More than $14.5 million in campaign contributions has been spent on food by members of the House of Representative and candidates since January 2011, according to news reports.
The dollars have been spent on meals ranging from huge fundraising lunches to meals at country clubs, posh New York hotels and steakhouses in Washington, USA Today reports.
Dollars also were spent by campaign staffers at such chain restaurants as Dunkin' Donuts, the Olive Garden and Five Guys Burgers and Fries, the newspaper's analysis shows.
Campaign expenditures have become more scrutinized after former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost the GOP primary race in Virginia in June to college professor Dave Brat. Receipts showed that Cantor spent more on steakhouses
— $170,000 — than Brat did on his entire campaign.
"It's awfully tempting for someone in a position like that to assume without thinking: 'I've got a lot of expenses. I've got to use all the resources available to me to make my life what I think it should be,' " Bob Biersack, a former Federal Election Commission official, told USA Today.
He now works with the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.
"Separating the routine aspects of life and the routine aspects of campaigning can become harder over the years," Biersack said.
Republicans spent the most, $9.2 million, in the period, compared with $5.3 million spent by Democrats, USA Today reports.
Among the big spenders in the period were Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, who oversees efforts to elect House Republicans, and Democratic California Rep. Mike Thompson. They each spent about $300,000, according to the report.
"We wrap a lot of events around meals, so it's not surprising that we would have food and beverage expenses," said Walden spokesman Andrew Malcolm. "The key is we work hard to keep our overhead low, like any small business would do, while aggressively developing new supporters, thanking volunteers and raising the necessary funds to run effective campaigns."
Another big spender was the campaign of late Florida Rep. C. W. Bill Young, who died last October after 43 years in Congress.
The Republican spent more than $240,000 on meals and food expenses — and those included at restaurants near his home in Woodbridge, Va., USA Today reports.
When Young was hospitalized late last year at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., his campaign paid for more than $1,800 in meals at nearby restaurants and over $9,700 for lodging at a Marriott hotel nearby, according to USA Today.
Young died at Walter Reed on Oct. 18. Neither his family nor former aides responded to queries from USA Today.
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