Miller’s zombie campaign

Florida Politic’s Noah Pransky reports how our former Congressman Jeff Miller has used his campaign account that he never shut down.

Miller, who chaired the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee before he left Congress in 2016, now lobbies the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for privatization of health care on behalf of his clients. While in Congress, Miller fought hard for better health care for veterans (Inweekly, “Taking Care of Veterans,” 11/7/13).

“To help subsidize his new lobbying career, Miller has tapped his old campaign war chest — about $180,000 in leftover funds from when he left the House in January 2017 — to cut checks to powerful members of Congress, including at least ten checks to members of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, according to federal campaign disclosures,” writes Pransky.

Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules prohibit any personal gain from campaign donations. The agency suggests campaigns take no more than six months to wind down once a member leaves public office, but there is nothing to prevent Milller from spending thousands of campaign dollars on meals, hotels, and undisclosed self-reimbursements, as he was picking up new clients and starting to lobby the Trump administration.

“Zombie Campaigns” have been in the news. NPR, Newsweek, POLITICO and the Tampa Bay Times have reported on how former lawmakers have used campaign funds long after they have left office.

The investigations have prompted the FEC to review former lawmakers’ campaign filings for the first time, but the agency has been slow to take any action against politicians using campaign donations to lobby their former colleagues.

Washington watchdogs say the FEC and Congress need to protect the American people and put an end to the abuse of lawmakers-turned-lobbyists.

POLITICO detailed how Miller helped turn the VA’s $180 billion budget into a “massive feeding trough for the lobbying industry,” while the Center for Investigative Reporting reported the former Congressman “facilitated a gravy train of government largesse to his clients — a list that includes a disgraced hedge fund magnate pushing unproven treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and a trade group for proton beam therapy, an expensive radiation application. Miller also lobbied on behalf of a troubled disability evaluation company as it secured a $205 million contract to evaluate veterans’ benefits claims.”

Other former Florida politicians using leftover campaign funds to lobby their former colleagues include George LeMieux and Mike Haridopolos.