Freshman House Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., reportedly received payments from her campaign while running for office in 2016. While such unusual arrangements can be legal under narrow guidelines during the campaign season, Tlaib allegedly continued to take money from the campaign after the election, potentially violating federal law. Any payments prior to the election also must meet stringent requirements regarding legitimate campaign expenses.
In a report last week, the Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) announced that the House Ethics Committee would extend its investigation into Tlaib after finding "substantial reason to believe" she violated campaign finance laws.
It was unusual and significant that specific documentation, including emails from Tlaib, was released to the public.
The OCE wrote, "(If Tlaib) converted campaign funds from Rashida Tlaib for Congress to personal use, or if Tlaib’s campaign committee expended funds that were not attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes, then Tlaib may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.”
In April 2018, Tlaib allegedly wrote, according to the OCE, that she was "struggling financially right now" and was "sinking." She added, "So I was thinking the campaign could loan me money, but Ryan said that the committee could actually pay me. I was thinking a one-time payment of $5k."
It is my understanding that payments made from a campaign to a candidate because someone needs extra money does not meet the standards requiring reimbursement or payments only if there is a legitimate campaign expense. While some of the facts have emerged, not all the facts have been exposed. This is what the House Ethics Committee has historically done well.
Unlike the kangaroo court impeachment proceedings run by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the House Ethics Committee is truly bipartisan – with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans on the committee. That means that no one party can stack the deck in favor of one side or another as Schiff is able to do on the House Intelligence Committee.
It is imperative the committee embrace the long-standing tradition of holding members of Congress accountable on both sides of the aisle.
There will be no recommendation for action unless there is bipartisan support. The fact that the committee has agreed to expand the investigation indicates that these allegations are strong and they are serious.
It also means there is real evidence that can lead to a variety of recommendations including no action, criminal referral, or a host of options somewhere in between.
Tlaib should publicly commit to cooperate with the Ethics Committee investigation and find out why campaign donations ended up in the personal account of the candidate. This is a serious allegation deserving her full-time attention and cooperation. And the mainstream media should do its job and report on this most serious allegation.
No one is above the law, even if they are a member of the "Squad."