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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

US Rep. Jayapal spends over $45k on security, including fence

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) arrives for a House Democrat caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol on May 31, 2023, in Washington, DC.    (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Filip Timotija The Seattle Times

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, reported spending over $45,000 this year on home security using campaign donations, according to Federal Election Commission records.

The leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus is one of many congressional leaders who have ramped up spending on personal security, an effort that has increased since the deadly riot on Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol and the hyperpolarization of the political climate.

As a national figure in U.S. politics and a chair of the 104-member progressive caucus, Rep. Jayapal never expected to focus so keenly on security during work.

“I’ve had threats against my life, including a man showing up with a gun at my door, and I never in a million years thought that I would need to take such strong steps to protect my safety and security just to be able to do my job, the job that people elected me to do,” Jayapal said in an interview with The Seattle Times.

All of the security-related expenditures were recorded between January and June.

The FEC allows congresspeople greater leeway when spending donations for personal protection.

Erin Chlopak, the senior director of campaign at the D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center, wrote in a statement that the FEC has allowed officeholders to spend funds on security due to a “heightened threat environment” facing members of Congress, but that might change “if the threat environment should diminish significantly.”

Jayapal is one of the many lawmakers who have prioritized security expenditures.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, spent more than $65,000 in campaign funds on a fence for her home this year, according to FEC fillings. The expenditure was first reported by Raw Story.

“I don’t think any member should be physically attacked,” Jayapal said. “I think that kind of violence is wrong, everywhere, period.”

The congresswoman noted that because of heightened levels of threats toward her entire team, they had to adjust security measures. She still insists on attending events in person, notably town halls, but the campaign recommends constituents book appointments before visiting her office.

“We’ve just had to really think about how we can still be open, still be accessible, but also still be mindful and protective,” Jayapal said. “Of not just my security, but my family’s security and members of the staff.”

In early July, Brett Forsell, a Seattle man, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor stalking and was sentenced to 364 days in King County Jail after he was arrested in front of Jayapal’s home over a year ago with a loaded .40-caliber handgun. He was ordered to have no contact with Jayapal and was prohibited from possessing firearms for eight years.

Jayapal said she has also worked with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, to increase security at homes of other members of Congress.

House and Senate candidates in the 2022 election cycle spent around $7.5 million on digital and physical security, a $6 million increase from 2020, NBC News reported.

Based on the new threat assessment statistics released earlier this month by the U.S. Capitol Police, law enforcement investigated 7,501 threats toward members of Congress. This includes concerning statements and direct threats.

This shows a drop from 9,625 threats in 2021 and 8,613 in 2020, but it is still higher than the 6,955 and 5,206 threats examined in 2019 and 2018, respectively.

Jayapal represents Washington’s 7th Congressional District. In 2016, she became the first Indian American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Jayapal was born in India and moved to the U.S. when she was 16.