Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s use of campaign funds for ex ‘body man’ raises ethics questions

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Ethics experts are questioning whether the head of congressional Democrats’ campaign arm, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, used his House and campaign cash for “personal services” with the hiring of an aide — who told The Post his role was to serve as the lawmaker’s “body man.”

Maloney (D-NY) — who in 2020 became chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — hired lifelong Floridian Harold Leath, for whom Maloney’s campaign forked over the money for the move north, in 2014, records show.

The “unusual” and “strange” description of Leath’s role and his whereabouts raised numerous “red flags,” that may be worth a probe, political spending experts and federal ethics watchdogs told The Post.

Leath – who, when he first moved to New York, registered to vote at the Putnam County house where Maloney and his husband lived – began his tenure with the congressman that spring as an “executive assistant” in his government office, House spending records show. He then was classified by expenditure reports as a part-time employee and campaign worker.

Reps for Maloney maintained to The Post that there was no wrongdoing by Maloney or the campaign in connection with Leath’s hiring and role.

Leath recently explained his job as a “body man” for the politician.

United States Representative Sean Patrick Maloney
Rep. Maloney hired the aide in 2014.
Ron Sachs – CNP

“I was pretty much with the congressman everywhere he went within the district — if he went to a meeting, if he went out running. I would drive him everywhere he needed to go,” he told The Post from his Hell’s Kitchen apartment.

“When I first started, my main responsibility was to make sure the congressman and his family never needed anything,” Leath recalled. “I was to be there.”

“Everything I got paid for was either for his campaign, in the beginning, or doing something for him.”

His presence was in part a way for Maloney to craft a public persona, he explained.

“The body man is one of the most important positions that Sean created to help him and help fix the image he wanted to portray,” said Leath, now 40 and working for an event promotion company.

While Leath days later painted a different picture of his role, social media posts support Leath’s initial account of his close relationship with Maloney and his kin that appeared to extend beyond work activities.

In an April 29, 2015 Instagram post, for example, Maloney’s husband Randy Florke shared a photo of Leath and the couple’s son and captioned it, “Family and friends watching Essie’s softball game!” Essie is one of Maloney’s three children.

Leath and others
Leath was seen pictured with Maloney’s family.
Instagram/randyflorke

Three years later, on July 4, 2018, Florke posted a picture on Facebook of Leath sitting at a table with him, Maloney and their kids at a gathering. 

The next day, Leath shared a photo of himself swimming in what appears to be the pool on Maloney’s property.  

He also attended Maloney and Florke’s June 2014, wedding, according to pictures posted on Facebook by Florke’s business associate Jesse Escue.

Maloney’s campaign noted that all staff were invited to the couple’s wedding.

Ann Ravel – a former Democratic chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, the agency tasked with enforcing campaign finance law – when presented with Leath’s statements, said, “It sounds like he was employed to do personal services,” and expressed that she was “stunned” by the information and quotes from Leath that The Post presented to her.  

Leath at Maloney's wedding
Leath was also in attendance at Maloney’s wedding.
Facebook

“Some of those things he’s describing seem extraordinary,” she said. 

“I’m sort of stunned,” Ravel added. “If it’s a consistent act and a consistent behavior, it’s problematic to use campaign funds on something of that nature.”

Elisa Sumner, a former Dutchess County Democratic Chairwoman, questioned the DCCC chair’s use of public dollars. 

“Sean Patrick Maloney has always used his office to benefit himself — not his voters,” she alleged. “The Democratic Party needs leadership that actually puts Democratic principles first, instead of a self-serving politician.”

The government affairs head at a watchdog group said it’s important for lawmakers to ensure they separate the personal from the professional. 

“The constituents did not elect the family of Sean Patrick Maloney; they elected Sean Patrick Maloney,” said Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, of the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight. “There needs to be a bright dividing line there.”

Kedric Payne – vice president of the Campaign Legal Center and former deputy chief counsel for the Office of Congressional Ethics — said, “I think it’s for the congressman’s office to quickly let voters know the answers to these red flags, and depending on what those responses are, the [Office of Congressional Ethics] should investigate.”

“Voters have the right to know that elected officials are following the ethics laws, so this office needs to explain what’s happening here,” he added.

Leath sits with Maloney and his family in 2018.
Leath sits with Maloney and his family in 2018.
Facebook

A spokesperson for Maloney did not dispute that Leath frequently spent time with the congressman and his kin outside of work and assisted the family, but said he was never instructed or asked by staff or Maloney to do so. Any personal services Leath, who replaced a previous staffer in assistant role, told The Post he performed were voluntary, explained the rep.

