Jim Webb faces scrutiny for PAC payments to family

Posted at 6:27 PM, Dec 31, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-31 18:27:20-05

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The first man out the gate in the 2016 race for the White House is already facing scrutiny over payments his PAC made to his wife and daughter.

A political action committee headed by Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, the Democrat who launched a presidential exploratory committee last month, has paid more than $90,000 to his wife and daughter since late 2006 — with close to half of that amount doled out in 2014 alone, according to FEC filings. The information was first reported by Business Insider.

A Webb spokesperson defended the expenses in an email to CNN, explaining that payments to Webb’s wife and daughter increased in 2014 to a total of $37,000 to revamp Webb’s personal website and create his 2016 exploratory committee page before he announced his plans to fundraise for a prospective presidential bid.

“Adding up numbers across several years for a sensational headline doesn’t tell the story,” the spokesperson said. “The activities of the PAC increased in 2014 when Jim Webb decided to re-enter the political discussions of our country.”

The spokesperson added that the payments were “well within the law” and “much lower” than typical compensation.

Webb’s daughter, Amy Webb Hogan, drew most of the disbursements, charging her father’s PAC $24,000 in 2014 alone for “administrative consulting services,” which included administering, managing and designing the PAC’s website, Sen. Webb’s personal site and creating the Webb2016 website.

Webb Hogan is the CEO of Webbmedia Group, a digital strategy firm based in Baltimore, though the payments from the PAC went directly to her.

Sen. Webb’s wife, Hong Le Webb, made $13,800 in 2014 for “website services,” which included “vetting design consultants, negotiating contracts and content management,” Webb’s spokesperson said.

She also received more than $1,000 in travel reimbursements from the PAC.

Sen. Webb was also reimbursed $4,100 in travel expenses tied to an August 2014 trip to Iowa to campaign for candidates and meet prospective key supporters in the key primary state.

The PAC has not spent any of its funds on donations to political candidates or groups since Oct. 2010, though it has continued to receive donations from supporters, according to FEC filings. And the payments to Webb’s family amount to nearly 10% of all contributions the PAC received and only about 20% of donations to the PAC went to political candidates or groups, Business Insider reported.

The Born Fighting PAC continues to accept donations online and the website now also links to Sen. Webb’s 2016 exploratory committee website.

Webb, a Marine Corps veteran, touted his bipartisan credentials and his military ties in a 14-minute video he posted last month announcing his intention to form an exploratory committee for 2016, which allows him to raise funds for a potential run and is typically the first step to formally announcing a presidential bid.

If he does, Webb will likely face former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Democrats’ primary process, who is expected to announce a presidential bid next year.