Lautenberg can’t use campaign funds to pay off personal loan

United States Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-Cliffside Park) will have to take a loss on the $1.65 million he loaned himself for his primary against U.S. Rep. Ron Andrews (D-Haddon Heights), according to an advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

A Lautenberg lawyer last month wrote to request the opinion to see if the Supreme Court’s ruling that the “millionaire’s amendment” to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) was unconstitutional could also be applied to a provision of the act that bans candidates from paying off more than $250,000 in personal loans with campaign contributions made after the election.

In a memorandum dated Monday, four lawyers from the FEC replied that the provisions regarding repayment of personal loans were not struck down by the Supreme Court’s decision in Davis v. Federal Election Commission.

“The loan repayment provision applies equally to all candidates, regardless of whether they or their opponents have triggered the increased campaign contribution limits.

The Lautenberg campaign’s request for an opinion brought on criticism by the Senator's general election opponent, former U.S. Rep. Dick Zimmer (R-tk), who said it was hypocritical for Lautenberg, who supported the millionaire’s amendment, to try to take advantage of the county’s decision.

Zimmer’s campaign echoed that criticism in a press release today.

“The fact that all the Republican and Democratic members of the FEC totally rejected Senator Lautenberg self-serving attempt to pay off his personal campaign loans with unlimited special-interest contributions reveals how outrageous it was,” said Zimmer Communications Director Kristen Hainen. ” It is disappointing that at a time when New Jersey families are struggling with soaring gas prices and property taxes, Senator Lautenberg was scheming to put unlimited special interest money into his personal bank account."

The Supreme Court decision, however, was not good news for Zimmer, who’s struggling to raise money against Lautenberg, who has the ability to self-fund if need be. If the amendment had stayed in place and Lautenberg spent millions of his own money, Zimmer would have been able to take larger contributions from each of his donors.

Lautenberg spokeswoman Julie Roginsky responded that there was nothing wrong with the campaign merely asking for an opinion about the FEC’s regulations

"Once again, Washington Republican Dick Zimmer is making partisan attacks that are flat out wrong,” she said. “In order to comply with a new law, Senator Lautenberg had simply asked the FEC to clarify its
regulations. Washington Republican Dick Zimmer well knows that Frank Lautenberg has stood up to the special interests throughout the course of his career, while Zimmer has made a career of representing special interests as a congressman and as a lobbyist."
Lautenberg can’t use campaign funds to pay off personal loan