Harry Reid Paid Former Staffer $7,000 From Campaign Funds to Paint Capitol Portrait

Reid not the first to use campaign or PAC funds for portrait

Senator Harry Reid portrait unveiling, Washington DC, USA - 08 Dec 2016
Senator Harry Reid portrait unveiling / AP
January 9, 2017

Former Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) used campaign funds to pay a former staffer $7,000 to paint a portrait that is displayed in the U.S. Capitol.

The portrait was unveiled last month during a farewell ceremony for the long-time Democratic leader. Failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ken.), Vice President Joe Biden, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) all attended the ceremony.

Gavin Glakas, a former staffer for Reid, painted the portrait that will remain in the Capitol. On April 19, 2016, a $7,000 check for a "portrait" was cut to Glakas from Friends for Harry Reid, the campaign committee for the former senator.

The Washington Free Beacon first noticed the disbursement last August and reached out to Glakas and Reid's office seeking an explanation of the disbursement. Neither returned a request for comment at the time. Glakas had previously painted a portrait of Sen. Reid's wife, Landra, which was displayed in his office.

The farewell ceremony was also attended by Glakas, who has since added the painting to his gallery of work on his website.

Glakas did not immediately return a request for comment. Members of Reid's former office could not be reached for comment.

Reid is not the first politician to use campaign or political action committee funds to pay for a self-portrait.

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D., NY.) paid $64,500 for a self-portrait and custom frame using money from his leadership PAC in 2007.

Rangel's lawyer at the time, Phu Huynh, wrote a letter to the Federal Election Commission asking permission to use either campaign funds or leadership PAC funds to pay for the portrait.

The FEC said in an October 2007 advisory opinion that Rangel could use campaign funds to pay because "the U.S. House of Representatives is an organization described in section 170(c) of Title 26 and because payment for the portrait would not financially benefit Representative Rangel or any member of his family."

The FEC also said that leadership PAC funds could be used because "the payment would not be an in-kind contribution for the purpose of influencing any election."

"Advisory opinions apply only to the specific set of circumstances presented in the request, or identical circumstances," an FEC press officer told the Free Beacon in an email statement. "They provide a window into how the Commission has handled the issue in the past, but candidates/committees are encouraged to file advisory opinion requests when they are uncertain about whether their proposed conduct would conform with the FECA and Commission regulations."

Published under: Harry Reid