Freshman Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) recently transferred ownership of his accounting firm, Palazzo & Co., to his wife to comply with federal requirements that lawmakers not have financial interests outside of Congress.
But in setting up the new corporate structure to satisfy House rules, it’s unclear whether Palazzo is adhering to state laws in Mississippi.
The problem is that certified public accounting firms such as Palazzo’s can only be owned by CPAs. The Congressman is one, but his wife, Lisa Palazzo, is not.
Heard on the Hill came across the issue during an ongoing inquiry into the fallout from a previous HOH report about Palazzo’s staffers hosting a weekend romp at a waterfront house in Annapolis, Md.
After HOH began asking about the CPA situation this week, the firm’s website was changed. Lisa Palazzo is now identified as the “firm administrator,” and the site removed references to Steven Palazzo as the sole proprietor. However, the state, as of Wednesday, still lists the Congressman as the “Registered Agent” for the firm.
The firm’s website also expunged references to it being a CPA-licensed firm. On Wednesday morning, the website welcomed visitors to the “Palazzo & Company, PLLC, an Expat CPA firm.” By early afternoon, however, visitors were welcomed to “Palazzo & Company, LLC, an Expat tax firm.”
The Congressman converted Palazzo & Co. from being registered as a professional limited liability company to be a limited liability company earlier this year, Palazzo Chief of Staff Jamie Miller tells HOH. A PLLC is formed for a business that requires the owner to hold a license for the services rendered, while an LLC can be formed by anyone, regardless of professional qualifications.
Some time after noon Wednesday, the company website went from PalazzoCPA.com to PalazzoTax.com. Not all references to it being a CPA firm were removed, however. Email contact information retained the firm’s @PalazzoCPA.com addresses, as in firstname.lastname@example.org.
Palazzo & Company is a tax firm that specializes in handling the tax needs of expatriate Americans, including armed services personnel and civilian contractors in conflict zones. As of Wednesday evening, the firm’s website touted its CPA bona fides on its home page: “Welcome to Palazzo & Company, LLC, an Expat Tax firm that focuses on the tax needs of US Expatriates. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality tax and accounting services to Expats and the Companies they work for around the world, including remote and hostile sites. Our firm values the relationship between Client and CPA and we do everything we can to provide the highest quality services to our clients.”
Another feature of the firm’s website: an entree to political giving.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.