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Romney charges up the national campaign trail

Mitt Romney and his staff don’t leave home without their American Express cards — which gives the rest of us a chance to see exactly how, and where, they’ve been spending their gubernatorial campaign funds. It turns out they’ve been racking up charges far from home, and long before Romney officially declared his disinterest in running for re-election on December 14.

According to campaign-finance reports — turned in late, on January 4, after a chiding from the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance — the Romney for Governor campaign spent a whopping $45,023.42 on its credit card from September 20 through November 19, well over half of which was spent outside Massachusetts.

Wondering where Romney and his staff have been? The campaign’s American Express card paid for fill-ups at gas stations in La Crosse, Virginia; Newark, Delaware; Mackinaw, Michigan; and Concord, North Carolina. It paid to rent cars in Detroit, Michigan; Des Moines, Iowa; and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It paid for hotel rooms in East Elmhurst, New York; Washington, DC; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Bloomfield, Michigan. A full 30 percent of the 45 grand went to airplane tickets for staff. Another 25 percent paid for other out-of-state travel expenses.

"Romney is operating according to a time-honored tradition of using campaign dollars inappropriately when it serves his purposes," says Steven Grossman, treasurer for Attorney General Tom Reilly’s gubernatorial campaign. "The donors never intended for their money to be used for a presidential campaign."

Romney’s campaign referred calls to the governor’s communications director, Eric Fehrnstrom, who declined to explain the expenditures but said in a statement that "the Governor’s travel is conducted in conformance with the law."

Which is probably true: in Massachusetts, candidates can spend their campaign treasury on anything "that enhances a candidate’s political future," explains Dennis Kennedy of the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance. The statute leaves wide-open what kind of future that is.

So expect Mitt to keep using his gubernatorial campaign funds — close to $400,000 at year’s end — outside the Commonwealth. Even the in-state spending may well be going to out-of-state guests. The campaign spent $3355 on tickets and souvenirs — "gifts for supporters" — for the Red Sox’ sole home playoff game, on October 7. Fehrnstrom would not say who got the primo tix.

AmEx was also used to pick up the tab for meals — ahem, "political meetings" — at Hub dining spots Abe & Louie’s, Houston’s, Les Zygomates, PF Chang’s, Smith & Wollensky, and Zen Restaurant.

Issue Date: January 13 - 19, 2006
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