WASHINGTON -- Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. may have used thousands in campaign funds for personal expenses on gas fill-ups for him and his family, greens fees at country clubs, luxurious trips and school tuition.
Further, the Georgia Democrat also may have spent more than $16,000 in taxpayer money for joint Christmas parties -- featuring a saxophonist and DJ equipment -- with his congressional staff and his wife's employees, according to an Office of Congressional Ethics report released Friday.
The OCE report was released because the House Ethics Committee decided to further extend its investigation into Bishop.
The allegations are broken down into two categories: improper use of campaign funds and impermissible use of Sanford's Members' Representational Allowance, both of which would be violations of federal law and House rules. The MRA is taxpayer-funded money only to be used to support official member duties, such as staff salaries and official travel.
The OCE found "widespread mismanagement and misuse of the Sanford Bishop for Congress campaign committee funds" in which Bishop may have misused the money for personal pursuits. The office also said some of the spending in question could be tied to Evelyn Turner Pugh, who was employed as treasurer from 1993 until 2019 and may have misspent campaign funds on herself and falsified Federal Election Commission filings. Pugh made several errors and misused funds, the OCE said.
Asked for comment, a spokesperson for Bishop emailed a statement to CQ Roll Call from a House account labeled only PressInquiries, GA02: "Congressman Bishop is dedicated to honoring the principles and values of his office. Before the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) notified him of its review, he was made aware of mistakes made by his campaign and had already taken immediate action to bring it into compliance. Congressman Bishop has fully cooperated with the OCE's review and proactively reimbursed many of the charges OCE identified as incorrect. He will continue to work with the Ethics Committee openly and transparently, and is prepared to take any further, necessary corrective action."
The Office of Congressional Ethics determined Bishop -- along with his wife, Vivian Creighton Bishop, and daughter -- may have used campaign funds to pay for personal fuel charges. Vivian would routinely fill her vehicle using campaign funds and did not log her campaign mileage, the OCE found.
Since 2003, Bishop's campaign committee has spent more than $213,000 on gas including at Shell, BP, Chevron, Citgo and Exxon, FEC filings show.
In 1999, Bishop became a member at Stonebridge Golf and Country Club in Albany, Georgia, where he held an annual golf fundraiser, "the Sanford Bishop Golf Classic," at the club from 1998 through 2012, a legitimate campaign expense.