“Over his 4.5 years with our office, Harold Leath was never asked by anyone, including the congressman, his staff, or family, to do any work for the Congressman or his family in a personal capacity,” said Matthew McNally, Maloney’s chief of staff, in a prepared statement.

Campaign spokesperson Mia Ehrenberg said, “Harold Leath provided transportation and logistical support as the congressman’s driver and body person.”

“He was never asked to do any work for the member or his family in a personal capacity by anyone, including the member, his family, the campaign or the official office,” the rep added.

Ehrenberg’s statement labeled The Post’s reporting a “hit piece” that is “entirely and demonstrably false.”

“The accusations that Rep. Maloney employs a ‘body person’ to assist with logistics and transportation and that he provides temporary supporter housing to campaign staff are completely normal practices for campaigns and members of Congress,” she insisted.  

Harlod Leath shared a photo of himself swimming in what appears to be the pool on Sean Patrick Maloney’s property.
Harlod Leath shared a photo of himself swimming in what appears to be the pool on Sean Patrick Maloney’s property.
Facebook/Harold H. Leath Jr.

Maloney was first elected to Congress in 2012, after time in the Bill Clinton White House, then as a general counsel at a tech start-up — which, as The Post reported in June, he repeatedly and falsely claimed to have started “from scratch” — and a lawyer at white shoe firms.

In 2020, he was chosen to head the DCCC, which helps recruit House candidates, raises money and provides campaign strategy.

Now, he is running to represent a different, newly drawn district in New York City’s suburbs against state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi. If he beats Biaggi in the Aug. 23 primary, Maloney will face Republican Mike Lawler of Rockland County in the November general election.

The race is poised to be a close one, according to a recent poll.

In March 2014, Leath was paid as an “Executive Assistant” in Maloney’s House office, and subsequently received compensation in April of that year as a “part-time employee.”

That month, Leath registered to vote in New York State from the same Cold Spring home Maloney and his husband had purchased the year before. Leath appears to be the only Maloney House office or campaign staffer to have registered to vote at Maloney’s home address, records show.

Leath doing pushups
Leath does pushups while working a phone bank event.
Facebook

Leath — who played college football at West Virginia University and Florida International University, where he majored in business — said he did not live with the couple, despite registering to vote at their address. 

“I did not live with the congressman; I lived near there,” he said. “I lived a few houses down with a gentleman named Chuck McGill who lived in the neighborhood.”

“I just moved up to New York and tried to get my feet wet and hit the ground running with an adequate place to stay.” 

A rep for Maloney’s campaign told The Post Leath lived in the congressman’s guest room for a few days when he first moved to New York, but subsequently moved to a home owned by another person.

Asked during a follow-up phone interview why he opted to register at the lawmaker’s home, Leath replied, “I didn’t move into that place yet” referring to where he lived with McGill, who property records show sold Maloney and his husband their house. 

Leath working at phone bank
Leath told The Post that his main responsibility was to “make sure the congressman and his family never needed anything.”
Facebook

“I didn’t have a physical address when I moved up to New York from Miami, Florida. When I first moved up there, I didn’t have a place yet, so I was scrambling looking for places,” he continued. “I was staying with mutual friends, that’s all, until I found a place of my own.”

He also seemed to change his tune about how he spent his time while on Maloney’s staff following the first conversation, claiming he didn’t perform anything “personal” and that “everything was related to work.”

During The Post’s second interview with Leath, the Manhattan resident, who had worked a series of retail and service industry jobs before being hired and moved to New York by the congressman, gushed about his former employer.

He characterized Maloney as “the best boss in the world” and “one of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life.”

Experts and watchdogs were skeptical.

“It all seems unseemly, and possibly inappropriate,” Ravel said of Leath’s initial comments. “It’s unusual.”

“I think it should be investigated, because it seems overly broad, and not for political purposes,” Ravel said of Leath’s original description of his job. “This should be looked at certainly. When people contribute to campaigns, they don’t expect it to be used like this.”  

The five-term congressman met Leath through Florke — whom the Democratic legislator married in 2014 and with whom he owned an apartment in Miami between 2005 and 2013, according to Leath and property records.  

“Randy was actually the one who mentioned it to me. I thought it was kind of funny when he mentioned it to me, and I was like, ‘Oh really, yeah, right, OK, we’ll see what happens,’ but the next thing you know, he was like, ‘Let’s do this, we need you here, we can’t have you down there, we’re running for office and we need you here,’” Leath recalled. 

