IN THE NEWS: GOP primary sniping explodes as Rokita uses campaign funds to reimburse his own company

Congressman Rokita’s private company has accepted roughly $110,000 in campaign, federal reimbursements for transportation costs from use of his own plane
INDIANAPOLIS

From Politico Pro: Rokita spent thousands in campaign cash on small-plane LLC he co-owns

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), a likely candidate for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Joe Donnelly in 2018, has used nearly $100,000 in campaign funds to reimburse a limited liability company he co-owns for use of a private plane.

Rokita didn’t disclose his ownership of the company, Hoosier Seneca, on congressional personal financial disclosures, but he had permission from the House Ethics Committee to leave it off. There is no evidence Rokita, who’s held a pilot’s license since he was 19, broke any ethics rules or laws. But campaign finance advocates have long questioned the use of campaign funds to reimburse companies owned by members. (President Donald Trump used campaign funds to reimburse himself for the use of his large plane during the 2016 campaign.)

Rokita has also accepted over $11,000 in federal reimbursements since 2014 for flights he’s taken to and from his district in the western part of the state. House rules allow members to expense their plane mileage, the same way they’d be allowed to do with an automobile.

Tim Edson, a spokesman for Rokita, responded by attacking GOP Rep. Luke Messer, another potential Donnelly challenger. Both men have established statewide finance committees, but neither has officially announced a Senate bid. The early attacks show how the race to challenge one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators in the country could become messy well before the May 2018 primary election.

“The only story here is that Luke Messer had a very bad week last week,” Edson said, referring to an Associated Press story outlining how an Indianapolis suburb has paid Messer’s wife hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal work even though she lives in Virginia. “Messer and his allies are lashing out in anger, with a ham-handed, false attack to distract from the fact that he has the same residency issues that led to Dick Lugar and Evan Bayh imploding during their campaigns.”

The Messer campaign attacked Rokita for using an “ethics loophole” to avoid disclosing his ownership of Hoosier Seneca.

“It is common knowledge Congressman Rokita owns an airplane, but it is news to us that he is taking taxpayer money to pay for it,” Messer political director Matt Humm said. “That said, I don’t understand why the Congressman would seek an ethics loophole to hide taxpayer funded income from the public.”

###