Oh, Baby: Eric Swalwell's Post-Election Nanny Payments May Have Violated Campaign Finance Rules, Watchdog Says

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D., Calif.) / Instagram
February 23, 2023

California Rep. Eric Swalwell (D.) may have violated campaign finance rules by using campaign donations to pay his kids' babysitters after Election Day, an ethics watchdog alleges.

Swalwell paid about $17,000 to babysitters from Nov. 14, 2022, through the end of the year, Federal Election Commission disclosures show. One post-election payment to the Swalwells' regular California nanny ran $7,841. A Washington Free Beacon review of average California nanny rates concluded that this payment would have purchased 320 hours, or 13 days of child care. While candidates are allowed to use campaign funds to pay for child care while on the trail, doing so after an election raises ethical questions, according to Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust executive director Kendra Arnold.

"It would be a violation if he used campaign funds to pay for child care after the election if they were not directly caused by campaign activity," said Arnold, whose group is preparing an FEC complaint over Swalwell's spending.

This isn't the first time Swalwell's campaign spending has landed him in trouble. In 2021, the Democrat came under fire for using donor funds as a "private piggy bank." Swalwell paid a family member more than $17,000 for child care, spent $20,000 at the Bay Area Ritz-Carlton where his wife used to work, and poured tens of thousands of dollars into non-campaign-related "catering" and "refreshments" at exclusive clubs and restaurants. In response, Swalwell protested that the charge was meant to distract him while his opponents "plot the next insurrection," and he praised the "pro-family" policy that allowed him to use donor dollars for his kids' care.

Swalwell has also spurred criticism for taking expensive trips funded by foreign interests. The Democrat and his wife in 2020 participated in a $20,000 jaunt to Qatar, bankrolled by the U.S.-Qatar Business Council, during which Swalwell rode bare-chested on a camel in the desert. That year, the Swalwells also enjoyed an all-expenses-paid trip to Germany, staying in a $611-per-night hotel.

The FEC allows lawmakers to use donor funds for child care while they are on the campaign trail, provided that each lawmaker's spouse is not available to take their kids. Last July, the commission said Swalwell could do the same, as long as the costs were tied to his own electioneering, "because the expenses would not exist irrespective of congressman Swalwell's campaign." The FEC did not approve the congressman's requests to use the money for child care should he travel for other Democratic campaigns or take overseas trips at the invitation of foreign governments.

Swalwell's campaign disclosures show he took full advantage of the babysitting perk and ramped up this spending once he received the FEC's approval on July 25, 2022.

From January 2021 until July 25, 2022, Swalwell's campaign spent just under $72,000 on his children's care, with the highest-paid gig costing $1,905. The day the FEC signed off on Swalwell's petition, he paid $1,819 to one of his usual babysitters. From July 25 through Dec. 30, his campaign spent more than $40,000 on child care. The sessions also grew more expensive on average, regularly topping $1,000 per gig. In August, the campaign paid $2,142 to Let Mommy Sleep, a franchise that offers overnight nurse care for newborns.

After the election, Swalwell's babysitting costs continued unabated. On Nov. 14, a week after Election Day, he paid one of his usual babysitters $2,412. Two days after Christmas, his campaign spent $1,053 on child care, and the day before New Year's Eve he made two separate payments of $162 and $750 to the same babysitter.

His children's care costs weren't the only campaign expenses to raise eyebrows. His donors funded nearly $583,000 in limousines, flights, yachts, and glitzy hotels in Paris and Miami Beach over the 2021-2022 cycle, Fox News reported.

While the campaign bankrolled a luxury lifestyle, Swalwell has seemingly struggled financially. His latest financial disclosure shows that he is nearly as badly off as he was in 2019, when the Free Beacon reported on his messy finances.

Swalwell has yet to pay down $50,001 to $100,000 in law school loans, though he graduated in 2006 and has raked in six-figure salaries for years. He owes between $15,001 and $50,000 in credit card debt to Chase Bank and between $10,000 and $15,000 in debt to American Express. Swalwell also holds two mortgages, one between $100,001 and $250,000 and the other between $500,001 and $1,000,000. He has yet to report having a bank account.

His campaign accounts are much better off. Swalwell's campaign spent over $3.2 million during his relatively easy 2020 reelection campaign. He skated to victory with over 70 percent of the vote.

Swalwell's office did not respond to a request for comment.