Rep. Steven Palazzo ethics investigation: Is the congressman’s campaign account a slush fund?

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A congressional ethics office is investigating whether U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo used campaign funds to pay himself and his erstwhile wife nearly $200,000 through companies they own. (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
As a congressional ethics office investigates U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo’s campaign spending, a deeper look at his campaign finances raises questions of whether he uses his account as a second personal income.
Palazzo spends thousands of dollars a year from his campaign account on meals, from the swankiest restaurants and clubs in Washington, D.C., and Mississippi, to Hooters, Newk’s, pizza and fast food chains, and live music and barbecue joints.
In all, Palazzo has spent more than $115,600 on meals since he took office in 2010 — an average of $11,560 a year — not counting the nearly $188,000 he spent catering events and booking venues for his campaign. By comparison, his colleague Rep. Michael Guest since he took office has spent less than $1,300 a year listed as meals separate from larger catered campaign events.
Palazzo has also spent tens of thousands of dollars on hotel rooms in D.C., Mississippi and beachside Florida resorts, entertainment and golfing — including a $3,100 golf cart. The campaign also has spent nearly $42,000 on “gifts.”
The Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating Palazzo’s campaign spending after the Campaign Legal Center watchdog group in March filed a complaint. That complaint centered on whether Palazzo used campaign funds to pay himself and his erstwhile wife nearly $200,000 through companies they own.
Palazzo, through a campaign spokesman, said the complaint and questions about his campaign spending are “politically motivated,” and that Palazzo is cooperating with the OCE investigation and will be exonerated.
“This all started with Congressman Palazzo’s primary opponents in the 2020 Republican primary, and it is all just politically motivated,” said Palazzo campaign spokesman Justin Brasell. “…