Another congressman caught misusing campaign money…
After completing a months-long investigation, an independent ethics watchdog has found “substantial reason to believe” that Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) spent campaign and official congressional funds for personal expenses, Politico reports.
That must be nice
According to a report released on Friday by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), Bishop allegedly spent some $90,000 of campaign funds on “fuel, golf expenses, meals, travel, tuition, and entertainment.”
“The OCE determined that Rep. Bishop and his campaign committee misspent campaign funds on various personal expenses,” the report reads. “Specifically, the OCE found evidence that the Sanford Bishop for Congress campaign committee likely spent tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds on fuel, golf expenses, meals, travel, tuition, and entertainment that likely were personal in nature.”
The OCE also found “evidence suggesting Rep. Bishop may have spent Members’ Representation Allowance (MRA) funds on an annual holiday celebration in violation of House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law.”
Now, the OCE is recommending that the House Ethics Committee launch a full-scale investigation into Bishop.
The ostrich head in the sand routine
Bishop has released a statement on the matter.
“Before the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) notified him of its review, he was made aware of mistakes made by his campaign and had already taken immediate action to bring it into compliance,” the statement reads in part. “Congressman Bishop has fully cooperated with the OCE’s review and proactively reimbursed many of the charges OCE identified as incorrect. He will continue to work with the Ethics Committee openly and transparently, and is prepared to take any further, necessary corrective action.”
In addition to repaying an undisclosed portion of the spent funds, Bishop has fired his longtime treasurer on whom apparently he is trying to place some of the blame. But this response is less than satisfying.
Not buying it
According to the OCE report, roughly $70,000 of the $90,000 was spent on golf club fees, and Bishop’s explanation to the OCE was that he viewed “his time at the club as campaign-related because it affords him the opportunity to ‘run into’ supporters and constituents and then discuss political issues over a round of golf or a meal.”
This, of course, is a pretty weak explanation since it would allow campaign funds to cover everything Bishop does outside of his house and probably some stuff inside of it too. This, in combination with the fact that, according to the OCE report, Bishop didn’t keep records of what he did for campaign purposes at these golf courses — you know, the normal record-keeping that one is expected to do when spending campaign funds — makes his explanation seem unconvincing and his reimbursement as nothing more than an attempt to avoid further penalties for his misconduct.
We’ll have to see how the House Ethics Committee chooses to proceed.