After commissioners' verbal brawl, FEC won't let Rep. Eric Swalwell's use campaign cash to fund overnight childcare when traveling abroad

·2 min read
Eric Swalwell hearing
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
  • The FEC denied Swalwell's request to spend campaign funds on overnight childcare when he travels "at the request of foreign governments."

  • The commission did allow him to use the funds to pay for the services when traveling for his own campaign.

  • The decision came just weeks after a commissioner publicly disparaged Swalwell for making the requests.

Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell cannot use campaign funds to pay for childcare services when traveling "at the request of foreign governments" — or do so when campaigning on behalf of other political candidates, the Federal Election Commission ruled this week.

The decision comes nearly two weeks after Republican Commissioner Trey Trainor castigated Swalwell at a public meeting, calling the California congressman's request "abhorrent." The rebuke prompted Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub to lambaste Trainor in a series of tweets that referenced "The Handmaid's Tale."

The commission, however, did affirm in a 5-0 vote Monday that Swalwell could use campaign funds to pay for overnight childcare when traveling for own campaign. Commissioner Steven Walther, an independent, abstained from voting on the matter.

In late May, counsel for Swalwell petitioned the bipartisan FEC to see if he could use campaign funds to pay for overnight childcare when he travels for his own campaign and his wife is unavailable, as well as when he traveled for other campaigns and went out of the country at the request of foreign governments.

Passions ran hot at an open meeting in July, when FEC commissioners initially deadlocked 3-3 when voting to allow Swalwell to use the funds as requested.

The bipartisan FEC requires four approving votes to issue what's known as an "advisory opinion" — an official interpretation of federal campaign finance law — to a petitioner.

Trainor took issue with Swalwell's parenting style.

"To be real honest with you, I'm actually going to pass judgment on it," Trainor said during the commission meeting earlier this month. "I think it's abhorrent that Congressman Swalwell would have such a young child and want to leave them in the care of someone else, for a weeklong trip overseas and using donor contributions to pay for that. I think it's inappropriate we even had to address this question."

Following the meeting, Weintraub called out Trainor on Twitter for his treatment of Swalwell.

"I have never seen a requestor treated so disrespectfully by a member of this Commission. This is the United States of America, not the Republic of Gilead," Weintraub tweeted.

Trainor replied on Twitter, saying "I've never seen campaign donors treated so disrespectfully! The Republic will persevere even if Swalwell doesn't get all the junkets he'd like."

Swalwell's office, campaign, and campaign counsel did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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