An ethics watchdog is calling on the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.V.) for use of taxpayer funds for travel from a California trip that included a lucrative fundraiser where he raised nearly $100,000 for his reelection campaign.
The complaint from the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) comes two weeks after a Washington Free Beacon report on Manchin's trip that revealed the use of taxpayer funds for a flight from Los Angeles on the same day he was hosted for a fundraiser at the Los Angeles headquarters of the Capital Group that led to $99,900 in contributions to his campaign.
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Manchin's office told the Washington Free Beacon after publication of its initial report that the purpose of the trip was half for official business and half for fundraising, and that travel costs were split accordingly.
His office maintained on Thursday afternoon that it is in compliance with ethics rules, but said it is unable to say what the official business on the trip was or provide details on how the costs were split.
The FACT complaint calls on the Ethics Committee to probe for answers to these questions.
"According to press reports, Manchin's campaign has repeatedly failed to point to any official business that was conducted in California," wrote executive director Kendra Arnold in the complaint.
Arnold contends, based on the lack of information being made available by Manchin, that it is becoming "presumptively clear that the primary purpose of the trip was to attend the political fundraiser that netted Manchin's campaign almost $100,000."
"The Select Committee on Ethics should enforce this prohibition and conduct an appropriate investigation into Manchin's conduct," Arnold wrote.
Arnold said Manchin is taking advantage of taxpayers to save money for his reelection campaign.
"Manchin is subsidizing his campaign expenses from the backs of hard working taxpayers and must be held accountable," she says. "Senators facing expensive elections should not be allowed to use taxpayer dollars in order to gain an advantage over their opponents."
"The public rightly expects better from its senators," she concludes.
Manchin's travel expense was disclosed in the Secretary of the Senate's official report on Senate expenditures, which shows he spent $1,515.65 on four flights, three between West Virginia and Washington, D.C., and the one from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh.
Manchin's office has declined to say how much of the $1,515.65 was for the flight from Los Angeles.
It remains unclear what business Manchin had in California that required travel to the West Coast.
Manchin posted on his official Twitter account on Aug. 9, 2017, the day of the fundraiser, that he met with executives from Lionsgate film studio regarding a film he wanted aired in West Virginia.
Manchin's office says his meeting with Lionsgate was not the official reason for his trip.
The Ethics Committee did not respond to questions on whether it had reviewed Manchin's Los Angeles trip.