Rep. Steven Palazzo’s campaign spending probed by congressional ethics office

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Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-La., makes his way to a bipartisan Homeland Security Appropriations Conference Committee in the Capitol on Wednesday, January 30, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
The Office of Congressional Ethics is investigating U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo’s campaign spending, after a watchdog group in March filed a complaint questioning whether he was using campaign contributions as a “personal slush fund.”
The Campaign Legal Center in late March requested OCE investigate whether Palazzo used campaign funds to pay himself and his erstwhile spouse nearly $200,000.
A Palazzo campaign spokesman on Friday said that Palazzo’s campaign has supplied documents and “cooperated fully” with OCE inquiries, and that the campaign’s spending has been aboveboard. He said Palazzo expects to be cleared of any wrongdoing and the allegations are politically motivated. The Sun Herald first reported confirmation of the investigation on Friday.
Federal law and U.S. House rules prohibit conversion of campaign money to personal use. Violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act can carry felony criminal penalties. The OCE investigates such complaints and can recommend they be dismissed, handed off to the House Ethics Committee for further review or discipline of the representative, or refer them to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation.
The CLC’s complaint said Palazzo’s campaign committee paid a total of $60,000, in monthly payments of $3,000, for rent at a property called Greene Acres MS that Palazzo owns in Perkinston.
The complaint said, “there was no bona fide campaign purpose for renting Representative Palazzo’s farm for more than a year.” It said the campaign’s official address was in Gulfport and that Greene Acres “would be an unusual choice” for a campaign office, given that it is “in an extraordinarily rural part of Mississippi.”
While campaigns can and often do rent space owned by a candidate, it must be at