WASHINGTON D.C. (KAMR/KCIT) — As the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics continues its investigation into U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson’s use of campaign funds, representatives from the committee have released documents related to the investigation from the Office of Congressional Ethics, the office who transferred the investigation to the committee back in December 2021.
According to previous reports, the committee first reported that Jackson, who is the Republican Congressman for District 13 in the state of Texas, was under investigation back in April, after the committee decided to extend the investigation into Jackson.
Officials from Jackson’s office then told MyHighPlains.com that the complaint was brought forward to the Office of Congressional Ethics regarding charges from “Texans for Ronny Jackson,” Jackson’s campaign account, to charges at the Amarillo Club, a members-only business club located in downtown Amarillo.
The Federal Elections Commission said that campaigns are not allowed to use donated funds for charges to a country club, health club, recreational facility or other nonpolitical organization unless “they are part of the costs of a specific fundraising event that takes place on the organization’s premises,” according to previous reports.
In a statement from the committee, attributed to U.S. Rep. Theodore E. Deutch, the Democratic Chairman from Florida, and U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, the Republican Ranking Member from Indiana, officials are aiming to gather additional information to complete the review into Jackson. In addition to the statement, the committee released documents that initially came from the Office of Congressional Ethics’ investigation into Jackson, including the initial report, various exhibits and Jackson’s counsel’s response.
What did the report consist of?
The initial report from the Office of Congressional Ethics outlined the timeline for its review into Jackson.
According to the report, the request for a preliminary review into Jackson began on Sept. 17, 2021, with a second phase review into the allegations beginning on Oct. 18, 2021. The board then unanimously voted to refer the investigation to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics on Dec. 17, 2021.
Officials from the office cite various parts of federal law, FEC regulations along with specific House of Representatives rules on how individuals can spend campaign funds. The report says that the office found that Jackson’s campaign committee used campaign funds to pay for unlimited access to the Amarillo Club.
According to the report, the office requested documents and testimony from Jackson, along with Chris Morrow, Jackson’s campaign treasurer and Collin McMichael with the campaign’s accounting firm.
The documents claim that Jackson, Morrow and McMichael did not cooperate with the office’s review. The office said they recommend for the committee to issue subpoenas to Jackson, Morrow and McMichael regarding the investigation.
This comes after officials from Jackson’s office told MyHighPlains.com in April that Jackson provided receipts for each charge related to the Amarillo Club, using the club for events and matters that are within the bounds of proper expenditures of campaign finance dollars.
“In response to the OCE’s requests for information, Rep. Jackson’s counsel provided the OCE with a short letter stating that all of Rep. Jackson’s spending at the Amarillo Club complied with FEC regulations,” the report reads. “He declined to provide any documents or testimony in support of this position.”
The reports detail consistent payments to the club from the campaign as dues/membership fees between October 2020 and September 2021. Documents state that Jackson joined the club in October 2020 as a “resident member,” using campaign funds to pay an initial membership and application fee.
“In summary, between October 2020 and September 2021, Rep. Jackson’s campaign committee paid the Amarillo Club $5,907.13 for dues, fees, meals and other services,” the report reads. “Since Rep. Jackson and his associates refused to cooperate with this review, the OCE could not determine to what extent his use of the club and the committee’s food and beverage spending at the club was campaign related. Regardless, the committee’s payment of monthly dues likely implicates the prohibition against personal use of campaign funds.”
According to the report, the office also sought information regarding other disbursements made by the Texans for Ronny Jackson campaign, including spending on entertainment, meal, travel and reimbursement expenses “that may implicate personal use prohibition.” Officials said that Jackson, Morrow and McMichael “declined to provide information” in response to those requests.
At the end of the report, officials from the office said that they recommend a review of the allegations into Jackson’s campaign spending, using campaign funds for personal use and having the campaign spend funds that were not specific to campaign or political purposes.
How did Jackson’s team respond?
Jackson’s counsel responded to officials from the Office of Congressional Ethics on Jan. 14. The response, included in the documents released by the committee on Monday, denies that Jackson or members of his family used the Amarillo Club for personal use.
Justin Clark, the attorney who wrote the response for the Jackson campaign to the office, said that the campaign initially purchased the membership to use the meeting space for meetings, as well as use the club for fundraising events.
“The cost of such membership was determined to be less than the campaign would have spent on renting meeting space on an individual basis,” the response read. “While the campaign has not utilized the meeting space as frequently as originally anticipated, the campaign purpose of the expenditure nevertheless exists.”
Officials from the campaign included two examples of events the Jackson campaign hosted at the Amarillo Club. This included a fundraising event on May 4, 2021, as well as a roundtable meeting with stakeholders on June 3, 2021.
“Neither Congressman Jackson nor any members of his family have utilized any benefits of the Amarillo Club other than dining and meeting spaces for campaign purposes,” the response reads. “Accordingly all expenses at issue were made by Texans for Ronny Jackson for campaign purposes.”
In the response, Clark also said the campaign believes that the FEC is the more appropriate agency to handle this request. The response stressed that the FEC has not questioned the charges that are being questioned by the Office of Congressional Ethics.
When MyHighPlains.com reached out to Jackson’s office for comment on Monday, officials referred us to the response Jackson’s counsel sent to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics in January 2022.
In the statement from the House Committee on Ethics, officials said no further comment will be made until the review is fully completed.
Officials said this is “out of fairness to all respondents, and to assure the integrity of (the committee’s) work.”