DOJ investigating Cori Bush’s campaign for spending on security services

DOJ investigating Cori Bush’s campaign for spending on security services

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) for her campaign’s spending on security services, the congresswoman confirmed on Tuesday.

She said she is “fully cooperating” with the probe and denied any wrongdoing.

“First and foremost, I hold myself, my campaign, and my position to the highest levels of integrity. I also believe in transparency which is why I can confirm that the Department of Justice is reviewing my campaign’s spending on security services. We are fully cooperating in this investigation, and I would like to take this opportunity to outline the facts and the truth,” Bush wrote in a statement.

The confirmation from Bush — which was pushed out from her campaign account — came one day after the House clerk disclosed on the floor that the office of the House sergeant at arms had received a grand jury subpoena for documents from the DOJ.

Bush on Tuesday disclosed that she is also under investigation by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the House Ethics Committee, and she is cooperating with both. She said, however, that the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), the nonpartisan entity that reviews and refers matters to the Ethics Committee, did not find any wrongdoing against Bush and voted unanimously to dismiss the case.

Punchbowl News reported earlier on Tuesday that Bush was the subject of the DOJ investigation. The Hill reached out to the DOJ for comment.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a nonpartisan ethics watchdog, filed a complaint with the FEC in March 2023 requesting that it investigate Bush for potential personal use of campaign funds.

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The watchdog alleged that during the 2022 cycle, Bush’s campaign paid $60,000 for security services to a person named Cortney Merritts, with whom she had a personal relationship before she came to Congress in 2021 and eventually married in February 2023.

The complaint, citing reports, also alleged that Merritts “does not have a St. Louis private security license, which is needed to perform security services in the area that encompasses Bush’s entire district,” and did not “appear within the government database of licensed security professionals in the Washington D.C. area.”

“At issue is this case is whether the payments made to Merritts were for a bona fide service and at a fair market rate, and if not then they would be either a impermissible gift or a payment to a family member,” the complaint reads.

“[W]e request the FEC investigate whether Rep. Bush converted campaign funds for personal use by paying a salary that was not for bona fide services at fair market value,” the complaint later added.

Bush on Tuesday denied using “any federal tax dollars for personal security services,” adding “Any reporting that I have used federal funds for personal security is simply false.”

“I have complied with all applicable laws and House rules–and will continue to prioritize the rules that govern us as federal elected officials,” she said.

She also addressed the allegations surrounding her husband, contending that she abided by regulations and hired her husband because of his experience in the area and finances.

Under House rules, lawmakers are prohibited from hiring close family members, but the same ban does not apply to campaigns.

“In accordance with all applicable rules, I retained my husband as part of my security team to provide security services because he has had extensive experience in this area, and is able to provide the necessary services at or below a fair market rate,” Bush wrote.

Speculation had been swirling in the Capitol since the House clerk announced on Monday that the House sergeant at arms received a subpoena, with questions about who was the subject of the investigation.

Top Democratic leaders earlier on Tuesday said they were not informed of the probe by the DOJ, which is typical in such cases, nor had they spoken with Bush directly about it.

Rep. Pete Aguilar (Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said he learned the news from media reports, and had not spoken with Bush about the investigation. He declined to comment further.

“That’s something for the Justice Department,” he said.

Mike Lillis contributed. Updated at 1:48 p.m.

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