Justice Department investigates Cori Bush's handling of campaign funds


The Justice Department is conducting an investigation into whether Rep. Cori Bush misappropriated campaign funds, including when she hired her romantic partner (now her husband) to provide security services, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Office of Congressional Ethics last year investigated Mrs. Bush, a Democrat from Missouri. The office voted to dismiss the allegations after concluding that her husband, Cortney Merritts, had performed “good faith” security work and did not appear to have been overpaid, and that Mrs. Bush faced a level of threats that justified the work.

Mrs. Bush has spoken out about the death threats she has received on Capitol Hill. She spent more on security than any other House member in the months after the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol.

But people familiar with the investigation, who spoke about it on condition of anonymity, said federal prosecutors were asking questions similar to those of congressional investigators. The Justice Department investigation has included subpoenas to members of Bush's campaign team.

It was not immediately clear whether the federal investigation is broader than the ethics investigation, but federal prosecutors have greater investigative powers than congressional investigators. Ethics investigations rarely result in disciplinary action against members of Congress.

The investigation came to public attention Monday when the House clerk read aloud a notification required by the House sergeant-at-arms that he had received a Justice Department grand jury subpoena seeking documents.

“After consulting with the Office of General Counsel, I have determined that compliance with the subpoena is consistent with the rights and derivatives of the House,” William McFarland, the sergeant at arms, wrote in the notice.

Punchbowl News previously reported that the subpoena and investigation belonged to Mrs. Bush.

The Justice Department declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Bush did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mrs. Bush was investigated in 2023 after the conservative group Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust filed a complaint about her security payments.

In 2022, the Bush campaign paid $338,193 for security, including $225,281 to a private company, Peace Security; $50,000 to Nathaniel Davis; and $60,000 to Mr. Merritts, according to the complaint.

Payments to Mr. Merritts in the amount of $2,500 were made twice a month. The complaint noted that Merritts did not have a St. Louis private security license and that Bush and Merritts were married in February 2023.

The Federal Election Commission has determined that lawmakers can use campaign funds to pay for the services of security personnel against threats arising from members' status as officials, but the commission has emphasized that the money should be used only for security services.” in good faith”.

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