CBS 6 INVESTIGATES: How politicians spent the cash you gave them

Posted at 12:58 PM, Feb 19, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Under federal law, every receipt of every campaign dollar a politician spends while running for office is recorded. A vast majority of the money goes toward campaign commercials. But if you dig deeper, you can find some jaw-dropping figures.

Senator Tim Kaine (D - Virginia) spent $6,000 at a New York Yankee game last summer. [Click here to see a breakdown of Sen. Kaine's campaign expenditures]

Representative Randy Forbes (R - 4th District) spent $12,000 during a golf outing at Cedar Point Country Club in Suffolk last May. [Click here to see a breakdown of Rep. Forbes' campaign expenditures]

While those numbers might surprise some voters, VCU professor Jen Thompson is not surprised at all.

"When you are talking about the highest level donor there is an expectation that the food is going to be good, the presentation is going to be good," Thompson, who managed candidates and campaigns for 20 years, said.

She said this type of spending happens "all the time" in politics, allowing even the poorest of candidates to entertain donors like a millionaire. Candidates get some of the cash to entertain the big donors from your $10 or $20 donation.

No Richmond-area congressman spent more on impressing donors than Rep. Eric Cantor (R - 7th District).

cantor moneyFederal Election Commission (FEC) filings showed that since January 2011 Congressman Cantor has spent $6.8 million on campaigning for office. [Click here to see a breakdown of Rep. Cantor's campaign expenditures]

That figure is 22 times more than Congressman Bobby Scott (D -3rd District). Rep. Scott often runs unopposed. [Click here to see a breakdown of Rep. Scott's campaign expenditures]

More than $192,000 of Rep. Cantor's money was spent atBobby Van's Steakhouse in Washington, D.C.More than $49,000 was spent at The Jefferson, a hotel in Richmond.

Representatives for Rep. Cantor declined an on-camera interview, but campaign manager Ray Allen defended the spending.

“We take our responsibility to be good stewards of campaign funds quite seriously," Allen said in a statement. "Yes, we do feel that we spend our campaign funds wisely, and yes we believe that our donors agree.”

So what do campaigns get in return for spending money on donors? A chance to raise even more money for their own campaign.Kaine money

For Sen. Kaine, that $6,000 tab at the Yankees game yielded $70,000 in donations to the campaign.

Last fall, Wayne Powell lost his election to Rep. Cantor by 18 points. He said the campaign immersed him into this secret world of politics, a world where writing $10,000 checks is commonplace.

He said he sometimes felt he wrote checks that were not necessary.

"There’s a whole cottage industry that has grown up around campaigning," he said.

Powell said very little money was spent on pamphlets and campaign signs. He said most of the money was spent on campaign commercials and the consultants who create them.

Powell said one of the consultants told him to shave his beard.

Wayne Powell beard

"You paid an actual guy to tell you to shave your beard?," CBS 6 political reporter Joe St. George asked.

"I believe indirectly I did yes," Powell replied. "I'd say maybe five grand."

The expenses are part of the political game. Something to consider the next time you click ‘donate’ on your favorite politician’s campaign page.