Justice Department Investigating Cori Bush’s Handling of Campaign Funds


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The Justice Department is conducting an investigation into whether Representative Cori Bush mishandled campaign funds, including when she hired her romantic partner — who is now her husband — to provide her with security services, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Office of Congressional Ethics investigated Ms. Bush, a Democrat from Missouri, last year. The office voted to dismiss the allegations after concluding that her husband, Cortney Merritts, had performed “bona fide” security work and did not appear to have been overpaid, and that Ms. Bush faced a level of threats that justified the work.

Ms. Bush has spoken out about the death threats she has received on Capitol Hill. She spent more on security than any other member of the House.

But the people familiar with the investigation, who spoke about it on the condition of anonymity, said federal prosecutors were asking questions similar to those asked by the congressional investigators. The Justice Department inquiry has included subpoenas to members of Ms. Bush’s campaign team.

It was not immediately clear whether the federal investigation is broader than the ethics inquiry, but federal prosecutors have greater investigatory powers than congressional investigators do. Ethics investigations rarely result in discipline against members of Congress.

The investigation came to public attention on Monday when the clerk of the House read aloud a required notification by the House sergeant-at-arms that he had received a grand jury subpoena from the Justice Department for documents.

“After consulting with the Office of General Counsel, I have determined that compliance with the subpoena is consistent with the rights and derivatives of the House,” William McFarland, the sergeant-at-arms, wrote in the notice.

Punchbowl News earlier reported that the subpoena and investigation pertained to Ms. Bush.

The Justice Department declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Ms. Bush did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ms. Bush was investigated in 2023 after the conservative group Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust filed a complaint over her security payments.

In 2022, Ms. Bush’s campaign paid $338,193 for security, including $225,281 to a private firm, Peace Security; $50,000 to Nathaniel Davis; and $60,000 to Mr. Merritts, according to the complaint.

The payments to Mr. Merritts in the amount of $2,500 were twice a month. The complaint noted that Mr. Merritts did not have a St. Louis private security license, and that Ms. Bush and Mr. Merritts got married in February 2023.

The Federal Election Commission has determined that lawmakers may use campaign funds to pay for security personnel services against threats arising from the members’ status as officeholders, but the commission has emphasized the money must be used only for “bona fide” security services.

Justice Department Investigating Cori Bush’s Handling of Campaign Funds

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