Report: GOP Primary Presidential Candidates Spent Millions in Leftover Campaign Funds on Private Jets, Hotel Stays

Leftover campaigns funds went toward private jets and hotel stays.

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Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain speaks during the annual Tax Cut Rally, sponsored by the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, at the Minnesota State Capitol, Saturday, April 28, 2012, in St. Paul, Minn. (Genevieve Ross/AP Photo)

Former GOP presidential candidates spent millions in leftover campaign funds months after they dropped out of the race, according to a new report from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, shared exclusively with Whispers.

While some of those leftover funds toward went campaign debt, much of it also went toward high-priced travel.

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The report shows Herman Cain's campaign spent thousands on private jet companies and other transportation services, including chauffeured travel. The campaign also paid thousands for travel to his motivational speaking company, T.H.E. New Voice Inc., according to the report. Cain's campaign spent $4.9 million in total after he ended his bid for the presidency, the most of any candidate, according to the report, which used data from the Federal Election Commission.

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(Credit: CREW)

Cain's executive assistant was unable to provide details on the money spent before this story was published.

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Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, was found to have spent $880,000 after he dropped out of the race—thousands of which similarly went toward luxury travel. According to the report, Gingrich's campaign made a $12,500 payment to a private jet firm more than a month after he left the race, and also spent more than $30,000 on hotels.

Gingrich tells Whispers he "wasn't directly involved" with the payments, but believes they went toward paying off debt and "previously incurred expenses." Gingrich's debts after the race totaled nearly $5 million, according to the report.

Candidates often have to pay off debt when a campaign closes down, including for travel, as well as a number of other expenses, such as consulting and marketing firms, lawyers and accountants, and other employees. According to the FEC, former candidates can also legally spend the left over money on a charity or political party.

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Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, tells Whispers she finds expenses on travel several months after campaigns shut down troubling.

"The scandal isn't what's illegal, it's what legal. When people make contribution to a presidential campaign, they believe they're supporting a candidate, not a candidate's lifestyle," she says.

Among the other bizarre expenses the report turned up was nearly $7,400 Texas Gov. Rick Perry appears to have spent on parking after his campaign was suspended, an expenditure Perry's office could not provide details on before this story was published.

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Former Texas congressman Ron Paul spent the least of any candidate after his campaign concluded, according to the report, dishing out less than $800,000, some of which went to refund donors after Paul did not get the Republican nomination.

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or reach her at eflock@usnews.com.