When New Jersey Rep. Rob Andrews used campaign funds to pay for a family trip to Scotland, an unusual compliance officer signed off: his wife.You may remember Dean Andrews and Rutgers-Camden from such emails and press releases as "many [of our 2011 graduates] accepted positions with firms paying in excess of $130,000," ["many" in this context turned out to be a term of art meaning "one"] and "we understated our graduates' debt levels by a factor of three while claiming to be one of the biggest bargains in legal education."
Camille Andrews, a lawyer and associate dean at the Rutgers-Camden law school, also oversees legal questions about Andrews' political spending.
So when the Democratic congressman decided in 2011 that the couple and their two daughters should fly to Edinburgh and stay in a five-star hotel for a wedding, he relied on her judgment that they could use campaign accounts to cover the $30,115 tab, according to statements in a recently unveiled ethics investigation.
Now Andrews has dusted off her Con Law casebook, and skimmed New York Times v. Sullivan, so she could bluster to the Philadelphia Inquirer that she's not kidding around about protecting her professional reputation, such as it is:
The wedding was for a onetime political operative Rob Andrews said he hoped to recruit to help in campaigns, so he has argued that the expenses were tied to his political work.
Details of Camille Andrews' role emerged in a 244-page report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, a nonpartisan board that reviews ethics complaints and sends potential violations to the House ethics committee.
Testimony in the report, released Aug. 31, offers a revealing glimpse of the 22-year congressman, highlighting his hopes to expand his influence in the House and his reliance on a small circle of advisers, including his wife.
I wonder what Camille Andrews teaches at Rutgers-Camden? Hmmm . . . let's see . . . ah yes.
The trip to Edinburgh, a bustling city that blends ancient spires and an imposing castle with modern shopping and restaurants, drew the most attention from the ethics board.
Andrews, 55, decides which events to attend, he told Office of Congressional Ethics investigators. His wife determines whether campaign funds can pay for them.
That pattern held for the Scotland trip. Andrews told investigators he was "perfectly comfortable and confident" in his wife's judgment.
"Camille serves as our compliance officer. . . . She is one of the three best lawyers I know - maybe five," he said in a 57-minute interview with the board March 6.
"I made an evaluation and decision that I thought it was an appropriate expenditure," Camille Andrews said in her meeting with the board.
She was referring to the $16,575 in flights to Scotland paid for by the congressman's leadership fund.
The rest came from Andrews' campaign account, which is used for a range of expenses as varied as $2.50 for cafeteria coffee to $1,123 in Tiffany's purchases. Rob Andrews told investigators that the Tiffany's items were not personal purchases and were likely gifts for a campaign donor or volunteer.
Other members of Congress have used spouses as compliance officers, said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen.
"It is a conflict of interest, and it lacks all credibility," he said . . .
Camille Andrews wrote that her husband's responses to questions about this article "reflect my position."
"I am not a public figure," she wrote. "I will respond to any reports or comments that disparage me or portray me deliberately in a false professional light by pursuing appropriate legal recourse."
There are days when the jokes just write themselves.