WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Swanky steak dinners. Hundreds of dollars at a saloon out West. There are new questions now about how former Maryland Attorney General and losing gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler is spending his leftover campaign funds.
Gansler insists all the expenses are legitimate. But we've been looking at the numbers.
Gansler says he gets asked all the time whether he'll run for governor again in two years against Republican incumbent Larry Hogan. He's not saying. But if he does run, his opponents are likely to make an issue of the expenses detailed in public filings with the state elections board.
On January 4, 2016, Doug Gansler's son posted a picture on Facebook of the family at the glitzy Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming.
This year, when Gansler filed his campaign finance report this year, it listed a whole series of expensive meals in Jackson Hole. $356 dollars at the Teton Mountain Lodge. $299 at the Four Seasons Handle Bar. $283 at Cafe Genevieve. $242 at the Pioneer Saloon in Ketchum, Idaho near Sun Valley.
All the expenses are billed as "Political Dinners." All the expenditure dates are reported as May 6, 2016. And all were reimbursed to Gansler from the tens of thousands in donations that remain in his campaign coffers from his failed 2014 race for governor.
Maryland election law says campaign funds -- even leftover campaign funds -- cannot be used for the candidate's personal expenses.
"Nobody (donates) expecting that they're going to be going and getting steak dinners two years after that elections, and two years before another election," said Damon Effingham, of the campaign finance watchdog group, Common Cause, Maryland. "It's not supposed to be a slush fund of any kind. And I'm not saying that's what this is."
Gansler lost the 2014 race after photos and video emerged of him walking through his underage son's booze-fueled beach party in Delaware.
He declined to talk to us on camera about the expenses, partly because he's recovering from hip replacement surgery. But on the phone he said: "I don't know who is trying to drum up a story, but it's kind of silly."
He insisted all the meals we're legitimate campaign expenses. He said they were meetings with longtime donors or with his campaign pollster.
But Effingham questioned whether paying for your pollsters meal makes sense. "You're hiring these people. You don't need to buy them a steak when they're working for you."
Gansler also charged his campaign more than $2,300 for two years of cell phone service. He tells me he always keeps a separate cell phone so he does not conduct campaign business on his work phone. Although as far as we know, he has not been running for anything for the last two years.
Still, he insists there is no story here, especially after he spent $8 million on his losing campaign.
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