‘Squad’ member Rep. Bush under fire for paying unlicensed husband for private security services

Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), a member of the far-left progressive “Squad” of House Democrats, was recently accused of potentially violating federal campaign finance laws, House ethics rules, and possibly even the local criminal code in St. Louis, Missouri, which is within her congressional district.

A nonpartisan watchdog group recently filed a complaint that alleged those potential violations in relation to the discovery that Bush used campaign funds to pay her new husband for security services that he is not licensed to provide, The Washington Times reported.

The congresswoman has already faced some critical scrutiny and accusations of hypocrisy for the substantial sums her campaign has spent on armed security for herself while she is simultaneously a very outspoken advocate for defunding local police departments and disarming U.S. citizens through stricter gun control laws.

Campaign paid new husband for security services

In late February, local NBC affiliate KSDK reported that Rep. Bush had secretly married Cortney Merritts earlier in the month, a U.S. Army veteran who her campaign had hired to provide private security and who she reportedly has been romantically involved with since before she first took office in 2021.

The local outlet noted that campaign finance records show that Merritts had been paid at least $60,000 over the course of 2022 for the “security services” that he provided. That is just a portion of the more than $627,000 total that Bush has spent on private security since 2020, with the bulk of that going to a professional licensed private security firm based in St. Louis.

That arrangement with Merritts in and of itself may violate campaign finance laws and House ethics rules that generally bar congressional members from hiring family members unless they provide a “bona fide service” to the campaign for “fair market value” compensation, but that isn’t the end of the story.

Not licensed to provide private security services

According to Fox News, despite Merritts having been paid at least $60,000 to provide “security services” for the congresswoman, it appears that he does not have a license to do so, either in St. Louis or in Washington D.C.

In fact, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department informed the outlet that it had “no responsive records” related to Merritts being licensed to provide security, and when asked if he had been licensed previously, the department stated that the “last security license issued to that individual expired in 2012.”

Per the SLMPD’s website, “With the exception of St. Louis Police Officers, all persons performing a security function in the City of St. Louis must be licensed to do so through the Private Security Section.”

Furthermore, with respect to whether an individual with an expired license can still legally provide security services, the website stated, “NO. Working on an expired license or no license subjects you to arrest and booking. Companies or agencies that knowingly employ someone without a license subjects them to a fine and/or liability in a civil action.”

Complaint filed with FEC

Given all of that, the nonpartisan Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission and called for an investigation into the alleged misuse of campaign funds for personal use.

The press release stated, “In Rep. Bush’s case, these payments to Merritts have drawn scrutiny because of her close personal relationship with Merritts, and the possibility that he was providing security services that were unnecessary and duplicative, and that he didn’t have a license to provide those services, all of which indicate they may not be for bona fide services at fair market value as required by law.”

“Any time a member of Congress puts someone with a close personal relationship on the campaign payroll, increased scrutiny is necessary to ensure the legal standard has been met, which in this case is that the payments were for ‘bona fide services at a fair market value,'” FACT executive director Kendra Arnold said in a statement. “Both the fact that reportedly Bush’s husband isn’t licensed to provide security services for which he was paid, and that she was simultaneously paying large amounts to another company for the same services raise red flags that warrant an investigation by the FEC.”

In a statement to The Washington Times, Arnold said, “It appears Rep. Bush’s campaign may have made payments for services that were unnecessary or above fair market value because of her personal relationship with the payee,” and added, “If so, these payments would qualify as either impermissible payments to a family member or an impermissible gift.”

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