‘Squad’ Democrat Cori Bush ethics complaint expands over new payments to husband

EXCLUSIVE A conservative group is expanding on its prior ethics complaintagainst “Squad” member Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) over her latest campaign payments to her husband, according to documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.

Bush in March faced ethics complaints from the right-leaning watchdog Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust and Committee to Defeat the President, a super PAC, over allegations she violated federal law in steering $60,000 in campaign funds in 2022 to Cortney Merritts for private security. Now, the anti-President Joe Biden super PAC has re-upped its investigative demand to the Federal Election Commission with a Wednesday complaint supplement detailing how Bush paid her husband another $30,000 in 2023 for “security services” and “wage expenses.”

“Cori Bush’s crime spree continues — now with convenient new descriptions in her FEC report,” Dan Backer, a Republican campaign finance lawyer for the Committee to Defeat the President, told the Washington Examiner. “Bush has walked into a legal trap of her making. She’s either falsifying FEC reports that her husband illegally provided security services he’s not licensed to provide, or he did illegally provide them and she violated the law prohibiting paying for illegal things.”

The Bush campaign’s newly published second-quarter filing revealed it paidMerritts $17,500 between April and June, following the $12,500 he pocketed in the first quarter of 2023. It is not entirely clear why some of the recent payments are now earmarked for a “wage expense,” and the Bush campaign did not reply to a request for comment.

Merritts and Bush have reportedly been together since before the Missouri congresswoman took office in 2021, though they got married in February in a private wedding ceremony. Bush, who has come under fire from Republicans for supporting defunding the police, has disclosed Merritts being on her campaign’s payroll since January of that year, records show.

While it’s not necessarily unlawful for lawmakers to use committee cash to pay family members, it’s often frowned upon by legal and ethics experts. The practice is allowed if a relative is compensated at a rate deemed as “fair market value,” according to the FEC, but the threshold is difficult to determine and often leaves room for gray areas when it comes to enforcement.

Backer’s complaint supplement against Bush alleged her campaign may have not been paying Merritts for actual “security services” at all, and has altered payment descriptions “to avoid further self-incrimination.” He is calling for the FEC to “promptly bring enforcement proceedings” against Bush, her campaign, and its treasurer Amy Vilela.

“Bush’s change in description of the payments to Merritts, while also making continued payments to other private security vendors, supports the assertion Merritts was never actually providing ‘security services’ — for which he is not licensed in either the Congressional district nor the District of Columbia — and the payments are simply converting contributions to personal, family use,” the supplement to the complaint stated.

Merritts isn’t the only person who has been paid for security from Bush, who voiced support after the murder of George Floyd in 2020 for stripping police of resources.

Her campaign has employed Nathaniel Davis III, a friend of the congresswoman who has claimed to be a 109 trillion-year-old spiritual guru, according to the Washington Free Beacon. Moreover, the Bush campaign has paid PEACE Security, a St. Louis-based corporation specializing in “armed security” as well as surveillance system sales and installation, public records show.

Senate Child Care
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., speaks during a news conference as advocates call on the Senate to affirm the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

(AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Last week, Bush appeared at a press conference to speak about her joining House Democrats to reintroduce the People’s Response Act, a measure aiming to allocate funds to social workers for emergencies that involve mental health rather than law enforcement. One person at the event was Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation board member Shalomyah Bowers, who referred to Bush as “brilliant.”

Bowers was accused in a lawsuit in September of last year of unlawfully taking more than $10 million from donors of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, which in 2022 reported shelling out $1.7 million for “professional security services,” according to tax forms.

“Unsurprisingly, Democrats have gotten plain old lazy about violating federal election law knowing the FEC keeps covering for them,” Backer added.

A spokeswoman for the FEC told the Washington Examiner, “The Press Office is unable to discuss or comment on potential complaints due to confidentiality requirements and agency policy.”