The House Ethics Committee on Thursday released internal communications from the campaign of Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) that showed the lawmaker requested campaign money for her personal expenses in what a government watchdog says may have been a possible violation of federal law.
The document drop came as the committee performs an ethics probe into the avowed democratic socialist, which the panel said would be “expanded” based on a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).
The released texts and e-mails show Tlaib desperately asking members of her staff for financial help, describing herself as “sinking” and “thinking the campaign could loan [her] money.”
In an April 4, 2018 e-mail addressed to campaign manager Andy Goddeeris and others, Tlaib wrote:
I am struggling financially right now. [Ex-husband] Fayez [Tlaib] doesn’t pay child support (my fault for not pushing him) and Shane is not helping as much as I had hoped. Sugar Law Center is going to compile all my vacation and sick days to give me another full pay check, but I am sinking.
I budgeted myself, but I think I underestimated having to handle rent and mortgage. The house finally got clearance to rent from the city. We had a ton of interest last month but I didn’t want to risk the attacks by proceeding without clearance.
So I was thinking the campaign could loan me money, but Ryan said that the campaign could actually pay me. I was thinking a one time payment of 5k. I can always borrow from the brothers, but wanted to ask you both first.
Goddeeris responded that he wanted to “do what’s necessary” if it’s “legally permissible.”
“If it’s legally permissible I want to do what’s necessary so that this campaign doesn’t dig you a hole you’re struggling to get out of,” he replied to Tlaib. “I think I have a better solution [than a loan] I would like to discuss. But I am 100% committed that you get the money you need to stay focused.”
In another e-mail, Tlaib wrote: “I am just not going to make it through the campaign without a stipend.”
“With the loss of a second income to lean back on, I am requesting $2,000 per two weeks but not exceeding $12,000,” the lawmaker continued. “The cost of living stipend is going towards much needed expenses due to campaigning that includes car maintenance, child care and other necessities. Please let me know if I can proceed.”
In August of that year, Tlaib texted her future chief of staff Ryan Anderson at 6:38 a.m.: “Sorry for the early text but do you think the campaign can still pay me a stipend until the general. Trying to get out of debt.”
“I think we definitely [can] afford to do so. But we need to really clearly define your time and space,” responded Anderson, who noted that paying Tlaib from campaign funds could elicit “concern” among the media.
Checks reviewed by the OCE show Tlaib was paid thousands of dollars by her campaign. Congressional candidates are allowed under federal election law to receive a salary from their own campaign under strict guidelines.
The report found that “Rep. Tlaib, through her counsel, argues she complied with these conditions; however, several documents provided to the OCE by Rep. Tlaib suggest otherwise. 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.”
If Tlaib “converted campaign funds from Rashida Tlaib for Congress to personal use, or if Tlaib’s campaign committee expended funds that were not attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes, then Tlaib may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law” OCE continued.
The report concluded: “The Board recommends that the Committee further review the above allegation concerning Rep. Tlaib because 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.”
Tlaib is one of four progressive freshman congresswomen who have come to be known as “The Squad.” Another member of the Squad, Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was ordered to pay a fine for campaign finance violation during her run for state office.
Omar also faces an FEC charge over the accusation that she used campaign funds to reimburse her alleged lover, political consultant Tim Mynett, for personal travel expenses rather than for consulting work as claimed.