WASHINGTON -- The House Ethics Committee released on Thursday the Office of Congressional Ethics referral documents for cases regarding Reps. Bill Huizenga, Ross Spano and Rashida Tlaib, deferring consideration of the Spano case at the request of the Justice Department.
The Office of Congressional Ethics first referred the three cases to the House Ethics panel on Aug. 16. The OCE is a nonpartisan entity that reviews allegations of misconduct involving House staff and lawmakers and refers cases to the House Ethics Committee with recommendations for further review or dismissal.
Campaign finance and use of campaign funds are at the center of all three cases regarding Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, Spano, a Florida Republican, and Huizenga, a Michigan Republican.
The OCE recommended that House Ethics review Spano's case further because "there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Spano received improper loans, in excess of federal campaign contribution limits, to support his election to the House of Representatives," according to the referral released Thursday. The OCE board voted 5-0 to support the referral.
The House Ethics Committee extended its review of the Spano case Sept. 30, before voting unanimously to defer consideration of the matter at the request of the Justice Department. The vote follows previous precedent in situations where there is federal action involving the lawmaker in question.
Complaints to both the FEC and OCE alleged that Spano borrowed $180,000 from two friends and illegally loaned the proceeds to his campaign. Campaign finance law allows candidates to loan their campaigns any amount of personal funds, but loans from others are considered campaign contributions. Therefore they are subject to limits of $2,700 per cycle.
Spano said in a statement Thursday that he plans to fully cooperate with the Justice Department investigation into possible campaign finance violations.
"We acknowledged that mistakes were made with respect to the campaign loans, but those mistakes were completely inadvertent and unintentional. We were the ones who self-reported this to the FEC," Spano said. "We are confident that upon review, the Justice Department will see it that way, too."
Emails between Tlaib and campaign staffers discussing the need and plans to pay Tlaib a stipend or salary during her campaign for Congress are laid bare in the documents released Thursday from the OCE preliminary investigation.
During Tlaib's 2018 run for Congress, she paid herself a $4,000-a-month salary from campaign funds.