A gift to the Washington travel advisory board was not an illegal donation, but it is an example of the kind of conflict-of-interest that could put a stop to the travel industry’s fundraising efforts.
The gift to Washington Travel Advisory Board (WTAB) was approved by a subcommittee of the committee headed by Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., on Friday, a committee spokesman said.
The subcommittee is made up of travel industry executives and experts who are supposed to ensure the advisory board is effective in helping the travel market succeed.
A source close to WTAB said the board did not request the gift and the committee did not approve it.
A donation to a travel advisory group does not require approval from the Federal Election Commission, which is what McCain’s subcommittee did.
The PAC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The committee chairman, Representative Tom Reed, R, R.I., who chairs the committee, is a member of the Senate Committee on Ethics, which has jurisdiction over federal elections.
The ethics office said it is investigating whether the PAC violated campaign finance laws.
McCain’s panel also has jurisdiction in Washington, D.C., over the U.S. Capitol.
McCain said in a statement that he is “deeply disappointed” that WTAHBC gave the PAC money without his committee’s approval.
He said he believes the donation violated the law because the PAC “has not disclosed its financial interests in the advisory committee or its advisory board.”
McCain’s committee has been considering the PAC’s fundraising practices, including whether it should be required to disclose how much it raises.
WTABC, which does not have to disclose its financial dealings, raised $1.7 million last year.
McCain, who has said he will not run for reelection in 2020, said the PAC should disclose its donors.
“It’s a gift, and I don’t want to see it go to waste,” McCain said at a news conference.
“This is a gift to a powerful group that has a significant influence on the travel trade and I think we ought to do everything we can to help it succeed.”
The WTABIB PAC raised $2.1 million last summer and has raised $10.4 million since, according to campaign finance records.
The group did not disclose its fundraising total to the FEC last month.
The WPTB PAC is run by its members and serves as a conduit for their advocacy.
WPTBIB said it will be making a contribution to the WTABEB PAC, which McCain’s PAC also plans to give money to.
“We welcome any help to help our advisory board in its mission to ensure that the industry can flourish,” the PAC said in its statement.
The Washington Post has not independently verified the PAC contribution or the WPTBEBPAC contribution.
The board has previously received donations from two former McCain staffers, Matt McElroy, who is currently chairman of the McCain campaign, and Michael L. Fink, who was a senior adviser to McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.
McCain announced earlier this month that he will be running for reelection to a fourth term in 2020.