Ex-Florida GOP congresswoman under federal investigation: report

Former Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is reportedly the subject of a federal investigation into allegations she misused campaign funds.

Several onetime staffers have been subpoenaed to provide records or testify before a grand jury on Ros-Lehtinen’s alleged use of campaign funds for personal expenses and vacations, according to a Miami CBS affiliate which first reported the investigation. The Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section is reportedly investigating the matter.

Ros-Lehtinen announced in April 2017 that she would not seek re-election in 2018 and transferred nearly $180,000 from her re-election campaign to a political action committee she ran. While this is not unusual, personal use of campaign funds is illegal under federal law even if they have been transferred to a PAC.

Expense reports from the PAC showed nearly $4,000 spent on a trip to Walt Disney World with her children and grandchildren in December 2017. She also reportedly spent $3,100 at the Coral Gables seafood restaurant MesaMar on New Year’s Eve 2018.

The nonpartisan watchdog group the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission against the former congresswoman in October 2019, saying the PAC appeared to have violated federal law by “converting contributions for personal use, including a family trip to Disney World and tens of thousands of dollars of expenses at luxury hotels, none of which have any apparent connection to Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s candidacy or duties as an officeholder.”

It was unclear whether the FEC referred the case to the Justice Department or whether the DOJ began an investigation independently.

“She and her former staff members and volunteers are cooperating fully with the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice,” Ros-Lehtinen’s attorney Jeffrey Weiner said in a statement to CBS Miami. “We are gathering the information requested by the Department of Justice and are confident that, if bookkeeping errors were committed, they were due to negligence, and not willful or intentional misconduct by the former congresswoman or anyone on her staff, or her accountants.”

“As my team and I have investigated and studied the facts in this matter, we have not found any evidence whatsoever of intentional wrongdoing by Ileana or anyone on her behalf,” he added. 

Tags Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

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