WASHINGTON -- A New Jersey congressman said Tuesday that he will refund and then donate to a charity all the expenses associated with his trip to a donor's wedding in Edinburgh, Scotland, that had been paid by his re-election campaign.
Democratic Rep. Robert Andrews said that his campaign complied with the law in paying for a trip that he went on last June for the wedding of the donor and volunteer campaign consultant. Reports from the Federal Election Commission show that his campaign paid $7,725 for his stay at a five-star hotel in Edinburgh. The reports listed another $2,600 in unspecified expenses paid for through the campaign's petty cash account.
The campaign did not name the donor whose wedding Andrews attended.
Andrews said he will reimburse his campaign for the hotel stay and other expenses and directed the campaign to donate the money to Volunteers of America's Delaware Valley Chapter. The group helps homeless veterans.
The expenses were first reported by The Star-Ledger of New Jersey and had generated local and national media criticism.
Andrews has maintained that the expenses were legitimate campaign expenses because the wedding was for a donor and campaign adviser. He considered it a political event, he told the Star-Ledger.
Andrews said he paid for other expenses out of his own pocket.
"All personal aspects of this trip were paid in full from our family's personal funds," Andrews said in a statement released by his office. "It is apparent, however, that discussions about this issue will interfere with the work my constituents have entrusted me to do."
A watchdog group said Tuesday that it believes Andrews violated campaign finance laws. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said that Andrews cannot evade responsibility for his actions simply by returning the money. The group said it would seek an investigation from the FEC.
Andrews, 51, is serving his 11th term representing the state's 1st Congressional District in southern New Jersey. He badly lost a bid to unseat Sen. Frank Lautenberg in 2008, but he has handily won his congressional races, most recently gaining 63 percent of the vote versus 35 percent for his Republican challenger.His FEC report shows that he spent nearly $500,000 during the first nine months of the year while raising about $280,000.