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Rep. Tlaib directed to reimburse campaign for $10,800 in postelection paychecks

Ethics Committee found no intentional wrongdoing, closes case

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., is being directed to reimburse her campaign account for post-election salary.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., is being directed to reimburse her campaign account for post-election salary. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Ethics Committee is directing Rep. Rashida Tlaib to repay her campaign for salary she drew after Election Day 2018.

Congressional candidates are allowed to draw paychecks from their campaigns, but as the House Ethics Committee explained in a report released Friday, the payments are only allowed during an active candidacy. Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, continued to be paid after the election was over.

“The Committee did not find that she sought to unjustly enrich herself by receiving the campaign funds at issue. Indeed, during her campaign, Representative Tlaib received a conservative amount of campaign funds, well below the legal threshold for the maximum amount of salary she was eligible to receive; these payments allowed her to forego her salary from her full-time employment so that she could fully participate in campaign activities,” the Ethics Committee report said. “However, because she received some of those funds, totaling $10,800, for time periods in which she was no longer a congressional candidate, those funds were inconsistent with [the campaign law’s] personal use restrictions.”

The Ethics Committee decided unanimously to release the report directing the repayment of funds and said no further action was necessary.

The report notes that after receiving a referal from the Office of Congressional Ethics, the Ethics Committee conducted a document review and a number of witness interviews to try to determine the nature of payments made on Nov. 16 and Dec. 1, 2018.

Campaign staff said it was deferred compensation from the time before the election, but the committee did not seem convinced.

“Although there is consensus among the witnesses regarding the reasoning for the postgeneral election payments, there is a notable lack of consensus regarding when Representative
Tlaib and the Campaign made the decision to defer the payments,” the report said.

The Ethics panel determined that Tlaib must repay the campaign for the postelection paychecks, except for the prorated portion for the first few days of November, before the election.

As the committee explained, candidates are allowed to be paid from campaign funds during their candidacy because the Federal Election Commission has recognized the burdens associated with running a full-time campaign, especially for people who don’t have the personal resources to self-fund.

The committee’s guidance to candidates seeking to avoid the error made by Tlaib is to make sure that any deferred compensation arrangements or payment schedules are put in writing at the time they are made.

“While the Committee recognizes that the campaign environment can at times lend itself to hurried decision-making, as a Member-Elect of Congress, Representative Tlaib had a greater duty to ensure that any funding she received from her Campaign after her general election was fully
compliant with statutory requirements and fully transparent with the public,” the panel said. “Based on its review, the Committee determined that Representative Tlaib did not comply with the letter of the relevant laws and regulations governing her receipt of salary payments from her Campaign.”

Tlaib won a competitive primary this week for the Democratic nomination for a second term, defeating her short-term predecessor, Brenda Jones.