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Ethics Probe into Rashida Tlaib Extended after Watchdog Finds Evidence of Misuse of Campaign Funds

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) listens during a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing in Washington, D.C., May 9, 2019. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The House Ethics Committee released texts and emails on Thursday that show Representative Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) repeatedly asking for campaign for funds to defray personal costs.

The committee’s announcement comes after the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics unanimously voted in August to refer Tlaib for a potential violation of federal law.

Tlaib was paid over $45,000 by her campaign between May and December 2018. While FEC regulations permit a campaign to pay a candidate, it must be for “work performed up through the date of the general election.” Checks, emails, and spreadsheets show that Tlaib was paid $17,500 after the November 6, 2018, election. A November 29 email from the campaign’s treasurer to Tlaib says that checks are “for the time period through December 31, 2018.”

Tlaib and her staff refused to interview with the OCE over the payments. The board concludes by recommending that the Ethics Committee subpoena Tlaib to get to the bottom of the matter.

“Based on the foregoing information, the Board finds that there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Tlaib converted campaign funds from Rashida Tlaib for Congress to personal use or Rep. Tlaib’s campaign committee expended funds that were not attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes,” the board’s recommendation concludes.

Over the months of her campaign, Tlaib asked multiple times for campaign funds because she was “struggling financially” and “trying to get out of debt.”

“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,” she emailed her campaign in April 2018.

“The Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Ethics jointly decided on September 30, 2019, to extend the Committee’s review of the matter in order to gather additional information necessary to complete its review,” the Ethics Committee press release reads.

Tlaib’s lawyers wrote to the Ethics Committee in August arguing that the matter should be dismissed and that “the investigation was unprecedented.”

“In its findings OCE admits that the salary payments fell within the FEC limit, acknowledges that the timing of the final two payments did not in itself violate FEC rules, and disregards evidence of Representative Tlaib’s good faith compliance,” Tlaib’s letter reads.

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