After hours of often contentious debate, members of Congress can now use campaign money to pay for bodyguards. The decision came down from Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Thursday.
Under the new FEC ruling, Senate and House members can pay for the bodyguards with campaign donations without violating the prohibition on personal use. The personal use restriction had been in place for decades.
Until now, only a small number of members in leadership positions receive full-time protective details from the Capitol Police, including the House Speaker, House and Senate Majority and Minority Leader, and House and Senate whips. Rank-and-file members sometimes only receive added protection in response to specific concerns.
The FEC ruling comes after attorneys representing the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee submitted a letter (pdf) to the six-member commission on Jan. 26 asking for guidance on whether lawmakers can use campaign funds to pay for personal security personnel “to protect the Member and the Member’s immediate family from threatened harm.”
During the violent protests across the country in 2020 and at the Capitol riot Jan. 6, 2021, dozens of members of Congress received threats to themselves and family.
“In light of current events involving concrete threats of physical violence against Members and their families, Members have been compelled to consider further security measures for themselves and their families,” the officials in their letter January. “As has been well-documented in the media, Members and their families continue to endure threats and security breaches, which are being timely reported to appropriate law enforcement officials.”
The decision on bodyguards for Congress comes after the commission previously ruled that lawmakers could pay for home-security systems with campaign cash. The issue was highlighted when Josh Hawley’s Washington DC home became the target of Antifa while his wife and children were home alone and without protection. Antifa is a violent fascist anarchist group that regularly targets journalists, law enforcement, white voters and Republicans.
In June 2017, a leftist gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a baseball field, wounding senior Republican leader Steve Scalise (pdf).
Capitol law enforcement reported that in 2020, 4,894 threats were made against Congress. That is up from 902 threats in 2016.