OCE: “Substantial reason to believe” Palazzo misused campaign funds

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Months after allegations were made by the Campaign Legal Center, a report from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) claims that there is “substantial reason to believe” that Mississippi Congressman Steven Palazzo used campaign funds for personal expenses among other potential violations. 

The allegations outlined in the OCE’s 47-page report include the use of $60,000 for the use of a property owned by Palazzo’s company as a campaign headquarters, regular payments to his brother for unverified campaign work, and payments to his now ex-wife’s accounting firm. Additional allegations include having campaign staffers run personal errands for the congressman and using his position to assist his brother with his reinstatement efforts with the Navy. 

The report concludes with the OCE suggesting that subpoenas be issued to Congressman Palazzo and others mentioned in the report, each of whom “refused to cooperate” with the review. 

In a statement from Congressman Palazzo’s office, he denied all allegations while stating that the former Mississippi Congressman Gregg Harper will continue to represent him before the Committee. 

“Congressman Palazzo welcomes the opportunity to work through this process with the House Committee on Ethics and will fully cooperate with the Committee to show that he has complied with all relevant rules and standards. 

This matter is the direct result of false allegations made by a primary opponent and the Campaign Legal Center claiming that the Congressman’s campaign paid him for rent of a farm in Perkinston, Mississippi. Simple investigation shows that the payments were actually made for a property in D’Iberville, Mississippi owned by the Congressman, appropriately and legally used for a campaign office and rented at fair market value.  

Congressman Palazzo has retained the services of former Congressman Gregg Harper to represent him before the Committee. Harper served five terms in Congress and served on the House Committee on Ethics for two of those terms as well as one term as the Chairman of the Committee on House Administration.  

Congressman Palazzo will continue to serve his constituents with honor and integrity, and he looks forward to having this matter concluded as soon as possible,” the statement reads. 

The OCE noted that the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee.

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