Looks like Donald Trump’s not the only one on the hot seat in the House. The Ethics Committee recommended extending a probe into Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s receipt of over $17,000 from her campaign as a salary after the election. That would have “violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law,” their interim report declared. Tlaib denies wrongdoing, but it looks like she’s in deeper trouble than she has let on with her constituents:
The House Ethics Committee said Thursday it’s extending an investigation into Rep. Rashida Tlaib and released a report that alleged there’s “substantial reason to believe” she misused campaign funds. …
Under federal regulations, candidates are generally allowed to receive salary payments from their own campaigns. However, one of the many conditions for those payments is they must be for work performed through the date of the general election.
“Rep. Tlaib, through her counsel, argues she complied with these conditions; however, several documents provided to the OCE by Rep. Tlaib suggest otherwise,” the report said. “Specifically, documents provided to the OCE indicate Rep. Tlaib was paid for work she performed after November 6, 2018 — the date of the general election.”
Tlaib received a $2,000 payment on Nov. 16 and a $15,500 payment on Dec. 1, according to the report. The other payments she received from her campaign — $28,000 total — occurred before the election.
Her demands for a salary began seven months before the election. After discovering that the rules allowed for a salary, and she claimed her reduced hours at her law firm for campaigning had left her “struggling”:
In an April 4, 2018 email, Rep. Tlaib first advised her campaign manager, Andy Goddeeris, and her campaign consultant, Steve Tobocman, that she was “struggling financially.”23 She went on to state: “I was thinking the campaign could loan me money, but [campaign staffer] Ryan [Lomonco] said the committee could actually pay me. I was thinking a one time payment of 5K.”24
Three weeks later, Tlaib had different thoughts on her compensation:
On April 27, 2018, Rep Tlaib emailed a larger group of campaign staff about her personal financial concerns. 27 In this communication, she explained that she was “not going to make it through the campaign without a stipend,” and requested “$2,000 per two weeks but not exceeding $12,000.”2
That’s, um … one heck of a raise. Did Tlaib’s donors know that their money was going directly into her pocket? Still, it was all legal and within House rules — except for the last two payments:
Note the dramatically larger final payment to Tlaib, too. Until then, the largest salary she had drawn was $3,000 for a two-week period. There was apparently a cheesy attempt to argue that the December payroll checks covered a period before the election in early November, but apparently the Ethics Committee didn’t buy that. They asked Tlaib to explain why both the checks themselves and the campaign ledgers show those final two payments for work performed between November 1-15 and then “Nov. 16, 2018 to December 31, 2018,” but Tlaib refused to cooperate with them.
Plus, the Ethics Committee read another e-mail which made the question moot:
Another email from her campaign treasurer included a spreadsheet that discussed the December 1, 2018 payments to campaign staff. 42 The spreadsheet, included below, suggests that at least $8,000.00 (of the $15,500.00 payment) was paid to Rep. Tlaib for worked performed after the general election, and $7,500.00 was an unspecified “adjustment.”
That’s … one hell of an adjustment. That’s about what the campaign was paying Tlaib every six weeks prior to Election Day, and coincidentally that check was cut about five-plus weeks before the start of the congressional session. The “adjustment” appears to be a way to pay Tlaib’s salary right up to the moment she took the oath of office.
Will the FEC act to prosecute the campaign finance violations? Democrats seemed pretty keen on enthusiastic enforcement not long ago when Michael Cohen was still a thing. Any action will have to come from the FEC because it seems unlikely that the House Democrat majority would vote to expel Tlaib over this. Still, it’s clear that she was cashing out at her donors’ expense. Maybe voters in her district ought to consider another choice of representative in the upcoming cycle, and make Tlaib go back to earning a living off of someone else’s expense than theirs.