The non-partisan ethics watchdog, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) requesting an investigation into whether Congresswoman Cori Bush of Missouri used campaign funds to pay her husband for private security.
Misusing campaign funds for personal reasons is a violation of federal law. Under the law, these funds can only be used for “bona fide campaign or political purposes,” with limited exceptions.
According to FACT, “during 2022, Rep. Bush’s campaign paid $571,856 for security services. Those payments included $225,281 to PEACE Security, $62,359 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.”
Cori Bush FEC complaint by JoeSchoffstall
The organization noted that campaign payments 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,” the organization stated.
Kendra Arnold, Executive Director of FACT, argued that any time someone with a personal relationship to a politician is placed on payroll, there must be an increased level of scrutiny into those payments.
“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 Arnold.