Ethics watchdog: ‘Substantial reason to believe’ Rep. Jackson improperly used campaign funds

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) arrives to the House Chamber on Friday, April 1, 2022 for votes regarding the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act.
Greg Nash
Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) arrives to the House Chamber on Friday, April 1, 2022 for votes regarding the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) said it found “substantial reason to believe” Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) used campaign funds for membership dues and other services at a social club in his home state.

The OCE, an independent watchdog that looks into unethical lawmaker behavior and refers cases to the House Ethics Committee, found that Jackson’s campaign committee paid $5,907.13 to the Amarillo Club, a private dining institution in Amarillo, Texas. The money went toward dues, fees, meals and other services, according to the OCE report finalized in December and released publicly Monday.

Between October 2020 and September 2021, Jackson’s campaign paid the club a monthly membership fee of $175.37, totaling nearly $2,000, the OCE said.

The campaign also paid the club $3,147.06 for a large gathering in May 2021. The meeting was described as a “Fundraising Event” on the Amarillo Club’s Banquet Event Order Form, according to the OCE report.

The House has rules against members converting campaign funds to personal use, and the chamber’s ethics manual says “campaign funds are not to be used to enhance a Member’s lifestyle, or pay a Member’s personal obligations.”

The OCE said its board voted 6-0 to recommend that the House Ethics Committee review the allegations against Jackson. The committee revealed in April that it was reviewing allegations that Jackson may have breached ethics rules, though the details were unclear. The congressman did not cooperate with the OCE’s probe.

In a statement responding to the OCE report, Justin Clark, whose firm represents Jackson and his campaign in the ethics probe, said the congressman’s campaign purchased a membership at the Amarillo Club to use meeting rooms at the facility “for internal and external meetings, including but not limited to fundraising events” and campaign purposes.

Clark cited the club’s close proximity to the campaign office and said purchasing a membership at the club cost less than renting meeting spaces.

The statement also includes a copy of an invitation for a May 2021 fundraising event that took place at the club, in addition to a calendar entry for a June 2021 roundtable meeting with stakeholders that the campaign hosted. Clark linked the exhibits to expenses on the campaign’s Federal Election Commission (FEC) report.

He asserted the campaign had done nothing wrong.

“Neither Congressman Jackson nor any members of his family have utilized any benefits of the Amarillo Club other than dining and meeting spaces for campaign purposes. Accordingly, all expenses at issue were made by Texans for Ronny Jackson for campaign purposes,” Clark said.

The OCE received a request to look into allegations against Jackson in September 2021, then launched a second-phase review into the matter the following month. In December, the OCE board voted to refer the case to the House Ethics Committee for further review. The report, however, was first released to the public on Monday.

Reached for comment on Monday, Jackson’s office referred The Hill to Clark’s statement, which is dated Jan. 14.

The OCE only has authority to make referrals or recommendations to the House Ethics Committee, which has the power to decide if punishments are needed or if the conduct in question breached ethics rules.

In addition to the Ethics Committee, Jackson is also under scrutiny by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Earlier this month, the panel requested voluntary testimony from the congressman

In a letter to Jackson, the committee pointed to text messages sent between members of the Oath Keepers during the Capitol riot, which referenced the congressman. In one message, someone wrote that Jackson “has critical data to protect.”

Jackson, a first-term congressman representing Texas’s 13th Congressional District, previously served as former President Trump’s White House doctor.

Tags Justin Clark Ronny Jackson

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