Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection

Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection
© Greg Nash

In the months after she voted to impeach former President TrumpDonald TrumpNew Capitol Police chief to take over Friday Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade Michael Wolff and the art of monetizing gossip MORE for his role in inspiring the Jan. 6 insurrection against Congress, Rep. Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerDemocrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe, eyeing new GOP reinforcements Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection McCarthy, GOP face a delicate dance on Jan. 6 committee MORE (R-Wash.) went to Costco to buy a security system. 

Rep. Richard HudsonRichard Lane HudsonGOP's Banks burnishes brand with Pelosi veto Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Pharmaceutical industry donated to two-thirds of Congress ahead of 2020 elections: analysis MORE (N.C.), one of the majority of Republicans who voted against impeaching Trump, also purchased a security system for his home.  

Herrera Beutler and Hudson did not respond to requests for comment. But they were hardly alone: A review of campaign finance reports made with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) last week shows an unprecedented rise in spending on security for members of Congress.  

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Incumbent senators and representatives spent more than half a million dollars on security over just the last three months, a surge in personal protection that recalled the precautions members took after the Sept. 11 attacks, the shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) and killed six in 2011 and the attack on a group of congressional Republicans that seriously injured House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOvernight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade S.E. Cupp: 'The politicization of science and health safety has inarguably cost lives' GOP's Banks burnishes brand with Pelosi veto MORE (R-La.) in 2017. 

The spending includes only campaign money, not taxpayer dollars, and likely covers only a tiny fraction of the overall cost of ensuring the safety of members of Congress. 

It comes at a time when the threat to member safety appears higher than ever: The U.S. Capitol Police reported in May that threats against members of Congress had more than doubled from the previous year. The department said its analysts and agents assigned to a threat assessment section had investigated about 9,000 potential threats in 2020.

“We’re seeing more and more elected officials use campaign funds to pay for security each quarter. This isn’t particularly surprising, as we’re only six months separated from a violent mob attacking the Capitol,” said Jenna Grande, a spokesperson for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a campaign finance watchdog. “After the last year, political rhetoric has become much more violent and people are feeling empowered to act in an aggressive manner toward their elected officials.” 

No one has spent more than Sen. Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockObamaCare 2.0 is a big funding deal Kaseya ransomware attack highlights cyber vulnerabilities of small businesses Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection MORE (D-Ga.), first elected in January in one of a pair of Senate runoff elections that handed control of the chamber to Democrats.  

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Warnock’s campaign reported spending nearly $200,000 at a small Atlanta security firm over the last three months, an amount that accounted for nearly a tenth of his overall spending last quarter. 

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), another first-term lawmaker, reported spending almost $70,000 on security services, more than any other member in the House of Representatives.  

Just weeks into her time in Congress, Bush moved offices to get away from Rep. Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneGOP efforts to downplay danger of Capitol riot increase The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she's meeting with Trump 'soon' in Florida MORE (R-Ga.) after the two had an angry hallway confrontation in January. Bush alleged that Greene and her staff “berated” her, without wearing masks at a time when mask use was still required in the Capitol. 

Greene said she was the one who had been ambushed in the halls. 

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) has spent $10,000 of his own campaign cash on personal security, both through a South Carolina-based security firm and on seven individuals listed as members of a security detail. 

Cawthorn’s spokesman declined to comment, though a source familiar with his thinking said the first-term congressman has faced a significant number of threats, including death threats. The person said Cawthorn had consulted security professionals and hired some contractors to provide protection at certain events. 

Former members of Congress interviewed for this story said they recalled a few other instances of members paying for their own protection — after the terror attacks in 2001, and the ensuing anthrax attacks that targeted members of Congress, or after the shootings in Tucson and suburban Washington. 

But they said this time is different. 

“I’ve never seen a level of threat as intense, persistent and widespread as this one,” said Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelLawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer Joe Manchin's secret MORE, a former New York congressman and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). 

