Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz got himself into a lil’ old mess Tuesday when he suggested on CNN that Americans who are unable to afford health care might be able to do so if they stopped spending money on fancy iPhones. This is a weak argument given health care costs way, way more than you would save by getting a boring regular phone instead of an iPhone (and it was a weak argument when Barack Obama made a similar version of it in 2014, too).
But it also may be an ironic one. The Intercept’s Lee Fang, by searching campaign spending disclosure information, found that the Friends of Jason Chaffetz campaign committee happens to pay big bills to Verizon Wireless and, last July, spent a new phone–like total of $738.08 at an Apple Store in Salt Lake City.
A reporter from the Hill pointed out that it’s common for campaigns to pay for cellphone services. It’s also acceptable under House ethics rules for a member to use a campaign-financed cellphone for official House business. So if Chaffetz uses an iPhone that’s paid for by donors—and, using Twitter’s API, a Slate staffer found that the congressman’s Twitter account does often post messages from an iPhone—it doesn’t appear that there wouldn’t be anything illegal or unethical about it unless he was using it for personal business. (Chaffetz’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment about his phone usage and financing.) Still, having access to a smartphone that you didn’t have to spend your own money on is a perk that many Americans who have trouble affording health care don’t have.