“I was not in politics before I got the job. I had a history of being very sociable, we had a lot of mutual friends, which is how we met, and we hit it off in the sense we liked a lot of the same things, we were very close in the sense of people we knew,” he explained. 

“That’s how everything started. They also had a place in Miami and they actually lived next door to my best friend, whose name is Matt, who was my roommate in college for about four years.” 

A rep for Maloney disputed Leath’s account, insisting Florke never influenced his husband’s hiring decisions.

Campaign finance records also suggest Maloney — whose district includes Rockland County and parts of Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties in the Hudson Valley – spent time in Miami Beach between December 2012 and January 2014.

He was in the Sunshine State for fundraising events, according to a rep for the House member.

On March 6, 2014 a man shared a photo on Facebook of Leath with someone else and captioned the post, “Celebratory Last meal with Harold as he gets ready for his congressional debut as a Personal Assistant!” 

Maloney, Leath, unidentified person at table
The photo was captioned, “Celebratory Last meal with Harold as he gets ready for his congressional debut as a Personal Assistant!” 
Facebook

The same day, another friend posted the identical snap on the social media platform and wrote, “Bon voyage congratulations to Harold who is moving to New York to work for a US Congressman! ”  

The next day, a week before Leath registered to vote in New York State, “Sean Patrick Maloney for Congress” made an $800 payment to the Miami Gardens-based Ocean Moving and Storage, according to FEC records. The “purpose of disbursement” was labeled “moving expenses.”  

Maloney’s rep confirmed Wednesday the expenses were for Leath’s relocation from Florida to the Empire State. The practice is legal but not common for aides in Leath’s position, according to several sources familiar with House spending practices.

A senior aide for a Republican House member, who has worked on Capitol Hill for seven years, told The Post that it is not the standard practice for a campaign to pay for a low-level staffer to move to a different state.  

“For a junior person, that seems to be a little bit unusual,” the source said. 

Three days later, Leath was paid $1,312.50 for an “executive assistant” role in the House office, according to the filings for the quarter beginning Jan. 1, 2014 and ending March 31 of that year. A Maloney spokesperson clarified that the more than $1,300 was his government salary for an entire month, not for one day as the filings suggest, due to a typo by a House employee who did not work for Maloney.

On March 13, Leath received his first payment from Maloney’s campaign coffers, FEC records show.

Leath succeeded another staffer who worked in a similar role, according to a Maloney rep and House disbursement records.

United States Representative Sean Patrick Maloney
Ron Sachs – CNP

In an unconventional move, Leath the next day registered to vote at the address of the home in Cold Spring that Maloney and his husband bought in 2013.

On March 31, 2014, Escue, Florke’s business partner, posted on Facebook a shirtless photo of Leath.

Then, in April 2015, he for the first time received a paycheck from Maloney’s campaign while listing his address at a nearby structure that Putnam County property records describe as a 850-square-foot “cottage” located about one-tenth of a mile away on what photos show is the same swathe of land, without other properties between them.

Maloney’s congressional office insisted people who serve as body people frequently live close to their boss. The cottage — in which Leath and Maloney’s office said he lived — shares a backyard with Maloney’s house.

Leath shirtless
The shirtless photo was posted with the caption “Sapphire does it.”
Facebook

Meanwhile, House disbursements between April 1, 2014 through June 30, 2014 reveal that Leath was paid $5,625 for the quarter as a “Part-Time Employee,” and began the job on April 1. 

The aide received a raise in December of 2016, as he switched to a constituent services role, earning $12,750 per quarter at his peak, according to House disbursements and Maloney’s office. 

Leath stayed on Maloney’s payroll in his congressional office until late summer 2018, when Maloney was vying for New York Attorney General. His final campaign account payment was delivered in April 2018.

Lawrence Mendelker, an election and campaign finance lawyer, told The Post, “It’s a little bit on the unusual side, and in this age of transparency, it would not be unreasonable to ask for an explanation [about] the financial transaction.” 

Samantha Bullock, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee said, “Sean Patrick Maloney has developed a clear habit of spending taxpayer money in questionable ways that should make every New York voter furious.”

Asked for comment, a rep for the FEC explained that “candidates have wide discretion over the use of their campaign funds, but conversion of campaign funds to personal use by any person is prohibited.” 

The spokesperson, Myles Martin, said the agency’s press team “cannot speculate on the permissibility of specific situations.”

Still, current and former staffers in the House of Representatives as well as experts familiar with its hiring and spending practices said something seems to smell wrong.

One GOP staffer added of Leath’s former residence and role, “It seems to blur the boundary between the personal and professional.”



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