The security spending has come from all corners of Congress. Veteran members like Reps. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertLawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection We must address the declining rate of startup business launches Shakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' MORE (R-Ariz.), who spent $38,000 last quarter on security services; Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesLawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Tucker Carlson claims NSA leaked private emails to journalists McCarthy calls for investigation into claims NSA was spying on Tucker Carlson MORE (R-Calif.), who spent $12,000; and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerLawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection On The Money: Schumer pressured from all sides on spending strategy | GOP hammers HUD chief over sluggish rental aid | Democrat proposes taxes on commercial space flights Hillicon Valley: Biden to appoint Big Tech critic to DOJ antitrust role | House passes host of bills to strengthen cybersecurity in wake of attacks | Bezos returns from flight to space MORE (D-Ore.), who spent $8,000, have joined several first- and second-term members, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezEx-Rep. Abby Finkenauer running for Senate in Iowa Omar reflects on personal experiences with hate in making case for new envoy Equilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — West Coast wildfires drive East Coast air quality alerts MORE (D-N.Y.), Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseLawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats lay out vision for Civilian Climate Corps | Manchin to back controversial public lands nominee | White House details environmental justice plan Democrats lay out vision for Civilian Climate Corps MORE (D-Colo.) and Mike Levin (D-Calif.), who all spent $12,000 from their campaign accounts in the last quarter. 

Most of the members of Congress contacted for this story did not respond to requests for comments. Others said they maintained policies against discussing security threats or precautions. A spokesman for Levin said his office maintained such a policy and declined to comment. 

But their campaign finance filings show the spending they have undertaken, both in hiring professional guards and in safeguarding their campaign offices or homes with new security systems. 

Reps. Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanLawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Biden administration criticized over report that it is not extending home confinement for prisoners Group launches first national ad campaign to celebrate America's 250th anniversary MORE (D-N.J.) and Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.) each spent about $2,300 for new security systems. Rep. Gregory MeeksGregory Weldon MeeksCritical race theory becomes focus of midterms Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Passport backlog threatens to upend travel plans for millions of Americans MORE (D-N.Y.) spent $2,400 between two different security companies. Rep. Tim BurchettTimothy (Tim) Floyd BurchettGOP's Banks burnishes brand with Pelosi veto House bill targets US passport backlog Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection MORE (R-Tenn.) spent $23,456 on residential security expenses in April, about one-fifth of the total expenses his campaign reported for the last quarter. 

The spending comes as members of Congress increasingly voice fear for their lives after the attack on the Capitol in the waning days of the Trump administration.  

More than 30 representatives, led by Reps. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerLawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Democrats face daunting hurdles despite promising start MORE (D-N.J.) and Dean PhillipsDean PhillipsLawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Omar feuds with Jewish Democrats Shakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' MORE (D-Minn.), wrote to House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe, eyeing new GOP reinforcements GOP's Banks burnishes brand with Pelosi veto Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' MORE (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyDemocrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe, eyeing new GOP reinforcements GOP's Banks burnishes brand with Pelosi veto Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' MORE (R-Calif.) in the weeks after the attack asking for more money in their annual budgets to pay for security personnel. 

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A top lawyer for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) told members in January they could legally use campaign funds to install or upgrade security systems at their homes, under certain circumstances, guidance similar to what the DCCC told its members, according to CBS News. The NRCC also asked the FEC whether it was permissible to spend campaign money on private security services.

In January, U.S. Capitol Police officials said they would station more officers at Washington-area airports and at Union Station on busy travel days. The Capitol Police set up an online service so members can alert them of their travel plans. 

Earlier this month, acting Capitol Police Chef Yogananda Pittman told lawmakers the department had made a series of reforms meant to protect members. The department expanded its Dignitary Protection Division and launched a new recruitment efforts to fill out its officer ranks. It is in the process of opening field offices in Florida and California, and the department’s Civil Disturbance Unit has sent officers to trainings with the National Guard to bolster their riot response.

At the same time, a funding dispute is putting the Capitol Police in a cash crunch. Senate appropriators are working on legislation to allocate money to both the Capitol Police and the National Guard that deployed to protect the Capitol in the wake of the insurrection, but negotiations are stalling on a larger security bill. 

Just last week, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDemocrats criticize FBI's handling of tip line in Kavanaugh investigation Lawmakers spend more on personal security in wake of insurrection Senate unanimously passes bill to strengthen crime victims fund MORE (D-Vt.) warned that the Capitol Police would have to begin cutting officer salaries as early as next month if a new funding package isn’t passed.