Congressional Ballers

South Florida congressional leaders Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Kendrick Meek sure know how to live the good life when they are on the campaign trail. According to campaign financial disclosure forms filed with the Federal Elections Commission, the federal legislators spent big bucks entertaining staff and supporters at some of the toniest hotels and restaurants in Miami-Dade. Of course it wasn't their money, but rather campaign funds from their private donors. And it is all perfectly legal.

Republican Ros-Lehtinen's spots include Joe's Stone Crab, where her campaign dropped $8,890 on three separate occasions. But that's chump change compared to the amount the Cuban-American congresswoman spent at the Sagamore and Ritz-Carlton hotels on South Beach and Key Biscayne. Ros-Lehtinen's campaign paid $68,205 to hold 10 events at the posh hotels.

Democrat Meek, who ran unopposed, parties like a rock star. Carrie Meek's heir ponied up $3,986 for 16 dinners at Smith & Wollensky and Prime 112 on South Beach, and a whopping $8,182 at the Forge for another 14 dinners. Meek is a fan of the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne too, spending $6,612 for lodging. He dropped another $5,060 for stays at Miami Beach's haute new hotel the Gansevoort. Other baller expenditures on Meek's financial reports include $1,120 at Spirits Nightclub, $2,875 at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino, and $1,059 at Soyka.

On Monday, Banana Republican lets you know who made money working for Barack Obama and John McCain.

-- Francisco Alvarado

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