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Ethics Watchdog Calls for Investigation into Rep. Cori Bush

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

Rep. Bush May Have Violated Federal Law by Misusing Campaign Funds

Washington, D.C.— March 2, 2023— Today, the non-partisan ethics watchdog, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), filed a complaint requesting the Federal Election Commission (FEC) investigate whether Congresswoman Cori Bush of Missouri used campaign funds for personal use, a violation of federal law.

During the 2022 campaign, Rep. Bush’s campaign paid $571,856 for security services. In 2022 alone, $338,193 was paid for security, which included $225,281 to PEACE Security, $60,000 to Cortney Merritts, and $50,000 to Nathaniel Davis. The payments to Merritts were bi-monthly in the amount of $2,500. According to reports, however, 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) nor does he appear within the government database of licensed security professionals in the Washington, D.C. area. It was recently revealed that Bush has had a personal relationship with Merritts since before she took office in 2021 and they were married in February 2023.

Federal law is clear that campaign funds may only be spent for “bona fide campaign or political purposes,” with limited defined exceptions. Federal law also provides certain examples of how campaign funds may not be spent, of which one prohibited category of spending is for “personal use” which is at issue in this case. Campaign payments that are not for bona fide services at fair market value could fall under one of two prohibited categories—“payments to family members” or “gifts”.

In Rep. Bush’s case, these payments to Merritts have drawn scrutiny because of her close personal relationship with Merritts, and the possibility that he was providing security services that were unnecessary and duplicative, and that he didn’t have a license to provide those services, all of which indicate they may not be for bona fide services at fair market value as required by law.

“Any time a member of Congress puts someone with a close personal relationship on the campaign payroll, increased scrutiny is necessary to ensure the legal standard has been met, which in this case is that the payments were for ‘bona fide services at a fair market value.’ Both the fact that reportedly Bush’s husband isn’t licensed to provide security services for which he was paid, and that she was simultaneously paying large amounts to another company for the same services raise red flags that warrant an investigation by the FEC,” said Kendra Arnold, Executive Director of FACT.

A full copy of the complaint can be found here.

FACT is a nonprofit organization to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic arenas. For more on FACT, visit: http://www.factdc.org/

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