Campus Notebook: Gaetz, Omar attract attention over spending

No arrests for the second straight week by the Capitol Police and big stock sales by a senator’s husband

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar paid her husband’s consulting firm over $290,000 for advertising, fundraising and travel from January through March. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar paid her husband’s consulting firm over $290,000 for advertising, fundraising and travel from January through March. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted April 17, 2020 at 4:47pm

Rep. Matt Gaetz may be subject to even more scrutiny by the House Ethics Committee after a Politico report disclosed that he has paid over $184,000 in office rent to a friend, who is also a donor, legal client and adviser, a revelation that could trigger an ethics investigation.

An investigative subcommittee of the House Ethics panel is currently looking into a tweet the Florida Republican directed at Michael Cohen last year that appeared to threaten the former Trump lawyer in relation to his congressional testimony against the president. Although it’s rare, the subcommittee’s inquiry could lead to a hearing and a House floor vote on the matter.

Gaetz and his friend Collier Merrill, a real estate developer and restaurateur, both told Politico the congressman paid Merrill’s Empire Partners LLC below market rent for the office space in downtown Pensacola, Florida. Gaetz later said the rent was “at or below market rate,” Politico reported. District office leases must be entered into at fair market value.

House Rules make it clear that the Members’ Representational Allowance, which pays for expenses such as district office rents and salaries, cannot be used for the direct benefit of someone who has a professional or legal relationship with the member.

“Unless specifically authorized by an applicable provision of federal law, House Rules, or Committee Regulations, no Member, relative of the Member, or anyone with whom the Member has a professional or legal relationship may directly benefit from the expenditure of the MRA,” the rules state.

The House Ethics Committee declined comment.

Omar’s campaign still paying husband’s consulting firm

Rep. Ilhan Omar’s campaign keeps paying E Street Group, a political consulting outfit her husband created, the Star Tribune reported.

The Minnesota Democrat’s campaign paid Tim Mynett’s firm over $290,000 for advertising, fundraising and travel from January through March, the newspaper reported.

Omar employed the firm before her marriage to Mynett, which she announced last month.

No arrests

For the second straight week, the Capitol Police made no arrests, an apparent result of social distancing efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

Big stock sales

Minnesota Democratic Sen. Tina Smith’s husband, Archie, sold stock in diabetes management companies worth between $500,000 and $1 million on March 17. He sold between $250,000 and $500,000 in DexCom, Inc., a company that provides continuous glucose monitoring systems. That same day, he sold between $250,000 and $500,000 in Insulet Corporation, an enterprise that offers insulin pump therapy. Both stocks have jumped significantly since the sale.

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