Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) used taxpayer money to pay for travel from a visit to California for a lucrative campaign fundraiser, according to official expenditure reports.
Manchin's office made a $1,515.65 disbursement for four flights taken by the West Virginia Democrat, disclosed on page B-1429 of the Secretary of the Senate's report of Senate expenditures from April 1, 2017, to Sep. 30, 2017. The expenditure covered three July flights between Charleston, W. Va., and Washington, D.C., and an Aug. 9 flight from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh.
A review of Manchin's campaign finance filings indicates the purpose of the trip was an Aug. 9 fundraiser at the Los Angeles headquarters of the Capital Group, a financial services firm. Contribution records sorted by the Washington Free Beacon show the company's employees contributed $62,100 to Manchin on Aug. 9 and a total of $99,900 to him during the fundraising quarter.
The Manchin campaign made a $1,739.54 disbursement to Michael Downer, a top company executive, for "catering" on Aug. 17. Downer's listed address on the disbursement is the address for the Capital Group's Los Angeles offices.
A spokesman for Manchin's Senate office would not say whether there was any official business in California. The spokesman also would not provide details on how much of the $1,515.65 expense was for the California flight, saying that the number in the Secretary of the Senate report was "inaccurate."
"We are in compliance with ethics," wrote Jonathan Kott. "Also, that number you are citing is inaccurate."
Asked to elaborate on what part of the figure was inaccurate, Kott declined.
"No," Kott wrote. "We are in compliance with Senate ethics. Your figure is wrong."
It is unclear what aspect of the $1,515.65 figure, which was disclosed last November, Manchin's office disputes.
Senate rules mandate that "no official resources may be used to conduct campaign activities." In the case of "mixed purpose travel," cases where both official and campaign business are conducted on the same trip, senators are directed to pro-rate expenses on "a reasonable basis to accurately reflect the purpose of the trip."
After this report was published, Kott elected to give more information on the trip, which he says was mixed purpose travel.
"Half the trip was official and half was fundraising so in accordance with Senate ethics the cost of the trip was split," Kott wrote in an email. "He flew back into Pittsburgh and drove to WV for official events."
Kott reiterated that "the $1515 was the total for the month not just the trip."
It is not possible to determine what travel costs associated with the California trip were paid for through the campaign, which does not provide details such as where a purchased flight was going or when it was in its disclosure forms.
The amount of money Manchin received from Capital Group during the quarter exceeded the amount he received in contributions from West Virginians, which was $80,201.96. It accounted for more than 15 percent of the $658,402 he received in individual contributions that quarter.
The Capital Group declined to comment.
As governor in 2005, Manchin had to reimburse West Virginia $5,400 after it was reported that he took a state plane down to Alabama to pick up a 54-foot yacht he owns called the Black Tie.
UPDATE 12:37 p.m.: This piece has been updated to include additional comment from Manchin's spokesperson.