Rohrabacher defends wife’s pay

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COSTA MESA — Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) on Friday responded to a published report showing that more than half of his campaign donations for a three-month period went to his wife, who works as his campaign manager.

“The only people who’ve paid attention to this are the people scouring all the details that are looking into something that they can try and make look like it’s some kind of violation or ethically wrong,” Rohrabacher said. “Obviously, this is the only thing they can find.”

The OC Weekly reported Wednesday that in July, August and September, Rohrabacher’s campaign raised $22,000 and that his wife, Rhonda Rohrabacher, was paid $11,026, or 50%, of the money raised in that time frame.

A review of campaign finance records confirmed the Weekly’s numbers.

When asked about the story, the congressman urged the Daily Pilot to look at a longer time frame.

According to Federal Election Commission records, the Committee to Re-Elect Congressman Dana Rohrabacher raised more than $234,000 in 2011. Between April and June, the campaign raised about $193,000, and Rhonda Rohrabacher was paid about $11,000.

The 12-term congressman, who is running for reelection in 2012, said he pays his wife about $50,000 a year to operate his campaign, which generally works out to about 10% of his annual contributions, depending on the year.

Rhonda Rohrabacher said the campaign she runs for her husband is a full-time job.

“I built his website from scratch. I do all the database management,” she said. “I do the job of, like, five people.

“I’m his eyes and ears on the ground. If you want to maintain being in touch with the grassroots in the district the way he is, it behooves him to do something on the ground.”

Though congressional incumbents rarely lose reelection, Rohrabacher said he needs to spend money on a reelection campaign in case a wealthy challenger appears on the scene and tries to outspend him.

“When you represent an affluent district, there are millionaires that are bored that would love to be congressmen,” Rohrabacher said. “You have to maintain a level of campaign and political structure so people with money won’t come in to challenge you because they think you’re weak.”

The congressman also said there is nothing illegal or unethical about employing a spouse to run a congressional campaign.

Rohrabacher’s campaign reported having $416,192.75 on hand at the end of September.

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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