ($216) and Nordstrom ($407.52). The campaign spent hundreds more at Dick’s Sporting Goods and over $3,200 at Guitar Center.

  • The campaign also spent $365.91 on a “purchase of New Balance shoes to knock on the door,” $409.10 on “apparel for campaign videos and advertisements” from K&G Fashion Superstore, according to the report.

What he says : White defended the purchases in a late July Twitter post to Axios, saying “everything has been used in our campaign…which now has a vast vault of content to use at any time.”

  • Asked about shopping at clothing stores and department stores, White told Axios that he could buy clothes to print campaign slogans on as well as items to use as “props and materials for campaign ads or ads”.
  • He also told Axios that Guitar Center’s purchases were for “audio equipment used for political purposes” and that check and bank transfer payments were “going to people doing services.”

The context: Although federal campaign finance laws do not restrict spending at specific stores, they need that the committees provide a brief description of the purpose of the disbursements as part of their report.

  • Without this information, it is difficult to determine from the outside whether the purchases and payments were genuinely for political or personal gain, David Schultz, election law expert and professor at Hamline University, told Axios.

  • He said campaign filing or disclosure issues are not uncommon, but the volume and nature of undocumented spending in White’s report was unusual.

Saurav Ghosh, director of federal campaign finance reform at the nonprofit watchdog group Campaign Legal Center, told Axios that the omissions were “depriving the public of important information to disclose.”

  • Ghosh, a former FEC law enforcement attorney, said the lack of transparency surrounding the recipients of wire transfers and checks is “particularly troubling” because the public cannot see where that money went or what it was used for.

Between the lines: Descriptions of purchases at New Balance and K&G Fashion Superstore suggest those expenses may have been for items White or others wore as part of the campaign.

  • But, the experts of Campaign Law Center Axios FEC rules also generally don’t allow candidates to spend campaign funds on their wardrobe, even if the items are worn in campaign videos or knocking on doors.
  • Under the aegis of the agency “independent test“Buying Nordstrom shirts to personalize with a campaign logo for supporters is probably okay, but buying a shirt – or even a suit – that a candidate will wear to a campaign event probably isn’t,” adds Schultz.

What to watch: The FEC could ask White to provide more information about the disbursements and possibly impose a fine, Schultz said.

  • If certain purchases were deemed for personal use, White could be asked to reimburse his campaign and pay a fine.

A spokesperson for the FEC declined to comment to Axios on an individual campaign or committee.

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