Running as outsider, Budd campaign now dines mostly in “the swamp”

Ted Budd’s rise from gun store owner to member of Congress was built on being a Washington outsider. But in the first 18 months since he assumed office, Budd’s campaign finance reports show that he spent more than 20 times as much money on D.C. dining than he did on food and drink back in his home state of North Carolina.

An analysis of Federal Election Commission disbursements from Jan. 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018 shows “Ted Budd for Congress” paid out around $23,000 for food and beverage across the Washington, D.C., area. Almost $20,000 was centered in the 20003 ZIP code, home of swamp mainstays like the Republican Capitol Hill Club, where he made 31 payments totaling $7,800.

As of June 2018, his campaign had not dined in North Carolina in more than a year.

In his 2016 campaign ads, Budd proclaimed he was running to “turn D.C. inside out then get back home as soon as possible.” Less than one month after being sworn in as representative for North Carolina’s newly redrawn 13th District, Budd moved quickly, introducing a bill with colleague Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) called the “Drain the Swamp Act.” The legislation pushed to move government agencies outside of Washington.

“Americans made it clear that they are fed up with the disconnect between the DC elite and the hardworking American people, and I agree,” Budd said in February 2017. “The legislation that Warren and I introduced will help address this detachment by moving these government agencies into the same neighborhoods as the people they are serving across the country.”

The “Drain the Swamp Act” never moved past the introduction phase. But Budd was active during his first term, with 241 bills introduced through October 2018 and seven that became law. As he looks to secure a second term, filings show his campaign was also active – at D.C. restaurants.

Other Capitol Hill restaurants listed on the Budd campaign’s filings included Acqua Al 2 (two payments, $2,879), an Italian place which features $14 cocktails and $16 glasses of wine. Ambar (one payment, $1,716) is a small-plate Balkan spot, with specials including a $59-per-person, all-you-can-eat-and-drink menu for groups of 10-15 people.

Reached by phone Thursday, Budd campaign manager Elizabeth Oglesby declined to comment.

Since his election, Budd — whose district stretches from Greensboro in the northeast to Mooresville in the southwest — has continued to portray himself as an outsider to the political culture of Washington. In a December 2017 profile by the Greensboro News & Record, Budd explained how his home life in D.C. was a simple one. He turned away from the struggles of assimilating to the federal culture, opting for a fold-out bed in his office and showers at the Capitol gym.

In early October, WFMY-TV in Greensboro asked Budd if the living situation was true. He responded yes, adding “It keeps me focused on home and not getting too comfortable in Washington.” Budd is also known for returning on weekends to his 300-acre Davie County farm.

However, the congressman’s campaign spent far less money on food and beverage in North Carolina. His campaign picked up the tab only five times in North Carolina during his first year-and-a-half in office, with much more modest checks. The biggest food and beverage bill in North Carolina was at Gordon Biersch, a national chain brewery restaurant, where the campaign spent $355.57 on Jan. 3, 2017. The payment was on the first day of the current congressional session and the brew pub has one North Carolina location — Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Two payments were in Budd’s home district to Greensboro restaurants – $234.20 at Natty Greene’s Brewing Company and $232.70 at Undercurrent Restaurant. The remaining two places were non-traditional “food/beverage” payments to An Extraordinary Event LLC ($300), an event planning company, and Bell Strategies LLC ($40) – a firm that received more than $20,000 from Budd for “campaign management” services.

Budd’s 2016 campaign had no food and beverage expenses at D.C. restaurants. He spent $11,000 on 14 N.C. payments for catering, meals and event food/beverage. — less than half of his re-election campaign’s $23,000 D.C. tab through June.

Budd’s Washington-centric spending on food and drink stands in contrast to his campaign’s overall spending, which was 60 percent in North Carolina. His in-state spending went mostly toward repaying his own loan to his campaign, accounting, fundraising and campaign management.

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