As House Republicans tried this week (and then backed down in the face of public outrage) to weaken the nonpartisan office in charge of investigating lawmaker and staff misconduct, PEOPLE took a look back at some of the most eyebrow-raising ways public and campaign funds have been used by politicians.
When official spending takes a turn for the personal—and, sometimes, downright weird—it’s not always illegal. But, even it doesn’t lead to jail time, it can ruin careers.
1. Flights for a family rabbit.
When traveling on the campaign trail, sometimes you need to bring the whole family along with you. And for California Representative Duncan Hunter, that includes his family’s pet rabbit. During a review of his practices, the House Office of Congressional Ethics uncovered $600 of campaign funds spent on rabbit air travel, reports the San Diego Union Tribune. That’s just a drop in the bucket: He’s previously spent $62,000 of campaign money on oral surgery, video games, resort vacations and jewelry buys. All $62,000 has been reimbursed, and a spokesman for Hunter, Joe Kasper, told Yahoo News that there was “no intent” to misuse campaign funds.
2. A Downton Abbey-inspired office.
Former Illinois representative Aaron Schock has been in the spotlight for a few reasons: First, he posed shirtless on the cover of Men’s Health. Second, he became the first member of Congress to take decorating cues from Downton Abbey, with red paint, gilt sconces and old-fashioned portraits covering the walls of his House office suite on Capitol Hill. At first, it was a bit of a joke to Shock, until a watchdog group filed a complaint. He then said he’d pay for the decorations himself. “Once it’s done, I’m sure I will get an invoice as I did before, and we’ll pay,” he said. “As Taylor Swift said, ‘Haters gonna hate.’” That was just his first issue with alleged fund misuse…
3. Workout DVDs.
Schock didn’t learn his lesson there, it seemed. A later investigation alleged that he had misused government money and campaign funds on a number of things, including private flights, a car, Super Bowl tickets and even workout DVDs. He was later accused of trying to get the federal government to reimburse him for miles driven on his car — except he allegedly lied about the number of miles, according to documents published by Politico. In the aftermath of this scandal, he resigned his seat on March 17, 2015. He was indicted in November 2016 and plead not guilty. This was all before the age of 35.
3. Golf tournament fees.
Before he was the vice president-elect, before he was governor of Indiana, before he was even a congressman, Mike Pence was a candidate. Back in 1990, he came under fire for (then, legally) using political donations to make payments on his home mortgage, his personal credit card and his wife’s car, The Washington Post reported. He also used the money to pay fees associated with entry into golf tournaments. After the election, Pence went on an “apology tour” around the state of Indiana and promised not to engage in such practices again, calling it “an exercise in naivety.”
4. Dry cleaning.
Though this pales in comparison to Anthony Weiner’s other scandals, in December 2016, he was found to have spent campaign funds on personal purchases. That included $1,500 of dry cleaning and cell phone bills, according to DNAInfo. While the New York City Campaign Finance Board has ordered him to pay the $195,377 back (plus a $65,000 fine), it’s just a blip on the radar of his derailed political career.
5. Weekend home renovations.
Former Connecticut Governor John Rowland has been to prison twice. While he’s currently serving his second sentence, the first came after a criminal investigation for using government contractors to renovate his vacation home, a claim he initially denied, before taking a plea deal and resigning in disgrace.
6. Massages and trips to the spa.
Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick racked up plenty of personal charges on his city-issued credit card, including dinners out, pricey bottles of wine and trips to the spa, according to the New York Times. Keep in mind, the man was the mayor when Detroit had an estimated deficit of $230 million. He paid back just $9,000 of the $210,000 in credit card charges. He’s currently serving out a 28-year jail sentence for non-related charges.
7. Salaries for your kids.
Former Illinois Governor George Ryan spent six years in prison after a lengthy trial, which, yes, involved misuse of campaign funds. According to the Chicago Tribune, Ryan’s children and other relatives were given hefty payments (one to his son-in-law amounted to $55,000, the Tribune reported) from campaign coffers though they did minimal work for the campaign. Though his five daughters managed to avoid the witness stand, they did testify about these gifts through written statements, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.