Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.), who was pictured riding shirtless on a camel during a lobbyist-funded junket in the Middle East, wants to use campaign money to pay for babysitters for his three children while he is on foreign government-sponsored business trips.
In a letter sent on May 26 to the Federal Election Commission, Swalwell's campaign lawyer said Swalwell receives "many invitations" to travel overseas because of his status as a "well-known member of Congress" and position in Democratic Party leadership. The lawyer urged the expansion of an FEC rule that allows candidates to use campaign funds to pay for nannies during campaign events and fundraisers.
If approved, Swalwell will enjoy a job perk unavailable to most working Americans, who pay for their babysitters out of pocket or rely on family members to pick up the slack. Swalwell's wife, a hotel executive, has traveled with Swalwell during his two recent foreign trips, including the one during which he rode bare-chested on a camel in the desert of Qatar. The U.S.-Qatar Business Council paid $19,400 for the Swalwells' flights, lodging, and food. The Swalwells in February 2020 went on an all-expenses-paid work trip to Germany, staying in a hotel that cost $611 per night.
Foreigners have long been attracted to Swalwell. A female Chinese spy named Fang Fang cultivated a years-long relationship with the lawmaker before he was elected to Congress. She fled the United States in 2015 after the FBI warned Swalwell about her activities.
Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, already uses more campaign money on nannies than any other member of Congress. His campaign spent $15,983 on child care through the first quarter of this year and $72,488 since 2019, according to a Washington Free Beacon analysis of campaign finance records. Sen. Raphael Warnock's (D., Ga.) campaign has spent the second highest on child care of any member of Congress—$61,279 since 2020.
Swalwell has come under scrutiny for his profligate campaign spending, with one government watchdog group saying the Democrat uses his campaign coffers as a "private piggy bank." Swalwell spent more than $20,000 on luxury car services and hotel stays last year and more than $7,000 at swanky restaurants in Washington, D.C., according to Fox News. He also paid a family member more than $17,000 for babysitting. Swalwell spent lavishly on alcohol, hotels, limo services, and restaurants from his campaign, according to reports.
Swalwell has a history of financial difficulties despite his $174,000 salary. Swalwell reported owing between $50,000 and $100,000 in student loans, $25,000 and $65,000 in credit card debt, and $600,000 and $1.25 million in mortgages as of 2020. His student loans and credit card debt have remained at those levels for a decade.
Candidates for Congress have since 2018 been allowed to use campaign funds to pay for child care during campaign events or fundraisers. The rule was implemented after pressure from groups that seek more women in office. Vote Mama Foundation, a nonprofit group that spearheaded the rule change, has said that steep child-care costs are a barrier for new candidates for public office, especially women.
Swalwell told the organization that child-care costs forced him to "reevaluate" whether he should remain in his congressional job.
"On top of the official duties, there is an obligation to campaign for House candidates and be away a lot. It was taking a toll financially," said Swalwell, who noted in the interview his wife had recently received a promotion.
Swalwell's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.