Sen. Doug Jones took a pricey European fundraising trip this winter where he stayed at two fancy hotels in London and Paris and paid for the luxe getaway with his campaign funds, records show.
The Alabama Democrat spent $487 to stay at the K+K Hotel Cayre in Paris, billed as “a beautiful historic building located in heart of Saint Germain Des Prés” that's within walking distance to Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. The hotel boasts "soundproofed" luxury rooms and private black marble bathrooms with underfloor heating.
The red-state politician up for reelection in November also spent $1,296 at the Baglioni Hotel in London, which describes itself as “one of the finest 5-star luxury hotels in London" that's located in "one of the most exclusive, elegant and celebrated parts of the city.”
Jones’ getaway included $1,164 spent on Eurostar rail travel and $533.66 for Easy Jet airfare in England, according to campaign reports that Jones filed with the Federal Election Commission on Feb. 20.
In all, his campaign paid for nearly $3,500 in European travel expenses dispersed in January, records Jones' himself disclosed to the federal government. The expenses were related to a fundraising trip Jones took in December to collect checks from well-off Americans living abroad and wanting to support Jones’ tough fight for re-election, Fox News has learned.
“Democrats Abroad” hosted the campaign fundraiser for Jones on Saturday, Dec. 7, in Paris. He had an impressive turnout at the private reception, which included Democrats Abroad International Chair Julia Bryan, Democrats Abroad France Chair Ada Shen and Democratic National Committee representative Constance Borde, according to the Democrats Abroad website, which also shows Jones taking pics with smiling attendees.
“Senator Jones came to Paris to support Democrats Abroad! As he explained, the race to hold his seat is going to be tough. Every vote will count! Senator Jones knows the importance of the overseas vote. In tight races, Democrats Abroad is the margin of victory!” the website readout of the fundraising event stated.
Jones’ campaign did not offer a statement when asked for comment for this report.
Jones, however, personally defended the trips in an interview with Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” after this story was first published, saying: “You have to spend money to raise money, and we raised money over there – there are Democrats, Americans over there.”
It’s not the first time Jones jetted off to Europe to boost his campaign coffers. He made a fundraising trip to Geneva, Switzerland, in December 2018 to raise funds at a private reception and dinner, where suggested contributions levels topped out at $5,400.
A year ago, AL.com highlighted Jones’ $3,300 Geneva trip and found that Jones has raked in thousands while courting cash from Americans living abroad. In contrast, Alabama’s senior Sen. Richard Shelby has not taken a penny from Americans abroad in his three decades in the Senate, the website reported.
Jones has pocketed at least $100,000 from Americans living abroad in his reelection bid where he’s raised more than $10 million total, records show.
A person familiar with Jones' campaign said the overseas fundraisers with wealthier Americans living abroad are a small part of Jones’ overall campaign strategy that’s focused on Alabama. The person noted that Jones' campaign has generated far more grassroots contributions from Alabamans than any of his GOP competitors.
The Paris fundraising trip abroad helps fund Jones' campaign efforts around the state where he can connect to voters on Alabama issues, the source told Fox News.
He's not the only senator courting foreign cash.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who is also in a competitive reelection fight in November, was expected in Europe this weekend for a fundraiser in London, where ex-pat contributors are encouraged to give $100 to $1,000, according to an invitation obtained by Detroit News. Nevada U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto was also expected to attend.
An online invitation erroneously said Jones was to be in Paris this weekend for a fundraiser, which the senator denied. One GOP opponent pounced on the incorrect information as evidence that Jones' should be fired for fundraising with "liberal European Elite."
Democrats Abroad quickly clarified it was actually Peters who was having the Parisian fete this weekend.
Foreign nationals are barred from donating to American federal candidates, but U.S. citizens living or working abroad can give – and vote. Democrats Abroad will be voting on Super Tuesday in the presidential primary.
A spokesperson for Democrats Abroad characterized the foreign fundraisers as a normal part of U.S. elections.
“Republican and Democratic candidates for the U.S. House and Senate often meet with Americans living abroad during their travels around the world. Any fundraising is required to be reported to the FEC and will be detailed in candidates' FEC reports,” the emailed statement said, referencing the Federal Election Committee. “By law, Republican and Democratic candidates may only accept contributions from American citizens.”
Americans living abroad have become a financial player in elections -- especially for Democrats. Overseas citizens made almost $4.6 million in donations to federal candidates, party committees and outside spending groups like super PACs in 2016, putting their clout on par with a small state such as Alaska, the Center for Responsive Politics reported after the 2016 election.
About two-thirds of partisan donations were funneled to Democrats in 2016, a ratio that made overseas donors the 12th bluest state, just ahead of New Mexico and New York, the center's analysis found.
Jones squeaked out a victory in solidly red state Alabama in the 2017 special election over GOP nominee Roy Moore, who was widely disavowed for allegations of sexual misconduct with minors but had retained President Trump’s endorsement.
Jones is now the No. 1 Senate target for Republicans in November.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is seeking to reclaim the Senate seat he had for 20 years and faces a tough primary fight against Tommy Tuberville, the famed former Auburn University football coach, and U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne.
The primary election is Tuesday.