Monthly dues paid by Texas GOP Rep. Ronny Jackson’s campaign to a private social club in Amarillo, Texas, “likely implicates the prohibition against personal use of campaign funds,” the Office of Congressional Ethics has concluded.
Documents collected by the nonpartisan ethics office and released Monday show Jackson joined the Amarillo Club, located in his congressional district, in October 2020 and used campaign funds to pay for a $649 membership and application fee. Jackson’s campaign committee, Texans for Ronny Jackson, made regular dues payments to the club.
“Since joining, Rep. Jackson’s campaign committee has made regular monthly dues payments of $175.37 to the Amarillo Club. Between October 2020 and September 2021, the campaign committee made eleven monthly dues payments to the club, totaling $1,929.07,” according the the OCE report.
Jackson’s membership at the club provides him and his wife with unlimited access to the club’s dining rooms, gym, banquet and meeting rooms, club events and ClubCorp reciprocity benefits — which provides access to a national network of private golf, country, city and stadium clubs, the OCE said.
It is illegal to spend campaign funds for personal use. The Federal Election Campaign Act outlaws spending on “country club memberships” and “dues and fees for health clubs or recreational facilities.”
The OCE report was released by the House Ethics Committee, which is investigating Jackson — and, unlike the OCE, can impose discipline on members and issue subpoenas. Jackson responded to the OCE report through his lawyer, Justin Clark.
“The campaign purchased the membership, primarily, to use such meeting space for internal and external meetings, including but not limited to fundraising events, for campaign purposes due to the proximity of the Amarillo Club to the campaign’s office,” Clark said in a letter to Tom Rust, staff director for the House Ethics panel in January. “The cost of such membership was determined to be less than the campaign would have spent on renting meeting space on an individual basis. While the campaign has not utilized the meeting space as frequently as originally anticipated, the campaign purpose of the expenditure nevertheless exists.”
The OCE said: “Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) regulations prohibit campaign committees from using campaign funds to secure unlimited access to country clubs, health clubs, recreational facilities, and other non-political organizations. In this review, the OCE found that Rep. Jackson’s campaign committee, Texans for Ronny Jackson, used campaign funds to pay for unlimited access to the Amarillo Club, a private dining club located in Amarillo, Texas.”
Roll Call reported on Jackson’s use of campaign funds for dues payments at the Amarillo Club in April.
Between October 2020 and September 2021, Jackson’s campaign committee paid the Amarillo Club $5,907 for dues, fees, meals and other services. Jackson and his associates refused to cooperate with the OCE’s inquiry, so the office could not determine to what extent his use of the club, as well as his food and beverage purchases, were campaign-related.
The report said “there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Jackson converted campaign funds from Texans for Ronny Jackson to personal use or that Rep. Jackson’s campaign committee expended funds that were not attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes.”
Jackson is a medical doctor, and was the top White House physician under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.