Outspoken California Rep. Ted Lieu has a reputation for philanthropy and service to his community. A look at his campaign finance records reveals that he’s especially generous when it comes to making contributions with other people’s money – namely, his donors.
In light of the fact that Democrats give much less to charity than Republicans do, the fact that Lieu thinks it’s okay to use his donors’ money to fund his charitable giving (instead of his own) isn’t really surprising. He could justify it as streamlining the process, since he’s really just bypassing the IRS.
Under federal law, candidates are allowed to make charitable contributions from their campaign accounts, with one caveat.
“Campaign committees can give gifts to charity. The amount donated to a charitable organization cannot be used for purposes that personally benefit the candidate.”
Sometimes it’s easy to determine if the contribution personally benefits the candidate; other times, it’s a little more shady.
Take, for example, a pair of $25,000 contributions Rep. Lieu, the father of two teenage sons, made to Stanford University in 2017 and 2018. Were they made out of pure generosity, or for some other reason?
Below is the FEC Form 3, Schedule B, showing a $25,000 “donation” on June 29, 2018.
And another FEC Form 3, Schedule B, showing a $25,000 “donation” on September 11, 2017.
Rep. Lieu is a Stanford alumnus, so he’s likely donated money to the institution before. Considering that he’s a parent of two active teenage sons, living in one of the most expensive areas in the country, and earning a $174,000 a year salary, it’s safe to say that he couldn’t afford to make $25,000 a year in donations – especially in one lump sum – out of his own funds.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) October 23, 2016
Why is Rep. Lieu suddenly giving so generously to his alma mater (which is one of the elite universities involved in the “Varsity Blues” scandal)? There’s nothing concrete tying his gift to any personal gain, but since one of Lieu’s sons is in high school, the timing is rather curious.
(This is Part 2 in a series examining Rep. Ted Lieu’s use of donor dollars. Read Part 1, which covers Lieu’s donor dollar-funded contributions to the foundation that helps fund his kids’ robotics team, here.)