Regulator sniffs scented oxygen on taxpayer-funded RNC trip

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Members of the Federal Election Commission are in Cleveland this week for the Republican National Convention, and on Tuesday, at least one could be seen using the taxpayer-funded trip to sniff some scented oxygen.

Five of the federal agency's six commissioners are in the city for the convention, a spokesman for the agency said Wednesday, in addition to five agency staffers. Just one of the commissioners, Republican Lee Goodman, committed to covering his own costs on the trip.

At least one of Goodman's colleagues, Democratic Commissioner Ann Ravel, could be seen at an oxygen bar hosted by the U.S. Travel Association in a picture posted to Twitter on Tuesday. The contraption, which works through tubules inserted in the nose, provides scented oxygen reputed to have a "therapeutic effect," according to an explanatory article on medical site WebMD.

The photograph came fresh off the heels of a Monday protest Ravel attended outside the convention hall, where she criticized money in politics. "Republicans, Independents and Democrats are concerned that their votes don't count because of the prevalence of campaign-finance issues," Ravel said.

The cost of the trip to taxpayers was not immediately clear, though experts estimate it to be around $2,000 per person. A 2004 trip taken by three Democratic commissioners to that party's national convention in Boston cost about $1,500 each, an agency spokesman said at the time. Adjusting for inflation, the same trip would cost about $1,914 in 2016, which would bring the total cost to approximately $18,000.

Other commissioners at the convention included Republican Caroline Hunter and Democrats Ellen Weintraub and Steven Walther. Commission Chairman Matthew Petersen, a Republican, did not attend.