Rep. Luis Gutierrez's campaign committee spent more than $130,000 on hotels, airfare and other travel expenses to destinations like Las Vegas, New York, Puerto Rico and Mexico over the past five years.

One out of every 4 dollars raised by Rep. Bobby Rush's committee went to the congressman's wife, who collects a regular salary for managing the campaign.

And Rep. Aaron Schock's campaign spent more than $2,600 on cuff links, paid $390 to a seaplane company based in the British Virgin Islands and spent more than $1,500 on concert tickets.

Under federal election laws, the expenditures, disclosed in campaign finance filings to the Federal Election Commission, are legal as long as they served a political or campaign purpose.

But critics say they are examples of how campaign funds can boost lawmakers' lifestyles and how the line between personal and campaign spending can be blurred.

Candidates who cross the line can face legal trouble even years later. Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is serving time in prison for misusing $750,000 in campaign funds. Prosecutors said Jackson passed off personal purchases as campaign expenses by filing false and misleading disclosure reports to the FEC.

To see how Illinois' representatives have spent campaign money, the Tribune reviewed five years of campaign spending reports by the 18 representatives and two senators who represent Illinois in Congress. The public disclosure forms, which are collected and reviewed by the FEC largely on an honor system, are the only way for donors and constituents to know how their representatives are spending the millions of dollars that flow through campaign committees.

The reports revealed patterns in how the members spent campaign money.

More than a third of the delegation, mostly those who faced competitive races in one or both of the past two elections, spent heavily on media and advertising.

Meanwhile, lawmakers who faced little if any competition for re-election spent the most on travel, meals and cars, and employed spouses or relatives on their campaign staffs.

Some of those campaigns said in interviews that the spending helped their candidates promote policy efforts or perform party leadership roles.

Others, like Schock's campaign, would not discuss specific expenditures.


A rising star in the Republican Party, Schock is one of the delegation's most successful fundraisers. The 32-year-old is known for his good looks — he showed off his six-pack abs on the cover of Men's Health magazine in 2011 — and sharp style.

He is one of the delegation's heaviest spenders on travel and meals, which totaled more than $340,000 between his campaign and leadership committees.

For example, the campaign picked up the bill for three meals on a single day in September, according to the disclosure filings: $310 at the Capitol Hill Club; $334 at Fiola, an Italian restaurant near the Capitol; and $677 at Filomena Ristorante in Washington's Georgetown district.

Since 2011, the campaign spent more than $19,000 on hotel rooms and parties in the mountain resort town of Vail, Colo.

Disclosure reports state that the Vail expenditures were for event catering, lodging, travel and fundraising. But the committee has raised just $6,250 in contributions of $200 or more from Colorado residents since 2009, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Schock came under fire last year when the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington flagged a $1,136 expenditure at a luxury hotel in Greece. Schock paid his campaign back for the expense, acknowledging that the hotel bill was not a campaign expense.

Steven Shearer, Shock's chief of staff, told the Tribune at the time that the expenditure was mistakenly reported on campaign finance disclosures because a credit card receipt was "included with a stack of other legitimate campaign expenses."