Inquirer Editorial: Andrews disrespectful of constituents

U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews
U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews
Posted: November 25, 2011

What gave U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D., N.J.) the nerve to use his campaign fund to buy $463 worth of china for a donor when he represents a district with so many residents who can't put a decent meal on the table?

The china was part of $9,000 that Andrews charged his campaign account for an Edinburgh, Scotland, leg of a family trip to Europe. His lame excuse for spending campaign money was that he attended the wedding of a "donor," which makes you wonder how all his donors who didn't get china place settings feel.

Andrews also used campaign funds to subsidize a daughter's graduation party and for a sweet-16 party, which he claimed were also political events. He also used the fund to support the Walnut Street Theatre, where his wife is on the board and where his aspiring-actress daughter has performed. Those were "fund-raising" expenses, he claims.

His pattern of using the campaign fund for what seem to be personal expenses, and then concocting hairsplitting, legalistic excuses when he is caught, are the signs of a too-comfortable politician. How stupid does he think his Camden and river-community constituents are?

Does he think they're too busy scraping by to pay attention to him, too busy worrying about getting or keeping a job that doesn't even pay enough to take a family vacation, launch a child's career, or eat off high-priced china?

Now, Andrews is trying to wiggle out of this embarrassment. After reports of his overseas "fund-raising" expenses ran in The Inquirer and Newark's Star-Ledger, he announced that he will reimburse his campaign account.

Unfortunately, this is the type of behavior one might expect from an 11-term congressman who runs in one of the nation's safest Democratic districts and gets reelected no matter what. Look at 2008, when he promised he wouldn't run for his House seat if he lost a U.S. Senate primary. He lost the Senate primary, ran for the House seat, and won in a landslide.

Whether Andrews' uses of campaign funds are legal may be sorted out by the Federal Election Commission. Or not. In an earlier review of Andrews' expenses for clothing lost by an airline, FEC investigators decided that the expense was wrong, but not high enough for them to waste any more time on it. The FEC should do more this time. The people of the First District are worth the effort, even if Andrews hasn't shown them proper respect.

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