The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) concluded in a report released Friday that there is “substantial” evidence to rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) Wrongly used campaign and taxpayer funds for his own personal use.
Bishop acknowledged to the OCE that some of the expenditures it identified were inappropriate, but also sought to explain why other expenditures that appeared to be for personal use should be considered for political purposes.
The OCE said there was evidence that the Bishop’s campaign committee likely spent tens of thousands of dollars on gas, golf fees, meals, travel, tuition and entertainment that appeared to be for personal use rather than official campaign activity.
It also claimed that the bishop, who has served in the House since 1
The OCE is an independent entity that investigates allegations of misconduct by legislators and refers cases to the House Ethics Committee for further investigation. Only the House Ethics Committee, which is evenly divided between Republican and Democratic members, has the power to punish legislators if it concludes that something went wrong.
The House Ethics Committee said on Friday that it was expanding its review of Bishop, adding that “the mere fact of conducting a further review of a referral and any mandatory disclosure of such a review does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred or reflected each judgment on behalf of the Committee. “
The OCE report was released on the same day as the House voted to formally sanction Rep. David SchweikertThe David SchweikertHouse Ethics Panel recommends, 000 fines for ropes. Schweikert’s Campaign Funding Violations Americans Need Medical Cost Relief Amid COVID-19 Uncertainty The Hill’s Campaign Report: Medical Candidates Rely on Medical Experience Amid Coronavirus Campaign MORE (R-Ariz.) For violating campaign funding rules and improperly using official resources for his re-election efforts. The measure, adopted by a vote, gives Schweikert a $ 50,000 fine that must be paid to the US Treasury Department in late October.
For Bishop, the OCE said there was evidence that his campaign committee paid for the legislator’s monthly fees and associated fees from two golf clubs. Bishop had an annual fundraiser, known as the Sanford Bishop Golf Classic, at the clubs, but the OCE found that the campaign committee paid for activities and items that appeared to be for the legislator’s personal use.
Between January 2009 and September 2019, these expenses amounted to $ 30,177 at one of the golf clubs, and an additional $ 33,338 at the other golf club from May 2014 to September 2019. The Promotion Committee also spent a combination of $ 23,000 on extra meals, green fees, golf cart fee and golf items at the two clubs.
Bishop acknowledged that it was “a mistake” for the campaign committee to pay for the monthly membership fees and has stopped doing so, according to the OCE.
But Bishop defended his time at the golf club as campaign-related. The OCE report said that for Bishop, when he is at the golf club “gives him the opportunity to” encounter “supporters and choices and then discuss political issues over a round of golf or a meal.”
“In other words, Rep. Bishop does not hold specific fundraising events at the club, but instead uses the club’s facilities, at least on occasion, by himself or with his wife, and then interacts with supporters and voters who seek him out during a round of golf. or at a Sunday brunch, ”the OCE report said.
However, the ethics office said it “could not determine the extent to which these additional, non-Golf Classic charges were to promote the bona fide campaign or political purposes.”
In addition, Bishop admitted to the OCE that the campaign had paid for other personal expenses, including $ 660 for his grandchildren’s schooling, which Bishop said his wife accidentally paid from the campaign’s bank account and $ 18.99 for a movie on demand at a resort.
The OCE said it decided that Bishop, his wife and his daughter might also have used personal fuel campaign funds. The report said the bishop did not keep a mileage and therefore he could not determine how much gas was used for campaign, personal or official purposes. But according to the OCE report, Bishop argued that even routine activities inevitably involve “some political component.”
“Rep. Bishop thinks he does very little travel that is” completely personal. “He told the OCE that he is involved in political discussions wherever he travels, which means that a trip to the grocery store, Walmart, golf course or other place that may seem personal to its face, almost always involves some political component,” it says. OCE report.
The report added that the bishop “acknowledged that his and his wife’s failure to log in or document their mileage was problematic.”
The OCE investigation further found that Bishop had annual banquets at one of the golf clubs with his wife, who is a clerk for the District Court in Columbus, Ga., For their respective staff and used funds from his congressional budget to pay for them. It amounted to more than 16,000 dollars between 2015 and 2018.
The golf club’s banquet coordinator and Bishop’s campaign treasurer described both events as holiday parties. The invoices submitted to the House Finance Office marked each event as a “constituent meeting.”
The bishop denied to the OCE that they were holiday gatherings.
“We can not have Christmas parties [with annual office budgets], but we can have constituent meetings and that’s the end of the year. So it’s like a holiday collection, but it’s actually a component
meeting, ”the bishop said according to the OCE report.