Mel Martinez isn't running, but he's still spending campaign cash

U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez announced eight months ago that he would not seek reelection but has continued to spend campaign donations on consultants, staff, air fares, meals, cellphones and purchases at the Senate gift shop.

Federal Election Commission records show Martinez has spent $147,642 since his Dec. 2 announcement. He also returned $419,051 to his contributors, with $456,200 remaining in the account as of June 30.

Federal law gives officeholders wide latitude to spend campaign donations on anything related to their election or in connection with their official duties.

"My general advice is, 'contributors beware,' '' said Paul Ryan, an election law expert at the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based watchdog group. "The door is close to wide open for what federal officeholders can do with the money in their coffers.''

Martinez's campaign treasurer, Tampa accountant Nancy Watkins, said the senator has adhered to federal law.

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