Criminal Investigation Cori Bush Campaign Funds Long Overdue, Watchdogs Say
Watchdogs welcome the criminal investigation into Democratic Missouri Rep. Cori Bush's alleged campaign finance violations. DOJ, FEC, and House Ethics Committee investigating.
Democratic Missouri Rep. Cori Bush is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and the House Ethics Committee. This comes after allegations of misusing federal security money, which Bush confirmed in a statement on Tuesday. The DOJ has subpoenaed the House Sergeant at Arms for records related to these allegations, as reported by Punchbowl News.
Hans von Spakovsky, a legal expert at the Heritage Foundation, expressed surprise that the DOJ took so long to investigate, noting that cases like these are typically straightforward and easy to investigate. He explained that while it is permissible to pay a family member a salary for campaign services, it must be proven that they were providing legitimate services and that the payment was at fair market value. In Bush's case, it is highly suspicious that her husband, Cortney Merritts, received payments for security services when he did not have the necessary license in either St. Louis or Washington, D.C.
Bush's campaign has paid Merritts over $60,000 for security services and wage expenses, according to FEC filings. Watchdog organizations such as the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) and the Committee to Defeat the President (CDP) have filed complaints regarding these payments, citing the close personal relationship between Bush and Merritts, as well as the lack of a license for security services.
The FEC has ruled that campaigns can use funds to pay for professional private security officers for protection, and family members can receive payments if they are providing a legitimate service at fair market value. However, Merritts is not licensed as a security guard in either of the locations where Bush's district is located, raising further concerns.
Bush's attorney has argued that Merritts' payments were at market value and that he provided legitimate security services for the campaign. The CDP has expressed pride in raising these issues with various authorities, leading to the investigation into Bush's campaign payments to her husband.
This investigation comes amidst previous reports of "squad" Democratic lawmakers spending large sums on security services after advocating for defunding urban police departments. Critics have accused Bush of misusing campaign funds for personal protection while pushing the "Defund the Police" movement, calling for a full investigation into the alleged abuse of taxpayer dollars.
Despite Bush's statement that the Office of Congressional Ethics found no wrongdoing and voted to dismiss the case, the DOJ, FEC, and House Ethics Committee are all currently reviewing the matter. Bush has stated that she is fully cooperating with all pending investigations and looks forward to the same outcome as the previous OCE investigation.