Progressive Democrats face campaign finance accusations
Tlaib, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez are three out of four members of The Squad
Less than a year into their terms, progressive Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are facing accusations that they mishandled campaign finances — and the outcomes could have big impacts on their political careers.
Tlaib, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez are three out of four members of the so-called "Squad," a group of up-and-coming female members of Congress who have been outspoken about their beliefs as they appear to pull their party to the left.
Here are the questions they're being asked about their campaign finances as the 2020 election looms.
Since August, an official congressional watchdog has been looking into the salary Tlaib's campaign paid her post-Election Day. The Committee on Ethics said earlier this month it might resort to issuing subpoenas to Tlaib and three of her associates.
"If Rep. Tlaib converted campaign funds from Rashida Tlaib for Congress to personal use, or if Rep. Tlaib's campaign committee expended funds that were not attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes, then Rep. Tlaib may have violated House rules, standards of conduct, and federal law," wrote the Office of Congressional Ethics, which recommended the committee look into the issue.
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Tlaib's office pointed out that the committee's decision to continue looking into the matter does not mean wrongdoing occurred.
"The matter before the House Ethics Committee is about salary I earned under a Federal Election Commission (FEC) rule that allows non-incumbent candidates to receive a salary from their campaign to make up for lost income while running for office," Tlaib said in a statement shared with FOX Business. "I have openly answered questions for more than a year about the salary I earned during our 2018 campaign. I am glad that the public now has access to the facts of this matter and can see for themselves that I have complied with FEC regulations and the law at all times."
Tlaib also said she has cooperated with the two agencies by "providing hundreds of pages of documents, emails, and text messages."
The Office of Congressional Ethics also recommended that the committee look into Republican Reps. Ross Spano and Bill Huizenga.
Omar's camp has responded to allegations that she paid hundreds of thousands to her alleged lover's political consulting group by dismissing them as a "political ploy."
Peter Flaherty of the conservative National Legal and Policy Center filed a complaint against Omar in August and amended it in October with additional payment records.
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Flaherty's complaint was filed one day after it emerged that Beth Mynett, 55, submitted divorce papers in Washington, D.C., Superior Court, claiming her husband, Tim Mynett, suddenly informed her earlier this year that he was having an affair with Omar.
"If Ilhan for Congress reimbursed Mynett’s LLC for travel so that Rep. Omar would have the benefit of Mynett's romantic companionship, the expenditures must be considered personal in nature," NLPC wrote in the original complaint.
Eight disbursements from Omar's campaign to the E Street Group for "travel expenses," totaling $21,546.94, were not itemized. FEC rules, the NLPC said, require that such travel expenses list the individual benefitting from the arrangement, as well as the date and purpose of the payment.
NLPC said that Omar's team instead only listed E Street as the payee and contained no details on the trips.
Omar has already had to return funds to her campaign committee this year because of a decision by Minnesota campaign finance officials. They ruled that she repeatedly violated state rules by using campaign funds to pay for personal out-of-state travel as well as help on her tax returns and must reimburse her former campaign committee nearly $3,500.
Ocasio-Cortez is facing scrutiny after she and her former campaign manager, Saikat Chakrabarti, had majority control of the Justice Democrats PAC that raised nearly $2 million for her ahead of her June 2018 primary victory.
The arrangement was first revealed by The Daily Caller News Foundation in March, and former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith told the DCNF that the setup, if purposefully concealed, could mean jail time for Ocasio-Cortez and Chakrabarti.
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The same group that's dogging Omar's campaign filed an FEC complaint about Ocasio-Cortez in March. NLPC also wants the FEC to look into records indicating that Justice Democrats and another PAC transferred roughly $1 million in political donations to an LLC run by Chakrabarti.
Chakrabarti's company could then spend the money as it wanted without being obligated to report where it went. Ocasio-Cortez has railed against "dark money" in politics.
She dismissed the complaint as "a form of legal trolling" and said her office was in "conversation" with the FEC in an August interview with The New York Daily News.
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FOX Business' inquiries to the offices of Ocasio-Cortez and Omar were not returned at the time of publication.
Fox News' Gregg Re and The Associated Press contributed to this report.