Edwards' campaign spent nearly $900G in 2011 despite FEC complaint

June 3, 2011: John Edwards makes a brief statement to the press outside of the U.S. District Court after pleading not guilty to six federal criminal felony charges in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

June 3, 2011: John Edwards makes a brief statement to the press outside of the U.S. District Court after pleading not guilty to six federal criminal felony charges in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  (Reuters)

John Edwards' failed presidential campaign racked up close to $900,000 in expenses in 2011, according to newly filed finance reports, dropping thousands of dollars on airfare and hotels despite a ruling from federal election officials that he still owes taxpayers more than $2.1 million. 

The dozens of pages of filings for the year do not go into detail about where the flights were headed or where the hotels were booked. The purpose of the travel expenses was not clear. 

But they appeared to criss-cross the country. In January, August and December, the campaign spent $2,268 for tickets on Alaska Airlines, a transcontinental carrier that does not offer flights between East Coast cities such as Raleigh or Washington. 

One Delta flight, to an unknown location, cost nearly $2,300. Other payments went to cell phone companies, consulting and law firms and other expenses. Total expenses reported for 2011 were about $870,000. 

The report comes as federal election officials say Edwards owes taxpayers more than $2.1 million in public matching funds improperly received after he dropped his 2008 run for the White House

Incidentally, the campaign reported having $2.1 million in cash on hand at the end of 2011 -- though it also reported owing no money. 

Edwards' hopes for the Democratic presidential nomination imploded in a sex scandal four years ago that left him facing criminal charges. 

Patricia A. Fiori, one of four lawyers working for Edwards in the Federal Election Commission case, said this week she could not comment, referring questions to the campaign. Attempts by The Associated Press to find anyone who could comment for the campaign were unsuccessful. 

Judith Ingram, the FEC's spokeswoman, said Wednesday she could not comment on whether the agency has a pending enforcement action against Edwards. 

In a separate criminal case filed by the U.S. Justice Department last year, Edwards, who made millions as a trial lawyer, is accused of concealing nearly $1 million provided by two wealthy donors to hide his pregnant mistress as he ran for president. 

Politicians are barred by law from using campaign funds for personal expenses. The required year-end report filed by Edwards on Jan. 31 provides little insight into what political purpose some of the campaign's recent expenses might serve. 

Melanie Sloan, executive director of the campaign-finance watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said it's not unusual for presidential campaigns to remain open years after the election is over, especially if there is an unresolved audit or unpaid debts. 

"All they are allowed to do are activities to wind down the campaign," Sloan said. "If these are legitimate expenses, then the Edwards campaign should be willing to explain them." 

Edwards' campaign reports show more than $15,000 spent in 2011 on airfare, though the destinations or purpose of the travel were not listed. 

Most of the $12,811 in credit card charges for lodging were made to websites such as Hotels.com and Kayak.com, providing no information about where the rooms were booked, when or for what purpose. 

More than $266,000 was paid for salary, payroll and health insurance premiums, along with $1,116 for cell phones. Though the campaign appears to have no office, it paid $428 to a bottled water delivery company. 

The largest expense, $315,000, was paid to Utrecht & Phillips, the Washington law firm fighting last year's unanimous FEC ruling that Edwards must return its remaining funds to taxpayers. 

Edward L. Niles, a former Edwards campaign staffer who got nearly $31,000 in consulting fees, said the payments had nothing to do with his current job as targeting director at The Atlas Project, a political consulting firm in Washington. He declined to say what work, if any, he performed for Edwards in 2011. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.